Southern Industrialization and Northern Industrial Networks: The New South Textile Industry in Columbia and Lyman, South Carolina
Edwards, Pamela C., South Carolina Historical Magazine
AN OLD SOUTHERN CITY WITH ESTABLISHED TRANSPORtation lines and power sources, Columbia, South Carolina, appeared to be an ideal location for New South industrial aspirations. Just up the road, Spartanburg, South Carolina, competed with Columbia for resources and, at times, surpassed the capital city in its commercial and manufacturing activities. While small cotton textile plants operated in and around the South Carolina piedmont before the Civil War, the vast bulk of the region's commerce was in the transport and trade of raw cotton, with manufacturing establishments overwhelmingly concentrated on the production of iron, lumber, cottonseed oil, and flour. According to one promotional booklet published by the municipal board of trade, there were no cotton textile plants operating in Columbia in 1871. But the existing trade in cotton, expanding railroad and other transportation and communication connections, and the growing supply of electrical power suggested to many that the potential ingredients for successful cotton textile manufacturing were available in both of these cities.1
As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, the citizens of Columbia and Spartanburg experienced the arrival and development of the textile industry in their communities. In doing so, like many southern communities, they shared experiences related to changing economic and social structures. Columbia and Spartanburg also shared, more specifically, the arrival of one particular established, northern-owned-and-operated textile corporation, the Pacific Mills. In 1916 Pacific Mills purchased the four Whaley Mills in Columbia and, just six years later, constructed a textile manufacturing and finishing facility on the outskirts of Spartanburg, creating the small mill village of Lyman.2 While Columbia and Spartanburg shared the arrival of the same northern textile corporation, the means by which Pacific Mills came to each community was different and illustrates the diverse paths taken by economic and political leaders of underdeveloped southern towns and cities in their efforts to gain access to the existing business, financial, and technology networks of the mature capitalist system.
C. Vann Woodward, the most prominent scholar to have investigated the development of the textile industry, found that in the 1890s northern textile manufacturers conceded southern cost advantages and "millions of dollars of New England capital went into Southern plants and investments." While southern factories gradually surpassed the New England share of production, Woodward concluded that southern dependence on the northern industry for final processing of coarse goods, capital investments, and marketing outlets still made the southern textile industry part of New England's southern colonial empire.3 In response to Woodward and reviving the major thesis of Wilbur J. Cash, numerous historians writing in the 1970s concluded that antebellum planter elites survived the Civil War as a class, and planters, not a new middle class of capitalists, controlled and tended to limit the development of southern industry.4 Scholarship in the 1980s examined the period between 1890 and 1925 and, in doing so, focused on the increasing involvement of northern capital, ownership, and marketing avenues in the southern cotton textile industry.5 In particular, David L. Carlton suggested that northern capital delayed entrance into the southern textile industry "until its local organization and finances were on a firm basis" and until there was "evidence of local support."6 Carlton also pointed out that while northern firms might not have built or bought firms early in the South's cotton mill campaign, northern institutions gradually gained more and more control over southern firms. Northern investors controlled southern textile companies not only as directors, manufacturers, and stockholders, but also through commission houses, machinery manufacturing, and mill engineering. …