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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Burlington in Alamance County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Cotton Dust and Poverty

 
 
Cotton Dust and Poverty Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
1. Cotton Dust and Poverty Marker
Inscription. 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 hazards. In the opening and card rooms, cotton dust and lint circulated through the air continuously. For many employees, this brought coughing and lung irritation, which over time led to “brown lung” disease, or byssinosis. Women and men who worked in the weave room faced constant humidity and heat. Consequently, many workers contracted tuberculosis and other respiratory disorders.

Textile machines also proved dangerous. Hands or arms caught in the machineís belts were easily skinned or broken. Carl Thompson remembers one harrowing incident, “There was one man, his shirt or something or other caught in that belt, and that belt just throwed him to the top of the mill and busted his brains out.” Even workers who managed to avoid serious accidents and illnesses faced constant soreness and fatigue from hours of
Cotton Dust and Poverty Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
2. Cotton Dust and Poverty Marker
hard, repetitive labor.

Itís hard to believe, but in them days along about Christmas time the yard men would come in the mill with their shovels and actually scrape up piles of filth where the help had spit all the year long and no attention at all being paid to it. Yessir, plenty of cotton mill folks had TBís in them days and no wonder.
Wesley Renn West Durham, 1938.


Just as working in the mill could prove dangerous, living in the mill village presented a host of health issues. Lacking indoor plumbing and running water, most residents shared wells and outhouses. While farm families used these too, the sheer numbers of villagers crowded into small areas could create sanitation problems. Flies swarmed around outhouses in hot weather and spread diseases like typhoid and dysentery. Diets lacking important vitamins and minerals also caused problems. Due to protein deficiencies, many people contracted pellagra. This disease caused scaly red patches on the skin, diarrhea, fatigue, nervous disorders, and eventually death. In 1916, pellagra affected 16% of mill village households, but was a common problem throughout the South.

Despite these dangers both at work and at home, laws did not require owners to care for injured or sick employees. Rather, those who missed work or lost their jobs due to illness or accident found their
Cotton Dust and Poverty Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
3. Cotton Dust and Poverty Marker
only support within the mill community. Workers often took up collections on payday for the families of sick neighbors. Others brought assistance in the form of food. Ultimately, in times of hardship, mill village residents relied almost exclusively on each other for aid and support.
 
Location. 36° 8.301′ N, 79° 25.665′ W. Marker is near Burlington, North Carolina, in Alamance County. Marker is on Glencoe Street, on the left when traveling west. Touch 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. A Legacy of Community (here, next to this marker); Neighbors Divided (here, next to this marker); Living in a Mill-Centered World (here, next to this marker); After the Whistle Blows (here, next to this marker); The Rise of the Textile Mill Communities (a few steps from this marker); Working the Shift (a few steps from this marker); Calling the Mill Village 'Home' (a few steps from this marker); Women in the Mill Village (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Burlington.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship,
Giles Edmund Newsom image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
4. Giles Edmund Newsom
a young mill worker in Sanders Spinning Mill, was injured when he fell onto a spinning machine and his hand went into unprotected gearing, 1912. Bessemer City, North Carolina.
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 20, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.) 

2. Glencoe Textile Heritage Museum. (Submitted on July 20, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.)
 
Additional keywords. Alamance Cotton Mill, Glencoe, Fabric, Textiles, Company Shops, Holt
 
Categories. 20th CenturyIndustry & CommerceNotable BuildingsNotable Places
 
Three women sharing a pump, Cliffside, North Carolina. image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
5. Three women sharing a pump, Cliffside, North Carolina.
Charlie and Ollie Allen, image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
6. Charlie and Ollie Allen,
in front of their family's home in the Harriet Cotton Mills village, November 1914.
Rhythm of the Factory Series of Markers - on Glencoe Mill image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
7. Rhythm of the Factory Series of Markers - on Glencoe Mill
Rhythm of the Factory Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
8. Rhythm of the Factory Marker
Glencoe Mill image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
9. Glencoe Mill
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 19, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina. This page has been viewed 820 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on July 19, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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