Q. Did the Delgado Mills pay their employees with company money? Is any of it left?
A. Not as far as we can determine.
Rebecca R. Sawyer doesn’t mention it in her 2001 master’s thesis at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, “The Delgado-Spofford Textile Mill and its Village.” (Copies can be viewed at UNCW’s Randall Library and the local history room of the New Hanover County Public Library.) Neither is it mentioned in memoirs such as William J. Blanton’s “Mill Hill Pilot” or R.C. Fowler’s “A Raising Up.”
Scrip is a substitute for currency. Textile mills and coal companies in the 1800s and early 1900s often issued it to employees to spend in the company-run store, often when real currency was hard to come by. (It also kept workers dependent on management.) Scrip was occasionally used during the Depression in some localities while banks were closed. Surviving examples of scrip are highly collectible.
We can’t find any evidence that Delgado or Spofford’s management issued scrip, even though other North Carolina textile mills did. Michael Whaley, a local historian who had relatives who worked in the mill, said its company store operated on an account system, “kind of like a credit card.” Purchases were deducted from an employee’s wages. Whaley doesn’t remember any scrip.
Sawyer notes that Delgado and Spofford workers traded regularly with nearby private stores, as well as the company store, which suggests they were paid in cash.
The Spofford company store, by the way, operated nearly until the outbreak of World War II. Sawyer notes that when it burned down in 1938, the company rebuilt and reopened it.
If anyone can produce some scrip issued by Delgado or Spofford Mill, we’d like to see it.
Date posted: March 7, 2013
User-contributed question by: