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Collection Number: 04715

Collection Title: Robert Bruce Cooke Papers, 1926-1972

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 3.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 420 items)
Abstract Robert Bruce Cooke, born in Swepsonville, N.C., who held positions in various textile mills in Virginia and North and South Carolina until 1941 when he became a supervisor at the Erwin Cotton Mills, Durham, N.C., from which he retired around 1963. He and his wife Aylene Edwards Cooke, who worked as a librarian when the couple lived in Rutherfordton, N.C., were active in many historical and art associations in the state. Included are a few items relating to the Pearl Cotton Mills, Durham, N.C., the Virginia Cotton Mills, Swepsonville, N.C., and the Mooresville Cotton Mills, Mooresville, N.C. Most items, however, relate to the Erwin Cotton Mills and include a 1909 work contract and many other items relating to the relationship between Erwin Mills and the United Textile Workers of America. Besides unionization, there are also items about workers losing jobs to machines. Many items in the 1940s relate to war production and rationing. Also included are letters, 1926-1954, relating to Cooke's numerous job searches. Although rarely unemployed, Cooke seems always to have sought a better position within the textile industry and sent, during this period, an almost continuous stream of letters of inquiry to most mills operating in the southeast. There are also materials relating to organizations in which Robert and Aylene were active, especially the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, the English-Speaking Union, the North Carolina Society of County and Local Historians, and the Sons of the American Revolution.
Creator Cooke, Robert Bruce, 1902-1973.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Robert Bruce Cooke papers #4715, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from The Bookshop, Inc., in August 1994 (Acc. 94117).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Robert Bruce Cooke, born in Swepsonville, N.C., who held positions in various textile mills in Virginia and North and South Carolina until 1941 when he became a supervisor at the Erwin Cotton Mills, Durham, N.C., from which he retired around 1963. He and his wife Aylene Edwards Cooke, who worked as a librarian when the couple lived in Rutherfordton, N.C., were active in many historical and art associations in the state.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Included are a few items relating to the Pearl Cotton Mills, Durham, N.C., the Virginia Cotton Mills, Swepsonville, N.C., and the Mooresville Cotton Mills, Mooresville, N.C. Most items, however, relate to the Erwin Cotton Mills and include a 1909 work contract and many other items relating to the relationship between Erwin Mills and the United Textile Workers of America. Besides unionization, there are also items about workers losing jobs to machines. Many items in the 1940s relate to war production and rationing. Also included are letters, 1926-1954, relating to Cooke's numerous job searches. Although rarely unemployed, Cooke seems always to have sought a better position within the textile industry and sent, during this period, an almost continuous stream of letters of inquiry to most mills operating in the southeast. There are also materials relating to organizations in which Robert and Aylene were active, especially the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, the English-Speaking Union, the North Carolina Society of County and Local Historians, and the Sons of the American Revolution.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence and Related Materials and Other Erwin Mills Material, 1909-1965.

About 100 items.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965.

80 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

The 1909 item is a photocopy of a work contract at Erwin Mills, calling for "perfect work" and prohibiting singing on the job. Letters 1918-1922 relate to the Pearl Cotton Mills, Durham, N.C., and to the Virginia Cotton Mills in Swepsonville, N.C., for which Cooke apparently worked.

In 1929, there is a copy of a letter from David Clark to the Liberal Club at Johns Hopkins University about unionization of textile workers in North Carolina. All through the early 1930s, there are many letters relating to unionization and to workers losing jobs to machines. In a letter of 5 September 1933 to the U.S. Department of Labor, Cooke compared the distress over "technological unemployment" to the panic in England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. In the mid-1930s, there are a few letters relating to meetings of the Southern Textile Association, and in 1939, there is a letter from K. Onishi & Co., Ltd., Osaka, Japan, soliciting business from Cooke at the Mooreville Cotton Mills.

