Van Winkle Gin & Machinery Company

This photograph shows the E. Van Winkle Gin and Machinery Works around the turn of the century.  This shot is taken from the railroads that bordered the complex.  Note the proximity of the train cars to the buildings.

The E. Van Winkle Gin and Machinery Works opened in 1889 on the Westside of Atlanta. Edward Van Winkle was from Patterson New Jersey and the son of a textile machinery manufacturer.  Van Winkle came to Atlanta in 1872 drawn by the opportunities available in a rapidly industrializing South. The construction of this brick factory was in line with the goals of the New South.  

The New South was an idea that called upon the South to industrialize.  Henry Grady, the editor of Atlanta Constitution and major proponent of this idea, argued that in order survive the end of slavery the South could no longer be dependent on agriculture.  Grady argued that the South needed to build factories to process it raw materials and to produce manufactured goods in order to compete with the more industrially developed economies of the Northeast and Mid-West.  In addition to this switch to a new economic base for the region the idea of the New South called for the reestablishment of the older race based social hierarchy as best it could in light of the abolition of Slavery. Many African Americans found themselves excluded from the industrial workforces in this period.  The Van Winkle Works was a part of this economic idea as it manufactured cotton gins to be used at places like Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills and Exposition Mills.

Providing equipment to textile factories was a lucrative move for Van Winkle.  He was one of only three cotton gin manufactures in the Atlanta.  In addition, the works produced cotton seed oil mills, which allowed for the extraction of cotton seed oil from the previously wasted seeds.

Van Winkle chose this location due its remoteness from downtown and its close proximity to existing rail lines.  Rail spurs were run into the complex allowing easy loading and unloading of raw materials and manufactured goods.  This access to the railroad would make this site attractive to the Murray Company of Texas who purchased the plant from Van Winkle in 1912.

Much like the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill the Van Winkle Works saw its share of labor strife in the early part of the 20th century.  In 1901 machinists at the plant went on strike.    The strike was over working hours.  Many of the machinists at the plant were members of the International Association of Machinists.  Picket lines quickly formed with threats and force being used to attempt to keep other workers from entering the plant.  The strike did not end in the favor of the machinists and the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that stopping workers from entering their place of work by means of threats, force or intimidation was unlawful.  Strikers like the ones pictured in the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill 1914-1915 Strike could peacefully argue with other workers to join the strike as long as they did not use threats, force or block public roads.  This ruling was another victory for the industrial elite of Atlanta and the South.