The Goodyear Service Pin used in our logo is courtesy Jerry Bell. The pin belonged to his dad, Adolphus. R. Bell.

24 February, 2011

Thriller Thursday: Desperate Mill Owners?

In the late 1880s, textile mills began to move from the north to the south. These southern mill towns were controlled by mill agents and superintendents and practiced paternalistic societal order by providing jobs, houses, food, clothing, and goods to mill workers. Workers had been drawn from the farms and countryside into a labor environment that was unfamiliar and harsh. Between 1910 and 1930 the relationship between textile mill owners and textile mill workers deteriorated. Long hours, modest pay and harsh working conditions for adults and children had taken a toll.

By mid 1920, the environment was not improving and cotton prices had begun to fluctuate and fall drastically.
"Several new factors were entering the picture now, including the introduction of synthetic fibers like nylon, which began to replace cotton; changing fashions in the 1920s, which subjected textile producers to the whims of designers and consumers; and increasing international competition, especially from Japan. Tariffs on woolens and cottons had been drastically lowered in 1913. Although sporadic adjustments were made in the 1920s and 1930s, they were not enough to help, and many manufacturers shut down, left the industry, or moved south. By the 1920s New England textile towns were in a depression.
In the South the situation was equally precarious. Mill owners instituted the speed-up and the stretch-out (forcing workers to manage additional machines), initiated night work, and cut wages. Strikes occurred across the South, and the National Textile Workers Union moved in to organize the workers. Violence erupted and the strike it called was eventually lost. But it had foreshadowed the issues that were to preoccupy the nation in the 1930s: unemployment or low wages, long hours, night work, miserable factory conditions, and union ineptitude."
(~; Read more:
"Cotton planters reacted to failing falling prices by resorting to violence, including murder and destruction of cotton and gins (" 
In the President's address to the American Cotton Manufacturers Association in 1922, looking back on 1920, President Lawrence D. Tyson said,
"Never in the history of this country were we halted and stopped so suddenly in our mad rush as in the summer of 1920 when the bottom began to fall out...and the wheels...had almost ceased to move." (Lawrence D. Tyson, President American Cotton Manufacturers Association Address, 26 May 1922).
During the May 1920, Meeting of the Association, The Committee on Welfare reported on "industrial community betterment." This report was a summary of answers from a compilation of surveys sent to southern textile plant management. Later that same year and in early 1921, the Washington Post (DC) ran a series of articles in the form of ads (almost full page) that had been compiled by Massengale Advertising Agency in Atlanta. These ads lauded the benefits of living in these southern mill village towns and had supporting photos. Included with the articles were names of southern textile mill towns and their locations. The topics addressed in this committee report were some of the same as those addressed in the Post articles:
The Foreman or Overseer
Sanitation and Health
Insurance and Safety
Thrift and Homebuilding
Spiritual and Recreation
Was this an ad campaign directed to quell any distrust of or malevolence toward the mill owners and attempt to avoid increasing friction between "operatives" and mill management? One of the last ads printed in the January 3rd 1921, issue, might give us some insight.

*Note ATCO Mill in list - American Textile Co., Atco, Ga.

The Washington Post, January 3, 1921,

© Copyright Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt and ATCO Kids, Individually

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