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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Textiles

by Brent D. Glass and Kelly Kress, 2006
Additional research provided by Gene Purcell and Douglas A. Wait.

A senior textiles class at North Carolina State College, 1938. Courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh.Textiles, various forms of fibers, yarn, cloth, and other materials, along with the clothing and apparel made from textiles, have been among North Carolina's most important products since the early nineteenth century. As the textile industry expanded and North Carolina became a worldwide leader in textile production, the poor working conditions of the state's mills, often populated by women and children, became the focal point of aggressive but generally fruitless union activity. After decades of high production, the industry began to face massive economic challenges during the 1970s as foreign imports of clothing and apparel increased dramatically. Further elimination of trade restrictions resulting from treaties such as the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, which went into effect in 1994, severely affected North Carolina's textile industry. Despite many factory closings and job losses, however, North Carolina in 2004 continued to be a national leader in textile production, employing more than one-quarter of the textile workers and 6 percent of the apparel workers in the United States.

Continue Reading >> Textiles- Part 2: The Rise of the North Carolina Textile Industry Keep reading

References:

Mildred Gwin Andrews, The Men and the Mills: A History of the Southern Textile Industry (1987).

Brent D. Glass, The Textile Industry in North Carolina: A History (1992).

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall and others, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (1987).

Harriet L. Herring, Passing of the Mill Village: Revolution in a Southern Institution (1949).

 

Comments

Comment: 

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing your project and question. 

So – I have a number of thoughts on where you could look for more information.  I don’t find anything that has been done specifically about the mill history in Davidson and Cornelius, but there are a number of resources on the state in general as well as specific collections that might be useful that I’ll highlight below:

•    First, you may want to look at the resources included with the NCpedia article you visited.  The books listed in the entry on the state’s textile manufacturing history – Brent Glass’s and Jacquelyn Hall’s -- are among some of the resources I would direct you to.  Those books will have images and if you find any of interest, you could contact the collections where they are housed for permission to use.

•    I’m also including here a list of resources on North Carolina textile mills: https://www.worldcat.org/search?qt=worldcat_org_all&q=north+carolina+tex....  These are search results from WorldCat, which is an online catalog that searches the holdings of libraries around the world.  You could see if a particular resource is available at a library near you – or if your local library could obtain it by interlibrary loan.

•    The local history room at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library might also be an excellent resource for both more information and photographs -- http://cmstory.org/.  The local branches in Davidson and Cornelius would also be good places to check for more on local history.  Often times public library local history rooms have treasure troves of information, including newspaper clippings files.  They will also know best about any local histories that have been written – and those are often a great source for images.  

•    Here are search results in NCpedia for “mills” -- http://www.ncpedia.org/gsearch?query=mills.  It’s a little broad, but should be useful.  Most NCpedia entries have additional resources as well as images. And you could contact the referenced collection if you see a particular image of interest.  

•    The North Carolina Museum of History maintains a database of their collections, which include many images.  Here is a link to the search feature: http://collections.ncdcr.gov/RediscoveryProficioPublicSearch/Welcome.aspx.  If you locate an image of interest you can contact the museum to inquire about obtaining higher  quality images and use permissions: http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/collections.

•    Here is a link to the cotton and textiles photographic album on the State Archives Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/north-carolina-state-archives/albums/72157....  You may see something there.  If not, it might be worth a try to contact the State Archives of North Carolina to see what may be in their photographic collection. Here is contact information for the photographic archivist:

Kim Andersen
Audiovisual Materials Unit
Special Collections Section
State Archives of North Carolina
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
Raleigh, NC  27699-4614

919/807-7311
kim.andersen@ncdcr.gov

•    I have just checked to see if any standing structures for the towns are on the National Register – often the registry forms are great sources of information.  Here is a listing for Davidson’s historic district: http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/MK2442.pdf and it does list the names of a few mills.  I don’t see one for Cornelius.  

•    Finally, you may also want to check with the special collections at UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Charlotte.

I hope this helps!  If I think of anything else I’ll post it here  And please let me know if you have any questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Libary
 

Comment: 

I am the President of the North Branch of the Mecklenburg Historical Association. I would like to give a short series of presentations (total 2 - 3 ours) to our organization members on the process of manufacturing textiles in NC around 1900, particularly anything on the mills in Cornelius and Davidson. Do you have one or more resources you would recommend? Do you have any slides or images I could include? Thank you.
(MHA is a non-profit 501(3)c corporation dedicated to the preservation and education of the history of Mecklenburg County. meckdec.org)

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