|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — A Legacy of Community|
|Following the labor turbulence of the 1930s and the strain of the Great Depression, World War II brought relative calm and increased productivity to the mill communities. Immediately after the War, however, mill owners revived a movement that had begun during the Depression Era: the sale of the mill villages. By 1958, owners had sold off 73% of the textile mill villages in the South. Though a few mill towns remained as late as the 1970s, today the mill village community is largely a memory. . . . — Map (db m32846) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — African Americans in the Mill Village|
|African Americans experienced the textile mill world very differently than white families. Mills did not offer the same work opportunities to black men and women as they did for whites. Life in the mill village was also restricted, and black workers typically had to seek housing and recreation elsewhere.
Owners offered African American men only the dirtiest and heaviest work. Most commonly, they unloaded cotton bales from wagons in the mill yard. Some also worked in the boiler, picker, or . . . — Map (db m32783) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — After the Whistle Blows|
|Mill employees worked at tedious jobs for long hours, usually having only Sundays to rest. With responsibilities at home as well as in the mill, free time was limited. Still, mill workers found ways to socialize, relax, and have fun in a world governed by the screech of the steam whistle.
Though workdays could stretch twelve hours with no scheduled breaks, many workers found a way to rest. Men often met outdoors to smoke, while women gathered in washrooms to gossip, joke, or sing. Edna . . . — Map (db m32999) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Calling the Mill Village 'Home'|
|Mill owners initially built villages near textile mills to attract families of workers. By 1900, 92% of workers lived in mill-owned housing. A typical mill village in the 1920s consisted of about 350 houses located within walking distance of the mill. In most cases, the company owned the houses and charged workers rent. In 1908, rent averaged $3.57 monthly – about half that charged outside the mill community. Mill villages proved beneficial both to workers and owners. Workers lived . . . — Map (db m32830) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Children in the Mill Village|
|Early textile mill owners alleviated labor shortages by recruiting entire families for employment. Offering homes as well as jobs, owners created villages of workers from which the mills could draw. Children - sometimes as young as seven - filled the lowest paying, lowest-skilled positions in the mills. From 1880 to 1910, one quarter of the textile mill workforce was under sixteen.
The family labor system blurred the distinctions between work and play for children. Many learned about . . . — Map (db m32671) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Cotton Dust and Poverty|
|Although industrialization brought great improvements to the South, advancements in health and medicine lagged dramatically behind. Without antibiotics, infectious diseases were common and dangerous. Medical care was often unavailable, and employers had no obligation to provide health insurance or worker compensation. Working in textile mills and living in mill villages compounded the health risks already prevalent in the South.
Different jobs within the mill brought their own unique . . . — Map (db m33273) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Living in a Mill-Centered World|
|In the village, every aspect of the workers’ lives revolved around the mill. In addition to their homes, the churches, schools, and stores all belonged or were tied to the mill owners. While these places provided much needed social time for mill workers, they also served to extend the mill’s influence beyond the factory door. As an early twentieth century Congressional report asserted, “The company owns everything and controls everything, and to a large extent controls everybody in the . . . — Map (db m33320) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Men in the Mill Village|
|Transitioning from the farm to an industrialized way of life was especially hard for men. On the farm, men experienced a certain amount of freedom and variety; millwork was often tedious, repetitive, and produced only wages for a day's labor. Men had more opportunities than women to advance within the mill and could move from job to job by watching other workers and learning their skills. They also had access to the higher-paying, skilled work, and positions of greater authority.
A man’s . . . — Map (db m32775) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Neighbors Divided|
|Industrialization came to the South later than it had in the North. The first generation of mill workers were transplanted farmers who had no tradition of labor unions. The nature of the mill village also made organized labor difficult. The mill owner – like the patriarch of a great family – controlled nearly every aspect of his workers’ lives. Resistance within such a world was hard to imagine. Still, as times changed, members of southern textile mill communities faced difficult . . . — Map (db m33311) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Women in the Mill Village|
|The first waves of migration off the farms were primarily single women and widows. Since these women had limited access to land, they were eager to take the steady work and housing the textile mills provided. An example of this was Bynum, North Carolina in 1880, where widows headed nine of the fourteen households in the mill village.
Economically, women mill workers were a valuable asset to mill owners. Earning 60% of a man’s wage, owners saw women as cheap, unskilled labor, and therefore . . . — Map (db m32792) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — Working the Shift|
|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 . . . — Map (db m32834) HM|
|North Carolina (Alamance County), Burlington — The Rise of the Textile Mill Communities|
|In the decades following the Civil War, the textile industry thrust the South into a period of rapid industrialization. In North Carolina, construction of railroads began through Piedmont “backcountry,” and cities sprung up in their paths. Piedmont farmers, who had always relied on family and neighbors to survive, now had greater access to the outside world. Agriculture itself was changing. The abolition of slavery transformed the plantation system, and freed people struggled to . . . — Map (db m33535) HM|