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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A tobacco town in transition

In this excerpt, Henderson explains that before World War II, Greenville, North Carolina was a "tobacco town" in which the communities economy was largley dependent on the tobacco industry. Around the time of World War II, however, the economy began to change with the advent of mechanization and the absence of workers during wartime. As throughout the interview, Henderson's comments here reveal the ways in which the 1930s and 1940s were a transitional era for the tobacco industry.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

THOMAS HENDERSON:
When the tobacco market was open-. This was a tobacco town.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Greenville.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Purely a tobacco town.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And what does that mean "tobacco town?"
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it was a-it had businesses that farmers supported. And they sold about sixty million pounds up and it was a lot of money. And these businesses profited by these tobacco companies buying this tobacco. So it was a-. And it was-really everything worked together. But it became a change during the war.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How did it change?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well-
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You talked about mechanization but-
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well there wasn't enough people to raise this amount of tobacco that they'd been selling. And so-and your help was not as-had the expertise that people did before that. And-but they didn't draft tobacco buyers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
They said there was a necessity to the economy.