Photograph of Toxaway Mills, South Carolina SC

Aerial View of Toxaway Mills in Anderson South Carolina

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.

Sadie-Pfeifer, 48" high, has worked half a year. Credit: Lewis Hine

Sadie-Pfeifer, 48″ high, has worked half a year. Credit: Lewis Hine

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.

Group of Child Workers in Cotton Mill

Group of Child Workers in Cotton Mill — Credit: Lewis Hine

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.

Little Spinner Girl

Little Spinner Girl — Credit: Lewis Hine

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.

Two of "helpers" in a Cotton Mill

Two of “helpers” in a Cotton Mill — Credit: Lewis Hine

Doffer Boys

Doffer Boys — Credit Lewis Hine

Numismatic Specimens

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.

Toxaway Mill Store Token Varieties

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.

SC1035-AX5 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AX10 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AX50 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AY1 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AY5 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AY25 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AY50 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-AY100 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-BK50 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

SC1035-BK100 Toxaway Mill Store Scrip

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. The Library of Congress Digital Archives
  2. The Independent, Volume 82, April 1915
  3. South Carolina Tokens, Tony Chibbaro, TAMS, ©1990

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The author has over 30 years experience in North American numismatics. He is the author of numerous articles about exonumia, including those about tokens, scrip, and the public who used them. He is a member of the ANA, VNA, ACC, C4, CWTS, TAMS, MD-TAMS, AVA, NSCA, and NumisSociety.
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4 Responses to “The Toxaway Cotton Mill Tokens of Anderson, SC” Subscribe

  1. John Lowder December 29, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    I noticed that you have all the tokens listed except the 25 cent token. I was wondering what they may be worth? I have tried to find some but most mill tokens are rare. Also do you have any for trade or sale? Thank you..

    • Aaron Packard January 2, 2014 at 6:41 am #

      Hi John –

      Thanks for your post and question.

      There are at least 8 listed varieties of the Toxaway Mill tokens. I know there is at least one 25-cent emission.

      As to retail pricing, expect to pay between $10 – $40 depending on the variety and grade.

      Unfortunately at present I do not have any available for trade or sale.

      • John Traynham July 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

        Hi Aaron,
        I’m a native of Greenville, SC and have moved “home” after retiring.
        I remember the cotton mills well and have a renewed interest as I do volunteer work for a charter school which is changing lives in an underprivilged area of town once dominated by the mills.
        I have started collecting items for the school’s museum when it is built. Mill tokens fascinate me and I am buying local ones as I find them.
        Can you please tell me the purpose of some tokens having had the initials of the mill apparently die stamped out of the metal. One person told me that indicated they had been redeemed but I wonder if that is correct.
        Can you please tell me the reason. For example an Anderson Mill token has AM holes in it.
        Many thanks,
        John Traynham
        PS Any suggestions for places to find these tokens as there were dozens of mills here in Greenville…”the textile center of the south”.

        • Aaron Packard July 7, 2014 at 1:42 am #

          Hi John –

          Thanks for the note and question. I was just passing through Anderson and Greenville yesterday, and it’s nice to hear about your efforts at the Charter School as well as the school’s museum.

          What you’re asking about are known as “cut-outs.”

          Cut-outs were often struck through tokens so that storekeepers could readily distinguish their tokens from other stores that issued similar looking tokens. This was to ensure that tokens from one mill operation couldn’t be redeemed at another. This practice wasn’t limited to the textile industry; It was also prevalent in coal mining, agricultural, and lumber companies as well. (In Anderson, there were many cotton mill operations, owned by different companies.)

          Secondarily, cut-outs were also made so that workers could easily distinguish tokens that were issued by their employers from those that weren’t. During that era, oftentimes child workers as well as immigrant workers were [yet] unable to read and write. Cut-outs enabled them to easily recognize their own tokens, and distinguish from those which weren’t issued from their own employer.

          I address this topic a little bit in “The Panther Coal Company Tokens.”

          Stuart E. Brown also addresses this topic in his book “Scrip,” pg.118. (Scrip, Stuart E. Brown JR, Virginia Book Co, ©1978)

          As to your enquiry regarding where you can find coal scrip tokens, I recommend you reach out to Tony Chibbaro. He is the author of ‘South Carolina Tokens’ and is considered the foremost expert in South Carolina mill tokens. He specializes in selling South Carolina tokens, including those you’re interested in. Below are two links to his site and token offerings:

          Anderson and other mill tokens

          Greenville and other mill tokens

          I also recommend you try these two searches on ebay:

          Greenville Mill scrip

          cotton mill scrip

          Hope this helps.

          Good luck with your efforts!

          Aaron

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