The Life Cycle of a Typical Piedmont Carolinas Cotton Mill Town

William Douglas Cooper

Abstract


In this article the author traces the twentieth century evolution of cotton textile mill towns in the Piedmont Carolinas. A typical twentieth century mill town in this area was Dr. Cooper’s home town of Marion, North Carolina, and is the focus of the article. Unlike most mill town articles that focus on the mill village family, Dr. Cooper uses his experiences as a “town kid,” textile college professor, and operations vice president of three different textile firms to present a broad, integrated view of the textile mill towns of the Piedmont Carolinas and the political, social and economic forces that defined them during the twentieth century. In the article the author challenges the conventional wisdom, expressed by Sinclair Lewis and others, that the Carolinas’ cotton textile mills “exploited” their employees.

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