CLOSED-until further notice!

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Out of our commitment to the citizens of Darlington County and to help stop the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), the Darlington County Historical Commission and Museum is CLOSED until further notice.

 Thank you for your understanding and patience as we do our part to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

Corona Door Posting - Closed notice

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

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Out of our commitment to the citizens of Darlington County and to help stop the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), the Darlington County Historical Commission and Museum will be closed to the public until March 31st.

We will evaluate the situation and adjust our schedule then.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we do our part to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

We are still able to assist researchers by email and phone. You can call us at 843-398-4710 or reach us by email at dchc@darcosc.net.

Corona Virus Closure Notice

THE MOUNT CLEMENS POTTERY CO. PLATE SHARD FROM NEW HOPEWELL ROAD, DARLINGTON COUNTY

mt clemonds pottery shard
Pottery shard found on New Hopewell Road.

After work on Monday evening, Mom and I found ourselves crawling around in the bottom of a newly dug drainage ditch that borders the adjacent landowner to my west. When I see fresh dirt, there is something that wells up inside of me, that compels me to check it out. I am not sure if it’s the historian in me or just a little of my southern noisiness working to the surface.

As I combed the bottom of the ditch, turning over stones and fingering through rubble, to my surprise, I discovered a pottery shard. The area is interesting in that it was the site of an abandoned home that was torn down, circa 1970.

As a child, I remember hearing that the Winburn’s lived there. Cat and Charlie had been friends of my grandparents, on my father’s side. I won’t lie, my mind drifted and I found myself wondering if this shard had once been a part of a plate that served on their table?

History is unique in that despite geography, nationality, and time, there are still threads of interconnectivity that bind us all together. Who would have ever thought that, in a ditch off New Hopewell Road in Darlington County, South Carolina, I would find myself thrust back in time to the intersection of Church & Rose Streets in Mount Clemens, Michigan, the Rose capital of the United States? That’s right! With over 30 acres under glass.

Circa 1910, at the intersection of Church Street and Rose Street, the Mount Clemens Pottery Co. was established with Charles E. Doll as manager. This happened in the aftermath of an area-wide economic depression. A local businessmen’s association looked to economically boost the area and traveled to pottery factories in Ohio and Pennsylvania to see how these different companies produced their wares. After a few years of preparation, production officially started in 1915 in a warehouse built on an old farm. By the end of the first year, over 36,000 pieces per week were produced [1].

Contrast this to 1964, when the company was turning out 240,00 pieces of dinnerware per day.

The shard of creamwear with the vogue embossed pattern that I found in the ditch was mostly produced during the 1930s. Right after this period, the company became embroiled in a legal battle that still has ramifications today.

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Undated photo of the Mount Clemons Pottery Company.

 

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Enter Workers at the Mount Clemens Pottery Company producing casserole dishes, 1924.a caption

In 1941, workers were being docked pay for the time between when they clocked in and when they started work. This was due to the long prep time needed before they would actually start working. Workers had to clock-in, walk a long way down to their workstations, covering 8 acres, and prepare their work station before finally starting work [1, 4]. The workers filed a class-action lawsuit; Anderson v. Mount Clemens Pottery Company claiming that the company was unfairly docking their wages and violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The district court ruled mostly in favor of the company. They stated that it was up to the employees to cover the prep time, although they did require the company to pay the workers over $2000 in back-pay. The workers appealed the decision. The legal battle made its way all the way up to the United States Supreme Court [4]. They remanded the case back to the lower courts with the strong recommendation that it was up to the employers, not the employees, to provide for the prep time. This led to the creation of the “Portal to Portal Act” in 1947 which defined work time as the time you entered the workspace to the time you leave it, and it is then up to the employer to justify docking wages within that timeframe [4].

After the case was settled in 1946, Mount Clemens Pottery Co. still had issues with workers, but things eventually stabilized. The factory permanently shut its doors in 1986 after sales plummeted.

Who would have ever thought that the pottery shard I was holding is actually symbolic of workers’ rights that still have lasting effects, well into the 21st century here in Darlington County?

References:

[1] MCPL (Mount Clemens Public Library), 2008. Mount Clemens Pottery Company – Local History Sketches, pp.1-3

[2] Doll, C.E., 1993. The Mount Clemens Pottery Company: History and Memories.

[3] http://www.laurelhollowpark.net/orp/mtclemenspottery.html

[4] Goldberg, H.M. et al., 2014. When Does Compensation for “Time Spent Under the Employer’s Control” Include Pre and Post Shift Waiting and Other Activities?. Southern Journal of Business and Ethics; vol. 6:33-45.

