Creating the Modern South: Millhands and Managers in Dalton, Georgia, 1884-1984

By Douglas Flamming | Go to book overview

5
LABOR IN SHORT SUPPLY

At the turn of the century, Dalton's cotton-mill families had not yet coalesced into a stable community of workers. Although the Crown Mill had been in operation for fifteen years, its mill-village boundaries were not yet well defined, and most workers did not live in mill-village housing. Few millhands in 1900 had a long association with the company. In that year, less than 4 percent of Crown's employees had worked for the mill ten years or more.1

Just as the mill entered a new era of expansion, many workers were abandoning factory life for upcountry tenant farms or alternative wage-earning jobs. Southern-born whites were the only available labor supply for the mills; it was risky to hire blacks in a race-conscious region where cotton mills themselves symbolized white supremacy, and the low southern wages were no inducement for Yankee or immigrant workers. The southern economy was not stagnant, but in terms of wages and industrial diversification it lagged behind the rest of the nation. As a result, a regionally distinctive labor market took shape in Dixie. Within this isolated and restrictive market, poor whites did have some options available to them. That none of those options were very good

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