Though the Charlotte Cotton Mill was the first within Charlotte's city limits, it was not alone for long. Charlotte soon became a hub for cotton refinement, with sixteen mills and a combined total of 94,392 spindles and 1,456 looms.1 While many Charlotte citizens were excited about the economic prospects presented by the Charlotte Cotton Mill ushering in a period of prolific mill production in Mecklenburg County, the benefits were not seen by the toiling working classes. With child labor laws and any sort of meaningful labor law reform still decades away, the Charlotte Cotton Mill, like others of the time, employed many women, but also entire families, into the second decade of the twentieth century.2 These laborers endured dangerous and grueling working conditions for an average wage of five dollars per week.
Charlotte remained a cotton-spinning hotbed steadily through the 1920s. Though banking soon eclipsed cotton as Charlotte's main economic pull, Charlotte's mill history represents an important part of Charlotte's transformation from a small, rural town to a booming commercial city. Whereas Charlotte was home to only 7,094 people when R. M. and D. W. Oates opened their doors in 1880, the area was unrecognizable by the eve of the Great Depression, with a population of 82,675--the largest city in the Carolinas.1