Creator of the Month… Cone Mills Corporation

From Cone Mills Corporation Records (Collection #5247)
From Cone Mills Corporation Records (Collection #5247)

[Each month we feature a “creator” of one of the SHC’s manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection’s production, accumulation, or formation.]

Cone Mills Corporation (and predecessor Proximity Manufacturing Company and its other subsidiary and affiliated companies) manufactured denim and other textiles chiefly in North Carolina and South Carolina. Moses Herman Cone (1857-1908), Ceasar Cone (1859-1917), and other Cone family members began investing in the textile industry in the late nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth century were world leaders in textile manufacturing.

In 1845, Herman Kahn (1828-1897), who later Americanized his last name to Cone, was a Jewish immigrant to the United States from Bavaria, Germany. In 1876, he opened H. Cone & Sons, a wholesale grocery firm. Two of his sons, Moses H. Cone (1857-1908) and Ceasar Cone (1859-1917) worked as traveling salesmen for their father’s Baltimore-based company, often bartering groceries for southern textiles and selling them outside the South.

In 1887, Moses and Ceasar Cone invested $50,000 in the establishment of C. E. Graham Mill Manufacturing Company of Asheville, N.C., which manufactured plaid fabrics. In 1888, the brothers invested in Salisbury Cotton Mills of Salisbury, N.C., and Minneola Manufacturing Comany of Gibsonville, N.C., both of which also produced plaid fabrics.

In 1891, Moses and Ceasar Cone established the Cone Export & Commission Company as a northern selling agent for southern textiles (headquartered in New York, NY). In 1895, the Cones built in Greensboro their first denim manufacturing plant, the Proximity Cotton Mills, named for its close location to cotton fields, warehouses, and rail lines. In 1899, the Cones partnered with Emanuel and Herman Sternberger of South Carolina to build Revolution Mills, a flannel production plant, in Greensboro.

Throughout the early twentieth century, the Cones built many new mills, continued to make acquisitions, and gained controlling stock in a number of textile and manufacturing companies in North Carolina and South Carolina. In the 1940s, many of the manufacturing companies, mills, and various subsidiaries owned by the Cones were eventually consolidated into one company known as Cone Mills Corporation. While operating as Cone Mills Corporation, the company was known as the world’s largest producer of denim. In 1951, Cone Mills Corporation went public, beginning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Later in the twentieth century, Cone Mills was challenged by increased competition from foreign manufacturing companies. In 2003, Cone Mills Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. By 2004, all of Cone’s assets had been acquired by W. L. Ross and Company and were then combined with what remained of Burlington Industries to form International Textile Group Incorporated.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to serve as the repository for the historical records of Cone Mills Corporation. The Cone Mills collection is one of the SHC’s most extensive individual collections, containing more than 75,000 items covering nearly 150 years of company history (1858-1997). Materials in the collection include correspondence, reports, minute books, a variety of financial recordkeeping volumes, contracts, blueprints, photographs, and audiovisual materials.

View the finding aid to see a more complete list of contents for this collection.

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