Sumter was manufacturing haven in early 1900s

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 3/18/18

Editor's note: Following is the second of a two-part article. The piece regarding a 1901 exhibition in Sumter is based on a report retrieved from The Item archives. Part one ran in the March 10 edition of The Sumter Item.

"There is a great …

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Sumter was manufacturing haven in early 1900s

In 1901, Sumter had one large coffin factory, whose products were sold across the United States.
In 1901, Sumter had one large coffin factory, whose products were sold across the United States.
SUMTER ITEM FILE PHOTO
Posted

Editor's note: Following is the second of a two-part article. The piece regarding a 1901 exhibition in Sumter is based on a report retrieved from The Item archives. Part one ran in the March 10 edition of The Sumter Item.

"There is a great diversity of manufacturing interests in Sumter, and without exceptions these concerns have been remarkably successful. It is fortunate for Sumter that money invested in factories has not been devoted exclusively to cotton mills, as has been done in many up-country cities and towns. Not that cotton mills are not good and desirable things to have about town, but because the same amount of money invested in smaller and varied manufacturing enterprises benefits the town far more in many ways. The heads of these factories are public spirited, employing large numbers of skilled workmen who make desirable citizens. In most cases, they train their own labor, and in this way their plants become technological schools."

It is said by mill owners that there is nothing to work against the success of cotton mills, that their factory has been as successful as those in the upcountry. The mill here has no trouble with its labor and, there being plenty of cotton, has no freight to pay on this. One corporation in Spartanburg last year paid out $40,000 for freight on cotton. The fact that the mill here struck the panic of 1893 in its infancy and had to borrow money is pointed to as having blocked the way to Sumter's becoming a great cotton mill center. This event was assisted by the lack of water power in this section."

"Sumter can boast the following factories and businesses: one large lumber factory, one large cotton oil mill, branch plants in Camden and Bennettsville and a refinery in Charleston; the only two telephone factories in the South, whose products find markets throughout this country; one large coffin factory, whose goods are sold all over the United States; one business which started six years ago with a capital of $26; the plant now could not be bought for $50,000."

"One soda water bottling works; one golf-stick factory; one cotton compress plant; one large brick factory; three ice factories with 61 tons capacity, four-fifths of which is used outside of Sumter; one cotton mill; one tobacco warehouse, with splendid climatic conditions favoring it; one blind, door and sash factory."

"Visitors to the community of Sumter are also afforded the opportunity to witness a multitude of technical business opportunities which include a telephone system, an iron foundry, three shops making wagons and two telegraph companies. It is said there are particularly fine openings for a good steam laundry; a large tobacco factory; a more extensive vehicle factory; a large furniture factory, the native woods being especially fine and abundant; a desk factory; a fertilizer factory; and a soap factory."

"In addition, Sumter city and county are peculiarly blessed in the matter of railroad facilities. The city has 16 daily passenger trains, and the merchants are entirely satisfied with freight rates and facilities. The county is crossed and crisscrossed in various directions with railroad tracks having the largest railroad mileage and 36 shipping points. This ought to be an inducement to truck farming, but this has not yet been done extensively although the soil and the climate are both peculiarly adapted to it. The Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta, Northwestern, the old C.S. & N. and Manchester and Augusta branches of the Atlantic Coast Line touch Sumter also; the Southern has a connection from here to Kingsville on its South Carolina and Georgia branch."