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Burlington in Alamance County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Working the Shift

 
 
Working the Shift Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
1. Working the Shift Marker
Inscription. Turning raw cotton into cloth was a multi-step process. As a result, textile mills had different jobs all along the production chain. In the opening room, men unfastened cotton bales and loaded them into cleaning and fluffing machines. From there cotton moved to the picker room where workers cleaned it further and machines formed it into large sheets. Employees in the carding room oversaw the formation of clean, uniform, cotton ropes called slivers. Machines rolled these slivers out and others twisted them until they became thinner and stronger. In the spinning room, women tied broken threads and operated machinery that wound the fibers tighter, and doffers replaced full spools. Spoolers transferred the yarn from spool to spool, and workers in the slashing room coated the yarn with starch to make it strong enough for weaving. Finally, in the weave room, workers “drew-in” or threaded the looms according to the cloth pattern, and the weavers operated the looms.

Workers’ jobs depended on their age, gender, and race. Pay rates were linked to the job workers performed as well as their experience, speed and skill. In 1904, a weave room supervisor could expect to earn around $15.00 per week, while a doffer would make as little as $2.40. Some employees earned a set hourly or weekly wage; others received pay based on their
Working the Shift Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
2. Working the Shift Marker
production rates. Most earned between $3.00 and $7.00 weekly. During the late nineteenth century, mill hands usually worked six twelve-hour days each week. Not until 1938 did the eight-hour day become standard.

It seems like me and Jim’s got old with the mill but age aint hurt the mill none. When it slows down it can git new parts and we caint. What’s worse we soon aint goin’ to have money to buy rations for feeding our wore-out bodies. The mill keeps makin’ money but it has to give to them that’s young and strong, I reckon, and even to them it caint give a regular livin’.
Mary Smith, Durham, North Carolina


Textile mills operated on a family based labor system. Mill owners recruited entire families from the countryside to live in mill housing and work in the mills. Once a part of the mill village, many families found that members of the larger community were prejudiced toward them. This was especially true in urban areas where those who lived in town referred to mill folk as “poor white trash,” and “linthead.”

Adapting from farm to millwork was difficult for other reasons as well. Workers had to keep up with the pace of machines and endure noisy, hot, crowded conditions. On the farm, they had set their own schedules and ordered tasks according to need; in the mill, their time belonged to the mill
Working the Shift Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
3. Working the Shift Marker
owner, and work never ended. Millwork, according to Chester Copeland, “was nothing but a robot life…there’s no challenge to it – just drudgery. The more you do, the more they want done.” Others, however, found paid work rewarding. Icy Norman discovered, “after I got used to being in there, I really loved my work… I got pleasure out of it, and it made me happy to do my job.”
 
Location. 36° 8.295′ N, 79° 25.655′ W. Marker is in Burlington, North Carolina, in Alamance County. Marker is on Glencoe Street, on the left when traveling west. Click for map. Glencoe Village is 3 miles north of Burlington, NC from NC Highway 62. Marker is in this post office area: Burlington NC 27215, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Calling the Mill Village 'Home' (here, next to this marker); Women in the Mill Village (a few steps from this marker); After the Whistle Blows (a few steps from this marker); A Legacy of Community (a few steps from this marker); African Americans in the Mill Village (a few steps from this marker); Men in the Mill Village (a few steps from this marker); Cotton Dust and Poverty (a few steps from this marker); Children in the Mill Village (a few steps from this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Burlington.
 
Related markers.
Workers sitting in a window at High Shoals Mills, image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
4. Workers sitting in a window at High Shoals Mills,
November, 1908. High Shoals, North Carolina
Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
 
Also see . . .
1. Glencoe Research Forum. This website provides information on historic Glencoe Mill and the restored mill village. (Submitted on July 9, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.) 

2. Glencoe Textile Heritage Museum. (Submitted on July 9, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.)
 
Additional keywords. Alamance Cotton Mill, Glencoe, Fabric, Textiles, Company Shops, Holt
 
Categories. 20th CenturyIndustry & CommerceNotable Places
 
Spinner and spinning frames in the Southern Combed Yarn Mill, 1939 image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
5. Spinner and spinning frames in the Southern Combed Yarn Mill, 1939
Gastonia, North Carolina
Rhythm of the Factory Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
6. Rhythm of the Factory Marker
Rhythm of the Factory Series of Markers - on the Glencoe Mill image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
7. Rhythm of the Factory Series of Markers - on the Glencoe Mill
Glencoe Mill image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
8. Glencoe Mill
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina. This page has been viewed 635 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.   4. submitted on , by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.   5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on , by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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