The Overalls Club Movement of 1920

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 13, 2017

“The revolt against the high cost of living, expressed in the nation-wide formation of old-clothes leagues, overalls clubs, and lunchbasket clubs, is highly significant in that it is the first indication of protest to come from a class which has been a silent and patient sufferer during all the clashes that have taken place between capital and labor in recent years,” said the unsigned op-ed author of the Men & Things column in the April 1920 issue of American Medicine.

Men who joined these clubs pledged to wear overalls, and women to wear gingham, until prices became less prohibitive. They formed overalls clubs, held parades, threw parties, went to church, and even got married in overalls.

Some members of the Overalls Club of Pickens, SC. Photo courtesy William and Anita Newman Library, Baruch College, CUNY

Some members of the Overalls Club of Pickens, SC. Photo courtesy William and Anita Newman Library, Baruch College, CUNY

Cheap blue denim work overalls like farmers or laborers wore were the weapon of choice, but people who couldn’t find those wore various other types of work clothes or whatever old clothes they had to hand.

The movement caught on in Birmingham, Wilmington, Savannah, New Orleans, and other southern cities, then spread to other regions of the country. The employees and officers of various companies showed up at the office outfitted in overalls. The cotton mill owners of New England issued statements denouncing the Southern cities, where the movement had its birth, and alleging that the cotton-growers of the South had launched the movement to increase the price of cotton.

In Washington, Representative William David Upshaw of Atlanta formed an “overall brigade” in the House of Representatives, and secretaries in the Capitol showed up for work in overalls. The Assistant Post Master General sent out a directive to postmasters permitting postal employees to make their rounds in overalls.

The various “overalls clubs” and “old clothes clubs” sent petitions to mayors, governors and diverse other notables protesting high clothing prices. “The movement appears to have lasted from March to June or July of 1920, then faded away as the novelty wore off,” says Paul Eugen Camp, who works in the Special Collections at the University of South Florida library.

“Everybody seems to have had quite a good time protesting in their overalls, but I don’t know if the movement actually had much effect on the cost of clothing.”

Sources: NY Times: April 15, 1920, “Overalls Clubs Spread in South and West; National Organization is Now Started,” Special to The New York Times, Page 15
NY Times: April 15, 1920, “UPSHAW’S OVERALLS STARTLE CONGRESS,” Special to The New York Times, Page 7
American Medicine, April 1920 “Old Clothes and Lunch Baskets,” p. 187
The Argus, [Melbourne, Australia], June 26, 1920, “American Life: Overalls Craze,” pg. 6

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Christmas Eve on Lonesome

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 12, 2017

It was Christmas Eve on Lonesome. But nobody on Lonesome knew that it was Christmas Eve, although a child of the outer world could have guessed it, even out in those wilds where Lonesome slipped from one lone log cabin high up the steeps, down through a stretch of jungled darkness to another lone cabin at the mouth of the stream.

There was the holy hush in the gray twilight that comes only on Christmas Eve. There were the big flakes of snow that fell as they never fall except on Christmas Eve. There was a snowy man on horseback in a big coat, and with saddle-pockets that might have been bursting with toys for children in the little cabin at the head of the stream.

man in snow on horsebackBut not even he knew that it was Christmas Eve. He was thinking of Christmas Eve, but it was of the Christmas Eve of the year before, when he sat in prison with a hundred other men in stripes, and listened to the chaplain talk of peace and good will to all men upon earth, when he had forgotten all men upon earth but one, and had only hatred in his heart for him.
—Excerpt from Christmas Eve on Lonesome and Other Stories, John Fox, Jr. New Hampshire: Ayer Co., 1904.

John Fox Jr. (1862-1919) wrote primarily on life in rural Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Born in Stony Point, KY, he made his name as a novelist after settling in Big Stone Gap, VA, where he spent the last 29 years of his life.

His wildly popular romance/coming-of-age story The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) tells the vivid story of coal engineer Jack Hale falling in love with mountain girl June Tolliver. That bestseller, and The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903), were adapted for the big screen in a few different versions in 1912, 1916, and 1936.

Fox gave public lectures to raise money and during one such lecture met Theodore Roosevelt, who later invited Fox to give readings at the White House. Roosevelt became a life-long friend of Fox’s.

Counting among his friends other such popular writers as Richard Harding Davis, Jack London, and Booth Tarkington, Fox was awarded many honors in his lifetime. These included election to membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1899 and a medal for his literary contributions from the Emperor of Japan. His dedication and lobbying led to the passing of the Federal Copyright Act.


