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Mill Worker Oral History Collection

Identifier: MC 109

Scope and Contents

The Mill Worker Oral History Collection consists of 41 audio tapes, 29 of which are transcribed, of interviews with employees of textile mills in the Columbus area. Most interviews have typed transcripts, though some are handwritten. The interviews were conducted as part of a class at Columbus State University in 1988. The subjects were employees of the Bibb Manufacturing Company, Swift Textiles, Inc. (Swift Manufacturing Company), Muscogee Manufacturing, Eagle and Phenix Mill, Meritas Mill, and many others. Most were employed at the mills between c. 1935 and the interview date in 1988.

The oral histories include memories about a variety of subjects: the Depression; moving from farm and rural life to the city; segregation; WWII; women in the mills; technical information about the machines and products being manufactured; relations between supervisors, bosses, and others; life in a mill town; disability and retirement compensation; relations between mill workers and other residents of Columbus; race relations; and viewpoints of children of the mill workers.


  • 1988

Biographical / Historical

Columbus developed as an important textile manufacturing center in the South because of its strategic location on the Chattahoochee River. The mills developed early, but were destroyed during the Civil War. The mills were able to rebuild and prosper, and by 1880, Muscogee County led the South in textile production. Many mills have been located in Columbus.

The Eagle and Phenix Mill was established in 1851 as the Eagle Factory and it became the largest single textile mill in the antebellum south. After completely rebuilding following the Civil War, it was renamed the Eagle and Phenix Mill. It remained in local ownership until 1948. Muscogee Manufacturing Company was established in 1867 and expanded periodically before being merged with Fieldcrest Mills, Inc. in 1963. Swift Manufacturing Company has continued operations since 1882.

The oral histories of the collection include information about a wide variety of mills during the 1930s-1980s. Significant trends recorded in the histories that are common to most of the mills during this time are the incorporation of air conditioning, improvement in air quality, growing use of mechanical equipment, and desegregation. (Information gathered from City of Progress: A History of Columbus, Georgia, 1828-1978, by Margaret Laney Whitehead and Barbara Bogart, Columbus, GA: Columbus Office Supply Co., 1978.)


41 Cassettes

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Repository Details

Part of the Columbus State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

4225 University Ave
Columbus Georgia 31907 United States