Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2018/Fall/Section 3/WadeHamptonTaylor

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Wade Taylor
BornWade Hampton Taylor
July 24, 1883
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
OccupationHotel Manager and Cotton Warehouse Supervisor

Wade Hampton Taylor (born July 24, 1883) was an American hotel manager and cotton warehouse supervisor. He was interviewed by John H. Abner for the Federal Writer's Project on January 23, 1939.[1]


Early Life[edit]

Taylor was born on July 24, 1883 in Memphis,Tennessee. He grew up with his brother W.I. Thorton. His father was a physician and a farm owner. The occupation of Taylor's mother is unknown.[2]

Taylor attended school from ages six to sixteen. He could have continued his education but he grew bored of school and dropped out. He still aspired to go to medical school in the future, so he went on medical calls with his father. It was his job to take notes while he watched his father diagnose patients and mix medicines.[3]

At age seventeen, Taylor's father went to Philadelphia for three weeks and put a fellow doctor, Dr. Buford, in charge of treating patients in the community. The community was unfamiliar with this doctor and sought out Taylor's assistance when they fell ill. Taylor mixed and prescribed medicines to sick patients without notifying Dr. Buford or his father. Upon his father's return, Taylor informed him of his practices. His father told him that practicing without a license was an offense to the community and the medical profession. Taylor then gave up his interest of becoming a doctor.[4]


Taylor got a job at his uncle McSpadden's cotton warehouse at age eighteen. For the next ten years, he acted as his uncle's assistant and learned everything he could about the cotton industry. Once the McSpadden Warehouse shut down, Taylor went to work for the Brooks, Neely, and Finley Warehouse. There he worked as the chief supervisor. His job was to re-weigh and examine the condition of cotton that had been stored in warehouse for long periods of time. While with Brooks, Nelly, and Finley, Taylor made good money and put most of it into savings. He acquired enough wealth over six years as a supervisor to leave the company and start his own cotton partnership, Thorton & McSpadden, with his uncle. For four years, the pair represented fourteen cotton buying firms in the South.[5]

In 1922, Taylor left Memphis to work for the California, Arizona, and Mexico Cotton Association in California. He was employed as the chief examiner of cotton stored in gins and warehouses in all three areas. Taylor gained most of his wealth from the Cotton Association, which provided him with a car, a house, and a large salary. He stayed employed there until 1929.[6]

When the Cotton Association was crippled by the Depression in 1929, Taylor moved to Belmont, North Carolina to help his brother fix his falling cotton business. However, the fall of cotton and the rise of silk in the South forced his brother to close his business.[7]

In 1935, Taylor moved to Gastonia, North Carolina, bought the Textile Hotel, and became an innkeeper.[8]

Social Issues[edit]

Doctor Patient Relationships[edit]

The 1920s saw a shift in the doctor-patient relationship. In the early 1900s, medical schools taught trainee doctors the “art of human intercourse”.[9] Soft skills such as charisma, empathy, and communication were valued just as much as medical knowledge. This emphasis allowed doctors to connect with their patients emotionally. As they could provide medicine for physical relief and emotional support for comfort.[10] During this time, doctors also mixed their own medicines and could negotiate prices with patients, making medical care more affordable for poorer citizens.[11]

In 1910, the American Medical Association advocated for laws that would give pharmaceutical companies patents over certain drugs. This gave doctors less ability to set their own prices for patients with differing economic circumstances.[12] By 1925, the American Medical Association also pushed for the government to pass laws that would strengthen the regulation of medical licensure.[13] These laws in turn closed down many medical schools to make the application and graduation process more competitive. The curriculum of medical schools changed to focus more on textbook knowledge and did not teach trainees soft skills.[14] Physicians saw a decrease in medical calls as poorer patients lost the ability to afford medical services and other patients lost bonds and comfortability with younger doctors.[15]

Cotton Industry During the Depression[edit]

Cotton served as the cash crop for most southern states in the early 1900s. The cotton industry began to fall right before the start of the Great Depression.[16] In the early 1920s, man-made textiles were introduced and grew in popularity. Fibers such as rayon and silk gave more variety to the flapper fashion style, which valued bright colors and little and less material. These fibers presented competition to the cotton industry. In order to keep up with the sales of synthetic fibers, farmers produced more cotton than what could be consumed by textile companies. The price of cotton had decreased from 30 cents a pound in 1919 to 6 cents a pound in 1931.[17] Farmers lost most of their money and often went into debt as they had to take out loans to save their farms from foreclosure. Over farming also presented problems because it stripped agricultural land of most of its nutrients. Farmers could only produce small amounts of low quality cotton further decreasing the price of cotton.[18] Since southern states were heavily based on agriculture, the decline of King Cotton damaged the southern economy during the Great Depression.[19]


  1. Federal Writers’ Project. Coll. 03709. Wilson Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
  9. Burke, Sarah Elizabeth. “The Doctor-Patient Relationship: an Exploration of Trainee Doctors' Views.” PhD diss., University of Burke, 2008.
  10. Ibid
  11. Herritt, Brent. “The House Call: Past, Present and Future.” PhD diss., Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015.
  12. Holly, Mike. "How Government Regulations Made Healthcare So Expensive." Mises Institute. May 09, 2017. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://mises.org/wire/how-government-regulations-made-healthcare-so-expensive.
  13. Ibid
  14. Burke, Sarah Elizabeth. “The Doctor-Patient Relationship: an Exploration of Trainee Doctors' Views.” PhD diss., University of Burke, 2008.
  15. Herritt, Brent. “The House Call: Past, Present and Future.” PhD diss., Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015.
  16. Pytlak, Jerry. “Cotton Economy in Depression.” The New International, 1939.
  17. Bishop, RoAnn. "Agriculture in North Carolina during the Great Depression." NCpedia. 2010. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.ncpedia.org/agriculture/great-depression.
  18. Grove, Wayne A. "The Economics of Cotton Harvest Mechanization in the United States, 1920-1970." The Journal of Economic History 64, no. 2 (June 2002): 545-49.
  19. Pytlak, Jerry. “Cotton Economy in Depression.” The New International, 1939.