Date of Award
Master of Arts
In 1901, J.K. Milliken and his uncle Frank Knowles obtained the financial backing to start a textile finishing plant in Massachusetts. Knowles and Milliken settled upon the small town of Dighton, Massachusetts for the location of their finishing operation. In June of that year the Mount Hope Finishing Company was incorporated. When Knowles died in 1909, Milliken took over the daily operations of the plant and settled into his role as treasurer, which he held until 1951. As the treasurer and leader of the company, In order to establish his control, Milliken crafted his image as a patriarchal authority figure.
By the early 1920s, Milliken instituted a program of welfare capitalism at Mount Hope Finishing Company. They coined this their "constructive labor policy." Milliken, like other large business owners during the Progressive Era, used the constructive labor policy to inhibit unionization of workers at his company. Yet, his constructive labor policy also dampened a sense of working class identity among the workers at the Mount Hope Finishing Company. Milliken also exploited the built environment of North Dighton to strengthen worker identity with the company, and not with each other.
In contrast to the previous acceptance of Milliken's paternalism, and supposed non-union sentiments among employees, some workers mounted a strike against Mount Hope in 1951.The goal was to win labor organization under the Textile Workers Union of America. The decisive factor of the strike appears to have been that the 1951 workforce at Mount Hope feared the company planned to move South, leaving them unemployed. Workers voted for union representation, and the day after the election, the company closed in North Dighton and relocated to Butner, North Carolina. That step marks Mount Hope as an example of postwar regional capital flight, further tying it to the trend of deindustrialization of New England textiles.
Kelsey Lynn Murphy
Murphy, Kelsey Lynn, "The benevolent dictator of North Dighton: A case study in welfare capitalism" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17890.