Moses Cone’s monetary mischief

“In the controversy over whether the country should remain on the gold standard or convert to silver [Greensboro industrialist Moses] Cone was ardently pro-gold….

“In June 1896 he decided to pay his finishing mill employees in Mexican silver dollars. These coins had a bullion value of 54 cents, and Cone handed them out as 50-cent pieces. His goal was ‘to demonstrate in a practical way the inconveniences of a dollar that does not represent a hundred cents.’

“Puzzled local merchants… were probably reluctant to refuse the coins, since the Cones were so powerful. In the end, some redeemed the coins at 50 cents, [but] others unwittingly took a loss and redeemed them  at their face value of one dollar. The Greensboro Patriot reported, in what was probably an understatement, ‘Opinions are divided as to the  success of his scheme.’ ”

— From “A Mansion in the Mountains: The Story of Moses and Bertha Cone and Their Blowing Rock Manor” (1996) by Philip T. Noblitt

Child labor law spurned as ‘Yankee doings’

On this day in 1903: In his biennial message to the General Assembly, Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock calls for legislation “in behalf of the children who are working in textile and furniture factories.”

Manufacturers, who have beaten back previous restrictions on child labor, want no part of Aycock’s proposals – “Yankee doings,” in the words of W.L. London of Pittsboro. “You let us alone,” says Moses Cone of Greensboro, “and the matter will come out all right.”

But Aycock’s vow to stump the state moves the manufacturers to compromise. The Child Labor Law of 1903 will prohibit employment of children under age 12 in manufacturing except in the oyster industry, where young shuckers are paid by the gallon or bushel. Children under 18 are barred from working more than 66 hours per week.