Monday, December 29, 2008

blessing in disguise

Riverview Cemetery

The fire of 1882 was a blessing in disguise. It enabled the company to install new, efficient machinery and to expand its facilities. The fire also opened the door to new sources of capital, and the mill received its share of the Northern money which flowed into the New South after Reconstruction and the revival of prosperity. But it is only by coincidence that the date of this development fits into old conceptions about the origins of the New South.

The nature and causes of Southern industrial growth after the War of Secession have been matters of dispute among historians. The traditional view, fostered by such apostles of the New South as journalist Henry Grady, was popularized by Broadus Mitchell. According to Mr. Mitchell, Southern industry prior to 1880 was practically in the Middle Ages. In that year a sudden industrial revolution seized the South. Northern funds, combining with a burst of sectional interest, brought the region within a few decades to an industrial Renaissance. --Harry Poindexter

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

a sense of duty

Lynchburg Coke and Staunton Coke c. 1900; Virginia Coke, November 16, 1915; Cordele, Georgia Coke, c. 1900, Blue Charlottesville Coke, patent November 16, 1915; Staunton Coke c. 1900; background, Burnett Cocaine bottle c. 1900-- bottles courtesy the Carr Collection

In their concern for adequate living quarters, encouragement of educational and religious activities, and insistence upon high moral standards, the woolen mill owners reflected a prevailing attitude of Southern businessmen in the New South. A sense of duty and responsibility in providing the proper environment for the molding of character was the underlying concept. It was well expressed by the president of the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia in 1911:

The supreme obligation of Southern patriotism in business endeavor is the duty of improving our best asset--the Southern people. The richest resource we have is our youth. In their veins runs the blood of the best American stock. They should have a fair chance to make the most and the best of themselves, and the first care of our successful men of business should be to see that they have that chance.

Unlike the welfare capitalism of the 1920 's, that exercised by the Charlottesville Woolen Mills was primarily interested in the moral fibre of the village community. Whether the workers were contented with it is impossible to say. The absence of labor disturbances seems to indicate that they were. --Harry Poindexter