Payday at the Mill

The other day, in the North Carolina Collection stacks, I found a small packet labeled “Harriet-Henderson Mill Pay Envelopes, 1926-1927.” Inside were a bunch of small, manila envelopes that had at one time contained the weekly pay of textile mill employees. On the outside of each envelope was the employee’s name, the date, and a short account of the amount due to be paid.

These envelopes are fascinating artifacts from a time when the mill was of paramount importance in the lives of its workers, providing not just employment but housing, food and supplies, and even medical care. After all these were subtracted from the paycheck, the employees were often left with very little cash to take home, as the examples below demonstrate.