ATTENTION PUBLIC NOTICE – Temporary Measures

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For those visiting the Darlington County Historical Commission, in order to protect the public and our employees…

  • If you have any flu/cold-like symptoms (headaches, loss of energy/fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, vomiting,  or diarrhea) and have a fever, please do not enter the Historical Commission.
  • If you are presenting these symptoms, you will be asked to leave the Historical Commission immediately.
  • Currently, a mandatory hand sanitizing station is immediately inside the door for all people entering the facility.

This is a county-wide directive for all facilities from the County Administrator’s Office until further notice

Current Cancelation and Updates:

  • All activities at the Jacob Kelley House location in Hartsville – until further notice.
  • Darlington County Historical Society Annual Spring Meeting –  this event will be rescheduled as our Fall meeting in October.
  • The Darlington County Historical Commission Board Training Workshop in Columbia – we will reschedule.
  • All volunteer opportunities – until further notice.

Currently, the Historical Commission is open but we are closely monitoring the situation and will adjust operations as directed by the County.  We are also closely monitoring our patrons for any of the symptoms listed above.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding during this time

For more information on the Historical Commission’s response to COVID-19, contact the Historial Commission staff or the Director, Brian Gandy at 843-398-4710 or by e-mail at bgandy@darcosc.net.

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#ThankYouBet

The Darlington County Historical Commission receives $4 million donation

1965 Wedding photo of Bet Norment Phillips
Brian Gandy, Historian & Director holds $4,000,000 check issued by the Estate.

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

After Carolyn “Bet” Norment Phillips of Darlington passed away last March, the reading of her last will and testament revealed a big surprise – a $4 million bequest that will secure the history of her beloved Darlington County for decades to come.

Many people knew that Phillips loved collecting and sharing stories of local history. Her home contained a veritable treasure trove of documents, photographs and objects that represented many highlight moments of the past two centuries. These included everything from chronicles of Darlington life during wartime to game balls from local sporting champions.

What no one seemed to understand was just how deep her commitment ran. Brian Gandy, director of the Darlington County Historical Commission, admits that hearing about his friend’s generous gift gave him a great shock.

“Bet was a consummate historian. She saved, preserved, and some might say hoarded, all sorts of wonderful stuff. So when she would call and say she had something for me, I would make a beeline over there to see her. I’d spend half a day or more hearing stories and getting the material, which was awesome,” says Gandy.

He recalls that once in a while, Phillips would ask him – hypothetically, of course – what he would do if she gave the Commission some money. Usually, she would set this sum at $5,000 or so, but never more than about $25,000. Gandy says that even those modest gifts would ignite his imagination and he had little trouble conjuring ideas for how he would utilize the extra money. Evidently, Phillips liked his responses.

“I thought she might give us about $10,000,” Gandy says. “I never envisioned it would be $4 million. … She sort of vetted us herself to see what we valued and what out priorities were, where we saw ourselves going. Obviously, she was very comfortable with what she heard, because she put her money and her faith in us.”

Gandy says the money will be used to do several things, including constructing a new two-story building beside the commission’s current three-story facility. This new construction will include a new reading room and library, and a dedicated display area which will feature art, artifacts, and interactive displays. The commission will be converted to archive storage, with an elevator added for convenience and safety.

“Basically, we’d gain a full floor (for storage). Plus, with some new file systems upstairs, we’d gain a good bit of space that could carry us 50 more years,” says Gandy. “We’re looking to build something that will blend architecturally with this building.”

Not all of the money will be spent on construction, says Gandy, noting that much of the bequest will be safely invested to provide for the future of the Commission. To that end, Darlington County Council’s Feb. 4 meeting agenda included a resolution accepting Phillips’ gift and restricting its use in perpetuity.

Gandy says the resolution includes protections for both the principal and all interest income generated by the bequest, ensuring that the money will never be misdirected away from its intended purpose.

“It restricts the principal and the interest back to the commission, so it’s a blessing,” said Gandy.

With the money tucked away in the bank and plans developing for a bright future, Gandy says he can’t help smiling when he thinks of Phillips and her not-so-hypothetical financial quizzes.

“I think sometimes that she must have doubled over laughing after I left, knowing what she had planned,” says Gandy.

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 , Darlington News & Press – Additional photos and hashtag were added by Brian Gandy.