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The Animals from the Wild Visit, and Ms. Cat Stays

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 11, 2017

animals at mangerI think it was the ninth night, I was told, that the wild animals came in from the forest, fields and desert. Some had traveled a long way. They came in late at night when everybody was asleep. They didn’t want to scare people.

They came in quietly to see the Son of Heaven, baby Jesus, for already the birds were telling the story of the first Christmas gift. There were wolves, foxes, bears, deer, rabbits, squirrels, crows, owls, eagles and on and on. At least one representative from all the animal and bird clans. Some of the birds who lived by the rivers, lakes and seas, also represented the fish clans and the other animal and insect clans that lived too far away to make the journey. I remember a storyteller saying that, all night, for three nights, the barn was full, as each wild animal took turns to look at the sleeping Christ child, the son of Supreme Being.

The larger animals held the smaller animals up so they could see into the manger. Arturis, a great cave bear, came each night and laid down on one side of the manger, so the small ones could also climb up on his back to see baby Jesus.

Until that first night, even the tabby cats were wild. Ms. Cat came in from the forest, looked around the barn and saw all the barn and house mice and thought, “plenty of food after the temporary, peace-among-the-beasts, truce, but look at all the roaches. This is no place for the son of God or any other human baby, for that matter, and the human houses are not much better than this barn. It looks like these humans need some help to keep their homes clean.”

My cat told me this part. Her ancestor moved in and spread the word and other cats moved into our homes. Cats chose to live with people, they did not become tame first. That’s why cats still have an independent streak, but they do keep our homes and barns free from creepy crawly things.


From “Christmas Stories,” traditional Christmas stories collected between 1962 and 1975 from people in the Southeastern [US] region and adapted for telling by Bluegrass Storyteller, Chuck Larkin

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  • kim says:

    The reference to the dark corner. What does that mean in that the same dark corner lamar jebez curry refers too?

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Book Selection: ‘Plott Hound Tales: Legendary People and Places Behind the Breed’

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 8, 2017

Bob_Dog_FB.291123906_stdPlease welcome guest author Bob Plott. Plott is a third great grandson of (Johannes) George Plott, who first brought the Plott bear hounds to America in the mid-18th century, and he is a great-great nephew of Henry Plott who introduced the breed to the Great Smoky Mountains in the early 1800’s.

Plott is the author of five award winning books – Strike and Stay – The Story of the Plott Hound (2009), A History of Hunting in the Great Smoky Mountains (2008), Legendary Hunters of the Southern Highlands (2009), Colorful Characters of the Great Smoky Mountains (2011) and Plott Hound Tales: Legendary People and Places Behind the Breed (2017) – all published by the History Press.

We’re pleased to present a selection from Plott Hound Tales, which looks at the breed in relation to outlaws and lawmen, celebrities and common folks –and everyone in between. And regardless of their backgrounds or locations, the people described in the book all have two things in common – a passion for the Plott breed, combined with a wonderful and colorful story. “These Plott legends, and places, are all rich slices of pure Americana,” says Plott. “To me, that is what makes these mountain people, dogs, and places truly special – and it is why Plott dogs and Plott people are truly a breed apart from all others!”


Bear hunting was what the Plott clan and their legendary hounds enjoyed most –and young Jack Edwards could not wait until he was old enough to accompany the men on his first bear hunt. Jack was only ten years old at the time of the famous Branch Rickey Hazel Creek Hunt in 1935.

He grimaces as he remembers his disappointment in not being allowed to participate although he remembers hearing all about it. Edwards did get to meet Rickey and described him as a kind and generous man who personally gifted the lad with a St. Louis Cardinal baseball jacket. Jack adds that he kept the garment for years as one of his most prized possessions.

It was in 1937 that Jackie finally went on his first bear hunt, and it proved to be a memorable one. The Plott family were close friends and hunted often with Osley Bird Saunooke, former Marine and professional wrestler, who won his first world championship title belt that same year. Saunooke later became a popular principle Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, and even today, Jack fondly refers to him as “the Chief.”

Young Jack Edwards with Plott hound pack on John Plott farm, circa 1935. Photo courtesy the author.

Young Jack Edwards with Plott hound pack on John Plott farm, circa 1935. Photo courtesy the author.


Saunooke, a full-blooded Cherokee, was a giant of a man, standing six feet and six inches tall and weighing well over 300 pounds. The Chief was a man of many talents. He loved to hunt, and was a skilled storyteller with a huge appetite for life.

