Gastonia, 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike

By John A. Salmond | Go to book overview

PREFACE

If one thinks of the southern Piedmont as a rough arc stretching from Danville, Virginia, to Birmingham, Alabama, then Gastonia, North Carolina, is located at its center. Gaston County, of which Gastonia is the county seat, had by 1929 come to contain more textile plants than any other county in the world, and some Gastonians proudly claimed that there were more looms and spindles within its hundred-mile radius than in that of any other southern city. Few doubted the boast, for since 1880 both the county and the city had undergone a profound industrial and economic transformation. Originally dotted with small and not particularly profitable farms, Gaston County had both the natural and the human resources, in its abundance of water and its large potential labor force, to make the transition to a textile center with extraordinary rapidity. Working the land had always been hard there, and thousands of unsuccessful farmers were only too ready to furnish the manpower for the mills. Though in 1929 there were still some forests to be found in Gaston County's gently rolling landscape, and its most fertile land was still being farmed, the dominant features of its flattish topography were "cotton mills and industrial villages."1

In 1929, Gastonia had a population of 17,000. The 1920s had been a time of substantial construction in the city, resulting in a downtown area of solid business enterprises, including both stores and office blocks, as well as an impressive array of public buildings, all brand spanking new. The radical journalist Mary Heaton Vorse commented after her first visit that the town gave the impression of "having sprung from the earth fully equipped." Gastonia had "a new city hall, a new courthouse, a new county jail," and "a splendid new high school," each of them fine, solid structures. This decade had seen a boom in residential construction as well, mainly due to the conspicuous consumption of the town's elite. The mill owners and managers increasingly moved away from their mills and built themselves huge, beautiful, lavishly furnished homes in the city's uptown area. These houses were removed both physically and conceptually from the mill villages where the bulk

-xi-

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Gastonia, 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - The Setting 1
  • 2 - The Strike 23
  • 3 - The Shooting 69
  • 4 - Trial and Terror 105
  • 5 - The Verdicts 138
  • 6 - The Aftermath 167
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 209
  • Index 219
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