Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Charles W. Crawford

Committee Member

Margaret M. Caffrey

Committee Member

James E. Fickle

Committee Member

Walter R. Brown


Bemis, Tennessee, a cotton mill town constructed at the advent of the twentieth century in West Tennessee on the outskirts of Jackson, compares both typically and atypically with the characteristics of earlier Piedmont mill towns. Social Gospel and Progressive Age thinking directed the actions of the mill town's founder, Judson Moss Bemis, and his son, Albert Farwell Bemis. Their commitment to progressive ideals and the nature of the mill workers drawn from the West Tennessee farm fields produced a complicated coexistence betweeen manager and mill worker rather than a siimple employee versus employer scenario seen in many other mill endeavors. While the mill and town faced several strikes, one of which was particularly violent, a large faction of the workforce remained loyal to the general manager and the Bemis Company, and, until the company passed to the third generation of upper mill management, the mill owners displayed concern for the employees beyond their primary motivation to produce profit.The founding and growth of Bemis, Tennessee is a good example of the success, failures, and challenges faced by management and employees in a patriarchal mill system marked by benevolent leadership. The mill eventually followed the course of other textile mills and closed due, primarily, to political decisions at the national level concerning economics and trade which favored overseas textile production. Bemis, the town, met the fate of many other company towns. Its buildings and houses were sold to individuals, some of whom had worked and lived in the village for years and some of whom had not. For over seventy years, family after family had provided for themselves and constructed their lives in the Bemis mill and town. In the end. Judson Moss Bemis had accomplished his goal of creating a successful mill that would feed his cotton bag plants, and he had done it while providing a markedly higher standard of living for his employees than that of the surrounding area.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.