H.001. Piedmont Industrialization: Badin, N.C.

The interviews for this region document the transformation of a rural area into a company town, Badin, N.C., which was dominated by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). The transformation began with the construction of a dam across the Yadkin River by the Whitney Reduction Company, founded by George Whitney of Whitney and Stephenson, a Pittsburgh brokerage house. After Whitney went bankrupt in 1907, a French company, L'Aluminum Francaise, continued construction of the dam and built an aluminum plant. In 1914, the company sold its holdings to Andrew Mellon, who formed the Tallassee Power Company, a subsidiary of ALCOA. Originally a sparsely settled area, the influx of convict construction crews and black and Italian laborers had a major impact on the social and economic structure of the community. The people interviewed discussed these changes and the effects on their lives. Several of the interviewees recalled the original rural character of the area and the construction of the dam, aluminum plant, and the company town of Badin. Union activity is also an important topic of discussion in these interviews. The vote for affiliation with the Aluminum Workers of America in 1940 was especially significant because it was the first time in the South that a union won certification in a company-owned town. Race relations are another issue explored. Discrimination at work and in the town, living conditions, and union participation are all topics of discussion. The Badin interviews were conducted in 1979 by Southern Oral History Program staff member Rosemarie Hester under the sponsorship of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. The project culminated in the production of a video documentary, Aluminum Town. Although the study of Badin was not originally part of the Piedmont industrialization project, these interviews were included in the series because Badin's development contrasted with industrialization in some of the other regions selected for research.

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