Many items in the 1940s relate to war production and rationing, particularly at Erwin Mills, which Cooke joined in 1941. In 1941, there are a few letters from servicemen to Cooke as supervisor of the Erwin Mills plant in Durham. Much material in the 1950s and early 1960s centers on labor relations, chiefly spurred by a 1954 report on relations between the United Textile Workers of America and Erwin Mills (see folder 13). Materials in this series show that much management training was conducted in its wake.

The few items from 1965 relate to the Durham City Council campaign of I. L. "Buck" Dean against Jack J. Priess, who apparently had the labor and African-American vote.

Folder 1

1909, 1918-1929 #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 1

Folder 2

1931-1932 #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 2

Folder 3

1933 #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 3

Folder 4

1934-1940 #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 4

Folder 5

1941-1945 #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 5

Folder 6

1946-1949 #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 6

Folder 7

1950s #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 7

Folder 8

1960s #04715, Subseries: "1.1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1909-1965." Folder 8

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. Other Erwin Mills Material, 1941-1966.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Job Search, 1926-1954.

About 200 items.

Correspondence relating to Robert Bruce Cooke's numerous, perhaps continuous, job searches. In 1926 letters, Cooke explained to prospective employers that he had attended the North Carolina Textile School for three years and was assistant chemist at the Dan River Cotton Mills, Danville, Va. In subsequent years, Cooke seems rarely to have been unemployed, but always interested in talking to other mills about positions that would advance his career. In 1928, he wrote from Fort Mill, S.C.; in 1930, from Rutherfordton. In 1936, he was employed at the Mooresville Cotton Mills.

During this period, Cooke appears to have sent an almost continuous stream of letters of inquiry to most mills operating in the southeast. In the mid-1930s, letters show that he was also investigating cotton mills in South America. The 1954 letter is a reply from Western Auto Supply about available franchise locations.

Folder 16

1926-1930 #04715, Series: "2. Job Search, 1926-1954." Folder 16

Folder 17

1931 #04715, Series: "2. Job Search, 1926-1954." Folder 17

Folder 18

1932 #04715, Series: "2. Job Search, 1926-1954." Folder 18

Folder 19

1933 #04715, Series: "2. Job Search, 1926-1954." Folder 19

Folder 20

1935-1945; 1954 #04715, Series: "2. Job Search, 1926-1954." Folder 20

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Activities, 1935-1972.

About 200 items.

Materials relating to organizations in which Robert Bruce and Aylene Edwards Cooke were active, especially the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, for which Robert served as vice-president; the English-Speaking Union; the North Carolina Society of County and Local Historians, for which both Robert and Aylene served as president; and the Sons of the American Revolution, for which Robert served as vice-president. Files contain correspondence and printed materials about the organizations' activities.

Folder 21

Alamance County Historical Society, 1969-1972 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 21

Folder 22

American Association for State and Local History, 1971 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 22

Folder 23

Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, 1970-1971 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 23

Folder 24

Chapel Hill Historical Society, 1967-1972 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 24

Folder 25

English-Speaking Union of the United States, 1959-1971 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 25

Folder 26

Halifax County Historical Association, 1967-1971 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 26

Folder 27

Kanuga Conference, 1943 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 27

Folder 28

Mayflower Society, 1939-1970 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 28

Folder 29

Mint Museum, 1937 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 29

Folder 30

North Carolina Historical Commission, 1935-1965 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 30

Folder 31

North Carolina Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, 1969-1971 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 31

Folder 32

North Carolina Society of County and Local Historians, 1953-1972 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 32

Folder 33

North Carolina State University Friends of the College, 1968-1972 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 33

Folder 34

North Carolina State University Friends of the Library, 1969 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 34

Folder 35

Roanoke Island Historical Association, 1970-1971 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 35

Folder 36

Sons of the American Revolution, 1951-1972 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 36

Folder 37

State Magazine, 1936-1959 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 37

Folder 38

University of North Carolina Friends of the Library, 1967-1968 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 38

Folder 39

Wachovia Historical Society, 1943-1949 #04715, Series: "3. Other Activities, 1935-1972." Folder 39

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Processing Information

Processed by: Roslyn Holdzkom, September 1994

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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