Meridian, Mississippi: 1904. Unbound. In this three-page letter, W. O. Huff or Meridian, Mississippi proposes construct a pants factory in partnership with Mr. Thos. M. Ferguson of Hattiesburg. His proposal is short, direct, and rather blunt: “I believe $10,000.00 can be raised out side of Hattiesburg. Can you not raise $40,000.00 in your city for the establishment of a Pant Factory. . .. One hundred machines will turn out 70 Doz. Pants per day and will require from 10 to 15 salesmen whose commission will be about 7½%. You can count on not less than 10 to 12% dividends annually. Remember that some experienced labor can be had which is quite an item in starting a new factory. Now I cannot see why a Pant Factory cannot be established in Hattiesburg with proper efforts. I am very busy and don’t see how I can work up this enterprise but if I should hear sufficient encouragement I might turn some things loose for a while.” He also proposes that his son be made manager: “My son Oscar M. Huff is fully competent to take charge as foreman and can give satisfactory references as to his ability along this line; he can also give about all necessary instructions to a Business Mgr of the outside and office works.”. Very good. Item #009397
Thomas M. Ferguson was a prominent retailer in Hattiesburg at the time. The 1900 census shows that William O. Huff of Alcorn, Mississippi was a travelling salesman and that his son, Oscar, who was about 23 in 1904, was indeed a “pant factory manager”, probably at the Alcorn Woolen Mills, where “On the 2d [floor], cutting and making pants [was managed]. Fifty-five ladies manipulate the sewing machines and make up thirty dozens per day. . ..” (See “Corinth’s Industrial Heritage” at the online Corinth Information Database.) It is unlikely that Ferguson took Huff up on his offer, as the 1910 census shows both of the Huffs still living in Alcorn, William employed as a furniture salesman and Oscar as a pant cutter. None-the-less, the letter is still an interesting testament to Mississippi’s textile industry which in the antebellum period when “compared to southern states such as Georgia and the Carolinas . . . was slow and somewhat erratic [but grew quickly] from the 1880s through the early 1900s, when inexpensive, nonunion labor of white men and women, especially in eastern and central Mississippi, made the state an attractive place to start new factories that made clothing and other cloth products.” (See “Textile Mills” in the online Mississippi Encyclopedia.