Eric Medlin, Sawdust in Your Pockets: A History of the North Carolina Furniture Industry
During the twentieth century, three industries—tobacco, textiles, and furniture—dominated the economy of North Carolina. The first two are well known and documented, being the subject of numerous books, movies, and articles. In contrast, the furniture industry has been mostly ignored by historians, although, at its height, it was nearly as large and influential as these other two concerns. Furniture companies employed thousands of workers and shaped towns, culture, and local life from Hickory to Goldsboro.
Sawdust in Your Pockets: A History of the North Carolina Furniture Industry is the first survey of the state’s furniture industry from its cabinetmaking beginnings to its digital present. Historian Eric Medlin shows how the industry transitioned from high-quality, individual pieces to the affordable, mass-produced furniture of High Point and Thomasville factories in the late nineteenth century. He then traces the rise of the industry to its midcentury peak, when North Carolina became the largest furniture-producing state in the country. Medlin discusses how competition, consolidation, and globalization challenged the furniture industry in the late twentieth century and how its businesses, workers, and professionals have adapted and evolved to this day.
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ERIC MEDLIN is a history instructor at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Medlin has published on mid-twentieth-century historians, antebellum North Carolina history, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. He is the author of A History of Franklin County, North Carolina. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.