Opening Tuesday, September 2 - September 30, 2014, Gaston County Library,
1555 East Garrison Blvd
Gastonia, North Carolina
Not an Exit
From old castles and cemeteries when I lived in England, to Native American ruins and burial grounds when I lived in New Mexico and Wisconsin, I have always been drawn to the history of my ancestry. While North Carolina opened my heart to historical landmarks and textiles, living on a farm in Mississippi in the 60's enabled me to empathise with the dark side of human nature regarding child labor and segregation.
Though my childhood was filled with such memories as cotton fields, pot belly stoves, out houses, and milking cows, it was also filled with travel, culture, riches, and much love everywhere I lived. This was the military life and experience afforded me by my greatest influence, my father, a hobbyist photographer who provided me with my first camera, a Kodak Brownie, and instilled a love of creative balance within me.
As with anything I chose to undertake, my father shielded me from zealotry and racism, and encouraged me to study any avenue of culture, religion, and lifestyle I was drawn to. He taught me to see and experience both sides of any issue - from the poor to the rich to the middle class of which we had become. He believed in seeking solutions and compromise only by striving to understand differing viewpoints.
So do I. Therefore, it is my hope that this exhibit has attained a balance of history and present day that entwines the rich textile heritage of Gaston County with the progressive hope and search for Truth. I further hope that through our past we have learned that concealing history is Not an Exit from Truth. For it shall emerge via something inherited by each generation to illuminate both the past and the future: the Torch of Social Justice!
In addition to the memory of my father, Willard "Pete" Cantrell Sr., this exhibit is dedicated to Lewis Hine, whose life was committed to documenting a pictorial truth that would be seen for the grave social injustice it was, Ella May Wiggins, who died fighting to correct that injustice, as well as her children for bearing the brunt of an ultimate sacrifice, Lucy Penegar, for her tireless advocacy and dedicated commitment to the upkeep and preservation of historical landmarks in Gaston County, specifically the Loray Mill, and Kristina Horton, Great Granddaughter of Ella May Wiggins, who has been not only an inspiration, but a dear friend and confidant throughout the difficult yet rewarding struggle to liberate hidden truths amid the annals of basements, attics, architectural ruins, and graveyards within Gaston County.
The Lucky Ones
Original Photography, American Mill No. 2. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine of Molla Mesuretta, 17 years old, laceration and partial evulsion of tip of finger and nail while cleaning loom in motion (a standard practice in the 20's). Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-03079.
In my Great Grandmother's Footsteps
Original photograph of American Mill No. 2. Great Granddaughter of Ella May Wiggins, Kristina Horton, stands in her great grandmother's footsteps 85 years after the strike that killed her. Superimposure of Ella May courtesy of Gaston Gazette, file photo.
Original photoraph American Mill No. 2, - Zoe Lanier, helped her big sister in the mills. Superimposed Images by Lewis Hines and courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-01340 and LC-DIG-nclc-02667.
Original Photograph American Mill No 2. 11 year old Edmund Newsom, had two of his fingers crushed and torn out when a piece of machinery fell on his foot, mashing his toe, causing him to fall onto a spinning machine's unprotected gearing. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of Library of Congress, LOC-LC-DIG-nclc-02659.
Original photograph of American Mill No 2. Adrienne Pagnette, an adolescent French illiterate, speaks almost no English, required to stoop and lift heavy boxes. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-02315.
Original photograph American Mill No 2. Kristina Horton, Great Granddaughter of Ella May Wiggins, stands on the dock where her great grandmother, Ella May Wiggins, worked. Ella May was murdered during the Loray Mill Strike in 1929. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-02957.
On a rainy Tuesday, September 17th a group of workers escorted Ella May's coffin on foot from a local funeral parlor to her resting spot at the Bessemer City Cemetery. As the procession passed textile mills, workers crowded around windows to witness. At the American Mill No. 1 workers broke the rules and left the building to gather at the wire fence and locked gate to pay respect to Ella May as her body slowly passed feet away.
The Lions Den
The Lion's Den -
"Until the Lions have their own historians, the hunt will always glorify the hunters." ~ African Proverb
Original photograph of the executive suite of the Loray Mill pre-renovation. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-02667.
Original photograph Loray Mill tour with Lucy Penegar, Gaston County Historical Society, pre-renovation. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-01345.
Original photograph Loray/Firestone Mill pre-renovation. 11 year old Giles Edmund Newsom, the Face of Child Labor. "He died of Spanish Flu in 1918 at the age of 18. Newsom is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Gastonia, N.C., perhaps in an unmarked grave near his parents." Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-0265.
Original photograph Parkdale Mill No 10 during demolition. Golla chambers, Gastonia, N.C. 12 years old. In mill 3 years, spinning 2 years, weaver 1 year. Superimposed image by Lewis Hine, courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-04502 , LC-DIG-nclc-01349, and LC-DIG-nclc-02682.
"Three Years In..."
Original Photography Arkray Mill, Gastonia, North Carolina, Superimposed Image by Lewis Hines, Roy Little, 12 years old, and John Campbell, 10 years old (both been working for three years), courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-01348.
"Helps me mommy..."
Original photograph multiple exposure Arkray Mill ruins, Gastonia, North Carolina. Superimposed image of 10 year old John Poindexter by Lewis Hines, courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-02644.