“The Chief could really keep you entertained. We’d hunt all day near Soco Gap and Black Camp Gap –all over the reservation – and then sit around the campfire at night eating and listening to stories. The Chief would roast potatoes, turnips and onions –all cooked together underground with a fire over it –and barbeque a slab of meat to go with it. No one ever went hungry in his camp. We always had a good time.”

Little George and Jack would walk twelve miles one way with their dogs from Plott Creek deep into the Plott Balsams and meet John Plott, Chief Saunooke, and their Indian friends near Soco Gap. The boys were in incredible physical condition and thought nothing of walking that far, not to mention strenuously hunting for a few additional days in harsh terrain.

They worked as drivers with their dogs, finding the bear sign and driving, or running the bear toward stands, where the older hunters – or standers – usually shot them. John Plott, already in his early sixties at that time, was one of these standers, and killed a bear with his Stevens shotgun on this trip.

More memorable hunting trips soon followed –including several to the fabled Hazel Creek Clubhouse. Jack says that a family friend –he believes it was Ed Lambert – had a flatbed truck that was used to transport them to Hazel Creek. There were no dog boxes to transport the animals, just a pack of hounds riding in the back of the truck with Little George and two other hunters. Ed Lambert drove the truck, and John Plott rode shotgun, with Jack sitting on his lap in the cab of the pick-up. On other occasions Jack says that they took two or more vehicles –usually a car or two –along with the truck, and sometimes the dogs rode inside the car with the hunters.

WWII hero Little George Plott, on left, Oliver Laws in middle and Taylor Wilson on far right with Plott pack at the Hazel Creek Clubhouse in 1935--note club cook with kerchief on his head in background. Photo courtesy of the author.

WWII hero Little George Plott, on left, Oliver Laws in middle and Taylor Wilson on far right with Plott pack at the Hazel Creek Clubhouse in 1935–note club cook with kerchief on his head in background. Photo courtesy of the author.


It was a long, arduous trip, taking a full day to cover a total of almost ninety miles of twisting, narrow mountain roads, most of them unpaved. The first leg of the journey was thirty-five miles to Bryson City. There, the party turned right onto old N.C. 288 – a dirt road – and continued another forty miles to the town of Proctor, and then about nine more miles up rough logging roads through the small community of Medlin to the Hazel Creek lodge.

Jack remembers the massive lodge as being comfortable, but nothing fancy, with three solid meals prepared for them daily by a male employee of the Club who always wore a kerchief tied around his head. (You can clearly see the cook in the background of the classic Plott dog hunting photo just above. He is walking behind hunting guides Little George Plott, Kay Wilson and Taylor Wilson, all pictured in the foreground, along with their great Plott hounds.) Edwards also remembers Hazel Creek manager Jim Laws and his son, Oliver Laws well –we’ll talk more about them shortly.

Little George killed one bear on this Hazel Creek hunt with his trusty Mauser, and Jack says that the hide from that bear is shown tacked on the barn behind Jack in a photo with Maj and a pack of Plotts. Jack had to stay home and work on the farm during two other famous Hazel Creek Hunts in 1935 and 1937, although he remembers vividly hearing about them.

1935 Branch Rickey Hazel Creek hunt --Von Plott is seated second from right, Branch Rickey, third from right. Photo courtesy the author.

1935 Branch Rickey Hazel Creek hunt –Von Plott is seated second from right, Branch Rickey, third from right. Photo courtesy the author.


Edwards remembers a problem with local authorities after an unplanned out of season bear hunt in 1941. Little George had been called into active military duty at that time and Jack was only sixteen. A bear killed several head of cattle on their farm in February of that year and John and Jack took matters into their own hands.

Their pack of Plott hounds struck a hot trail on the nearby Winchester farm as the dogs made quick work of the marauding bruin and treed it in no time. John Plott killed the bear with his shotgun as young Jack leashed up the dogs. News quickly spread of the kill and John Plott was soon charged with hunting out of season.

Jack says on the day of their trial it seemed like they were the only ones in the courtroom NOT charged with selling or making liquor. The judge that day was none other than Felix Eugene Alley, an iconic barrister born and raised in the mountains of western North Carolina. Alley was renowned for his keen legal mind, his folksy wit and musical skills as a banjo player and ballad singer.

Judge Alley sympathized with John Plott’s plight and acquitted him of formal charges, but charged the elder Plott five dollars for court costs.



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Gathering in the mistletoe

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 7, 2017

Frank Slake (right) and Ray Stratton gathered holly and mistletoe in the hills near Lerose, KY for Christmas 1907 when they worked for the K. & P. Lumber Company established there. Full caption at Owsley County Historical & Genealogy Society.

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