Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stahl Urban -- A Look Inside

All Photos by John Holly Williams -- LLF Library
Here are four shots from the beehive that was Stahl Urban, a garment factory that relocated to Brookhaven from Terre Haute, Indiana, and set up operations in this WPA-built building, which was featured in yesterday's post.

The date of these photos is 1950.

While collective circumstances varied, many of the women who worked on the sewing floor were wives of local farmers whose earnings helped supplement an agrarian income that could be uncertain given fluctuating prices, unpredictable weather conditions and other things unforeseen.  It was hard-earned money that they were happy to have as it was steady and reliable, if nothing else.

They were paid by the bundle in price formulas determined by the engineers who assigned a dollar value to each bundle of piece goods.  The more completed bundle stickers the women turned in on their daily sheets, the more money they stood to make.

Having helped in payroll there for a summer, I know that the formulas were complicated and most of them did not make minimum, so their hourly pay was always rounded up to minimum wage.  The only groups on the sewing floor that routinely beat minimum wage were pockets and steam press/quality control, to my best recollection.

(The top earner on the floor, by the way, was the last in the production line: steam press. Just try to imagine steam pressing garments one after another in an un-airconditioned building during the hot summers of the Piney Woods.)

When I worked there in 1969 or '70, many of the outwear garments were made for Sears and Roebuck and sold under the label Sir Jac.

As always, if you recognize anyone in these photos, or if you have a memory of Stahl Urban, please leave word here or on my Facebook page.

UPDATE:  Here is a link on the Stahl Urban story, provided by Jerry Case, whose father Houston had an extremely interesting story about how the garment factory came to relocate to Brookhaven from Terre Haute.  The story is well written and well worth the time it takes to read.  

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