Lalar Blanton, Page Three

(L-R): Lalar, Susie and Ellen Blanton, 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Lalar Blanton was the second of four children born to Joseph P. Blanton and Susanna (called Susie) Frances Black, South Carolina and North Carolina natives respectively, who were married in about 1894. According to the North Carolina Birth Index, Lalar was born in Forest City, an unincorporated town in Rutherford County, North Carolina, on May 10, 1901. But the year is unlikely. If correct, Lalar would have been only seven years old when she was photographed by Lewis Hine. Looking at the pictures, that is hard to believe. She looks to be at least nine or ten. Hine said she was 10, probably because her mother told him so.

How old was she?

I obtained a copy of her birth certificate, but it turned out to be a "delayed birth certificate," meaning that it was applied for a substantial time after the birth. Births were not officially recorded in North Carolina before 1913, so anyone wishing to obtain an official birth certificate for a person who was born before 1913 must apply for a delayed certificate, and provide reasonable proof of date of birth.


Lalar Blanton's delayed birth certificate. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Lalar applied for her delayed birth certificate on January 20, 1961, six decades after she was born. As proof, she provided four items of "reasonable proof": Affidavit of Personal Knowledge from a younger sister; driver's license issued in Virginia in 1953, birth record of Ralph Cook, her son, issued in 1921 (on which her date of birth is listed); and life insurance policy issued in 1937. Although the State of North Carolina accepted this information, all of the items would have been obtained without official proof of her date of birth, since such proof did not exist. So the delayed birth certificate does not prove that she was born in 1901.

In the 1910 census, she was listed as 12 years old, living in Lincolnton, and working in a cotton mill. Lalar's mother probably gave the age to the census taker. The census was taken on May 4. Lalar's birthday was listed as May 10 on all of her important records, so it seems likely that May 10 is correct. What is debatable is whether the year was 1901.

If the 1910 census was correct, she would have been born in 1897, and would have become 13 years old, six days later. But since her birthday was only six days away, her age might have been given as 12, when she was technically still 11 years old. If that was the case, then she would have been born in 1898. Unfortunately, her family did not appear in the 1900 census, so we can't use that as further evidence. In subsequent censuses, Lalar gave her birth year as 1901, which is consistent with what she claimed on her delayed birth certificate, the supporting documents, and her delayed marriage certificate, also issued in 1961. But that didn't mean that she was correct. In those days, many people did not know for sure when they were born.

In my opinion, she was probably born in 1898, which would have made her 10 years old when she was photographed. But whatever is correct, she clearly worked at the mill illegally, according to the 1907 North Carolina law, especially since she stated that she had already been working in the mill for a year when Hine photographed her.

Lalar Blanton Cook, probably about 20 to 25 years old. All family photos provided by Myra Cook.

Lalar Blanton Cook (left), about 45 years old, with sister Lillie. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Lalar Blanton Cook, about 25 years old. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Lalar married Clemmie Zeno Cook on August 31, 1919, in Cleveland County, North Carolina. Known as Clem, he was a painter. They had two children. They lived in Washington, DC, for several years; and then lived a long time in the Portsmouth/Norfolk area of Virginia, before finally settling in Shelby, North Carolina. Clem died on October 22, 1971, at the age of 72. Lalar died on September 22, 1973, at the probable age of 75.

Lalar's mother Susie, pictured with her at the mill, died in 1961, at the age of 91. Lalar's father Joseph died in 1927.

Lalar's sister Ellen, also pictured at the mill, was born Barbara Ellen Blanton, in 1897. According to the 1930 census, she was living in Shelby, with her husband, June Moss, in a rented house right next to sister Lalar. They married in 1913. Ellen was a spinner in a cotton mill, and husband June was doing "odd jobs." In 1940, still childless, Ellen and June were living with Ellen's mother Susie. Both Ellen and her husband were working in a cotton mill. A year later, on August 3, 1941, Ellen died of a heart condition. She was only 44. I could find no further information about her.

Interview with Lalar's granddaughter, plus more photos

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