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Did Delgado/Spofford mill ever issue company scrip?

Ben Steelman
StarNews

Delgado Cotton Mills, later known as Spofford Mills. Courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library.

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.

RELATED LINKS

What was Delgado?

What is the history of Delgado Cemetery?

 

 

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Mike

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One Response to “ Did Delgado/Spofford mill ever issue company scrip?”

  1. On March 9, 2013 at 3:07 am Brant wrote:

    It would be nice if this answer detailed what it usually meant to be paid in “scrip” in this time period. It often meant basically indentured servitude, companies requiring workers to buy necessities from the company store, and having no actual currency to spend elsewhere. Prices in the company stores were exorbitant and went right back into the owners pockets. Despite being illegal these practices went on for quite a while in this part of the State and even longer in other parts of the south.



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