Louis Harrell was a J.P. Stevens millhand in Roanoke Rapids. In 1978, not long after this photo was taken, he died of byssinosis, a condition caused by cotton dust and commonly known as brown lung.
A similar photo of Harrell appeared on an OSHA brochure issued during the Carter administration but recalled under Reagan as biased toward labor.
Also in the collection: two other anti-Stevens pinbacks.
This beat-up, taped-up employee badge is a humble reminder of a once-thriving outpost of the Cannon textile empire.
Wiscassett Mills was founded in Albemarle in 1898. During World War II, its yarns were used for machine gun belts and parachute harnesses. In 1978 Wiscassett was purchased by Cannon Mills. By 2000 when the plant closed — “citing imports,” in the familiar explanation of a trade-press obit — its employees numbered only 81.
But the Wiscassett mill village, according to the Albemarle Downtown Development Corp., “remains virtually intact in its early 20th century appearance. See a classic example of the paternalistic social structure that was common to North Carolina textile communities in the early 1900s.”
h/t Stanly County Museum for these terrific panoramic (cirkut) images of mill life a century ago….
— Four of the eight Wiscassett mills at their height
— Workers at Plant No. 4, card room and spinning room
— “Ladies Serving Wiscassett Mills Barbeque,” 1916. (Don’t miss the watermelons.)
— An overview of the festivities, featuring a race of some sort.