Critical to the success in the early 20th century southern textile industry were the mill villages. Like coal camps and mining towns that supported their respective industries, mill villages supported textile and cotton mills, and consisted of company-provided worker homes, schools, a church, and of course, the company stores. And like the coal camps, housing their workers in mill villages was a way that companies could exert undue control, as well as indirectly manage employees lives during non-working hours.
As with coal towns, housing was supplied for nominal rent. In exchange for the nominal rent, however, for each room that a house had a worker was required. That is, for a five-room house, five occupants were required to work in the mill; for a three-room house, three were required. Naturally, since most homes were occupied by a family, and exceeded two rooms, children often ended up being used to meet the company’s worker-occupancy requirement.
In South Carolina at the turn of the 20th century, children were permitted to work at any age in the summer months. The only stipulation was that each child attended school for at least four months a year, and could read and write.
The Toxaway Mill was no different. Incorporated in 1902, it had grown in four years to having 16,128 spindles, 484 looms, 2,400 bales of cotton, and was creating a product with a value of $265,000 per year.
It employed 150 operators with a payroll of $42,000 — or about $5.38 per week per worker. The village which supported the mill had a population of five-hunderd. 110 were under the age of twelve.
Tony Chibbaro lists 13 different varieties of tokens from the Toxaway Mill Store. Based on engraving, styling, and planchet composition, it appears that the tokens were issued during three different eras. The varieties are listed in the following chart. The Chibboro Scale is used to denote rarity.
Below are several examples of Toxaway Mill scrip. Their grade ranges from Very Good to AU. Workers and their families were issued this scrip as payment for their work at the mill. They were redeemable at the Toxaway Mills Company Store.
All specimens were photographed using axial lighting with clear glass angled at 45 degrees.
Notes and Sources
The Library of Congress Digital Archives
The Independent, Volume 82, April 1915
South Carolina Tokens, Tony Chibbaro, TAMS, ©1990