Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Badin, North Carolina: The Town that Aluminum Built

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.16.10 AMWe’ve recently completed digitization of issues of the Badin Bulletin from 1918-1920, from the collections of the Stanly County Museum, which give a interesting glimpse into life in a factory town in the early 20th century.

The town of Badin was formed in 1913 by a French aluminum company to house workers for a large plant being built on Yadkin-Pee Dee River. The outbreak of World War I derailed the French effort and the plant was purchased by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). Although the town retained some of its original French influence, the collection of small houses grouped near the factory resembled the textile mill villages that were then prevalent throughout Piedmont North Carolina.

When the United States entered the World War, local demand for aluminum was high. As the factory expanded, so did the town. The Badin Bulletin documents civic and social life in the community from 1918-1920. It’s definitely a company paper — there are no stories about labor unrest or worker dissatisfaction — but it still provides an interesting look at the lives and activities of the workers. Much of the paper is devoted to news of the employees and their families, especially marriages, births, and deaths. There is a lengthy social column noting the visits and illnesses among the community and most issues are interspersed with patriotic articles and features about the factory itself.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.12.38 AMMost issues also include news from the local African American community. Like much of the South during this time, Badin was strictly segregated by race. The editors of the Badin Bulletin presented stories about the local “Colored Village” as if it were a source of pride for the company. Several issues include photos of houses and public buildings in the African American section. This may have been part of an effort to attract more African American workers to the factory.

Badin remained a small community closely tied to the aluminum plant until 2010, when Alcoa announced that the factory would be closed and the property redeveloped for future industrial use. Badin celebrated its Centennial earlier this year.

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