National Guard Called Out to Suppress Strike

Girls working at Loray Mill. Image from the Library of Congress

Girls working at Loray Mill. Image from the Library of Congress

On April 4, 1929, the National Guard was called out by Governor O. Max Gardner to suppress a strike at the Loray Mill in Gastonia.  Organized in 1900, the mill was the largest in North Carolina at the time. Employing more than 2,000 workers at its peak, the mill was also reported to be the largest factory under one roof in the United States.

Because of its size, the United Textile Workers of America targeted the mill and formed a local chapter there in 1919. On March 30, 1929 workers began a walkout with a general strike on April 1.  The union sent activists to the mill, and the strike began to draw national press coverage, lasting through the summer and into the fall.

Violence escalated and in June, Gastonia’s chief of police, O. F. Aderholdt was shot and killed. In September, mill worker Ella May Wiggins, a ballad singer and Union sympathizer, was killed. Wiggins had been a focus and inspiration during the organizing drive. More violence followed her death, setting back union organizing efforts substantially and creating a wave of anti-union sentiment across the state.

The area around the mill is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can also learn more about the industry in general by picking up a copy of The Textile Industry in North Carolina from N.C. Historical Publications.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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