Tag Archives: Like a Family

Textile production returns (sort of) to the US South

By Christopher B. Daly

According to a story in today’s NYTimes, the management of the big textile companies have finally achieved a long-sought goal: production without workers. In the book Like A Family, my co-authors and I tell the story of what happened when the U.S. textile industry moved in the early 20th century from its first home in New England to the Piedmont region of Southern states like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.

From the get-go, owners and managers sought to replace labor with capital whenever they could. Here’s an example of advertising we found in the trade press of the 1920s.

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Now, it appears the industry has reached rock-bottom in terms of employment and is actually able to compete with low-wage competition from India, China, and elsewhere.

 

 

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History keeps happening: Southern textile factory gets new uses

By Christopher B. Daly

The Loray Mill in its heyday, when it made fabric for the Firestone tire company.

The Loray Mill in its heyday, when it made fabric for the Firestone tire company.

The huge brick textile factory complex in Gastonia, North Carolina, once considered the largest in the world, is about to find a new life as an apartment complex, complete with amenities like restaurants and shops. From the description in today’s New York Times, it looks like the old factory has come a long way from the original life of the Loray Mill, built in stages starting in 1902.

That earlier story is the one told in the book that I co-authored with five fellow historians, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. Published in 1987 and reissued in 2000,51gBhqv0KTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX225_SY300_CR,0,0,225,300_SH20_OU01_ Like a Family puts the Loray Mill (see chap. 4), located near Charlotte, into the broader context of Southern industrialization, told largely from the workers’ point of view, based on their own testimony in hundreds of oral history interviews. That work was made possible through the Southern Oral History Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, which continues to do fine work in oral history. The SOHP interviews are mostly on deposit at UNC’s Wilson Library, where they are open to scholars. You can even search for a term like “Gastonia” in the search tool.

That should keep you busy for a while!

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