Listening to: Have to Believe We Are Magic
Thought for the day: HUGS to the three day weekend……….and no pansy hug either.
Today is PAAYAYAYAYDAY. I no longer live paycheck to paycheck. My brain still thinks I do, so I still love pay day. When I first started working at DuPont, our managers placed a piece of paper in our hot little eager hands on payday to reimburse us for our work. With the advent of technology, leprechauns started tossing our wages in a bank at the stroke of midnight of each payday. It’s magic. I swear.
The picture I am sharing today is from 1918. This is the line for the employees of the Old Hickory, Tennessee Powder Plant to get a paycheck (the Powder Plant was built to provide munitions during WWI). There is an estimated 12,500 people in the line. If this is how the world was today, people would die. There would be guns and knives and mayhem. Like always, instead of my brain potpourri, I’m going to serve you some serious research (I will provide resources at the end).
The problem of setting satisfactory wage scales plagued DuPont officials throughout 1918. On March 22, DuPont officials from Wilmington and Old Hickory met in Nashville to discuss wage scales. They decided that unskilled workers and those classes of tradesmen which could be recruited locally should be paid according to the prevailing wage rates in the territory surrounding Nashville. They agreed that they would have to establish higher scales for those trades for which the supply would have to be recruited from areas north of Nashville.
Assuming that they could recruit sufficient laborers, carpenters, and blacksmiths from the Nashville area and the region south and southwest of Nashville, they established a scale giving unskilled laborers ¢.30 per hour and carpenters ¢.40 or ¢.55, depending on their skill. Electricians, iron-workers, millwrights, machinists, pipe fitters, sheet metal workers, and plumbers and steamfitters – those workers who would have to be recruited from areas north of Nashville – were offered between ¢.55 and ¢.72 an hour, depending upon their skill levels. These wage scales were put into effect on March 23.
The coming of the Old Hickory plant upset wage stability in Nashville also. Leaders of businesses established in Nashville before 1918 complained that the powder plant was stealing their workers with unnecessarily high wages. The Nashville city government, which had paid unskilled workers ¢.27 an hour prior to the beginning of the construction at Old Hickory, considered raising its scale to ¢.37 1/2 in June. Mayor Henry Gupton of Nashville, with urging from the resident engineer at Old Hickory, opposed such a raise and convinced the city commissioners to raise the scale only to .30 an hour.
Fill the Empty Shell: The Story of the Government Munitions Project at Old Hickory, Tennessee 1918-1919 – Thesis of David E. Brand – May 1971
Photo courtesy of Old Hickory Garage via Austin Kinzer