Effects of Expansion on Leaf Handling and Labor
The period of expansion from 1912 to 1924 was marked by rapidly changing conditions, within and outside the company, affecting in major ways the leaf operations of the company, the work force, and the work place. This chapter chronicles these conditions, the entry of local politics and the union on the labor scene, and management's response.
None of the changes after 1912 affected so many people as those involving leaf buying, leaf storage, and leaf processing. The lines separating these areas are by no means clear, partly perhaps because of the seasonal nature of much of the work. Consider, for example, the case of Thomas Winfield Blackwell. During his long career with Reynolds from 1900 until his death in 1943, Blackwell purchased leaf or supervised its purchase, worked in manufacturing, and, as plant manager, was concerned with the stemming and storage of leaf tobacco. 1 Leaf processing, whether performed in a factory or in a leaf plant, involved the employment of much unskilled labor for the tedious work of hanging bundles of leaf on sticks for the redryer, removing the sticks from the hot dryer, and stripping the leaf from the stems. These processes, though not destined for any revolutionary improvement from 1912 to 1924, did undergo considerable change with chief emphasis on a search for machinery to handle the stemming problem.
When R. J. Reynolds first came to Winston, the farmers marketed their leaf throughout the calendar year. By 1916, however, the crop was largely