Cannon Mills records, 1836-1983

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials

Collection is open for research.
More about accessing and using these materials...


Cannon Mills Company
160 Linear Feet
Approximately 63,000 items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Cannon Mills Records, a textile manufacturer, span the years 1836-1983, although the bulk occurs during 1887-1983. Files and account books concern the operations of Cannon Manufacturing Company and its successor in 1928, Cannon Mills, its subsidiary and associated textile mills, related business interests, and community involvement. The records include correspondence, volumes, memoranda, statistical compilations, reports, printed material, and financial and legal documents.

In 1898 Cannon Manufacturing Company switched to towel manufacturing, and in later years the product line expanded into blankets. In 1971 sales exceeded $305 million, and the company dominated over 50% of the country's towel business and over 20% of the sheet business.

Important topics include the textile industry, economic conditions related to the textile industry, textile marketing and sales, state and national textile industry associations and public and governmental relations; textile industry consolidation; textile equipment and manufacturers; textile production and costs; an antebellum textile mill; and the Cannon, Patterson, Swink, Odell, Barringer, Johnston, Murdoch, and other families who were owners and managers of one or more of the textile mills.

Topics and materials related to personnel are millworkers (both men and women), child labor (both girls and boys), employee retirement plans, the Textile Workers Union of America, time books, employee injuries, company mercantile stores, and mill houses and villages.

Other business activities involved building construction, architects, and contractors; investment in securities and commodities; advertising; taxation; stock and stockholders (both men and women); corporate directors; insurance; bankruptcy and bad debts; cotton brokers; cotton buying and the cotton market; dividends; banks and banking; mill superintendents' records; real estate; lawsuits, one involving racial discrimination; and estate settlements.

Community relations are evident in records relating to churches, schools, the Y.M.C.A., Freemasons, philanthropy to local organizations, and secondary boarding schools in North Carolina and the inception of agricultural training for boys and home economics for girls. The city of Kannapolis, N.C., in which the main offices of Cannon were located, was a particular focus of company interest.

There are record series for the nine companies that were consolidated in 1928 to form Cannon Mills: Cannon Manufacturing Company, Cabarrus Cotton Mills, Barringer Manufacturing Company, Franklin Cotton Mills, Gibson Manufacturing Company, Kesler Manufacturing Company, Patterson Manufacturing Company, Norcott Mills Company, and Hobarton Manufacturing Company. These mills were all in the western Piedmont of North Carolina.

A number of other mills, owned by or associated with the Cannons or Cannon Mills, had a separate existence in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Those mills, represented in this collection by series, include Central Mills, Central, S.C.; Bloomfield Manufacturing Co., Statesville, N.C.; Brown Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C.; Roberta Manufacturing Co., Cabarrus County, N.C.; Imperial Cotton Mills, Eatonton, Georgia; Social Circle Cotton Mills, Walton County, Georgia, Swink Manufacturing Company, Rowan County, N.C.; Travora Textiles, Graham and Haw River, N.C.; Windemere Knitting Mills, Albemarle, N.C.; and Wiscassett Mills, Albemarle, N.C. Other mills, not represented here by series, were related to the Cannon group, and information about them occasionally appears in the collection. These firms include: Amazon Cotton Mills, Thomasville, N.C.; Durham Hosiery Mills; Efird Manufacturing Co., Albemarle, N.C.; Tuscarora Cotton Mill, Mt. Pleasant, N.C.; Buck Creek Cotton Mills, Siluria, Ala.; and Paola Cotton Mills, Statesville, N.C.

Basic information about these textile mills can be found in the annual volumes of Davidson's Textile Blue Book. The size and products of many of the factories varied over the years.

The huge Cannon corporation also had related business interests and community involvements that are represented by organizations and record series in this collection. They include: Cannon Mills, Inc., the selling agency in New York City; Cannon of West Coast, Inc.; L. T. Barringer and Co., a cotton brokerage firm in Memphis, Tennessee; the Brown-Roberta Foundation, a community philanthropy; J. A. Skipwith and Co., cotton brokers at Concord, N.C.; Klumac Cotton Mills, Salisbury, N.C.; P. M. Morris Real Estate Company, Concord, N.C.; Rowan County Farm Life School; and the Trading and Commission Company, a selling agency and holding company.

The series in this collection represent executives, offices, a department, subsidiary companies, affiliated companies, and related businesses and organizations. The general arrangement of the 47 series is: reference information; members of the Cannon family; executive offices; executives; a department; and numerous companies, businesses, and organizations, these arranged mostly alphabetically.

The surviving files and volumes represent only a small percentage of the original archives. Some parts of the company have considerable papers in this collection, but no series is anywhere near complete. Some series are quite small. Record survival was random, but many important and useful files and account books are available.

Information about particular topics, companies, and individuals is often scattered in a number of series in this collection, and the container list serves as a guide to many of them. It should be remembered that company activities may be reflected by bookkeeping entries in the account books whether or not relevant files are available. Because of the interlocking relationships of the various companies, information about one firm may not be exclusive to its own series.

Biographical / historical:
Missing Title
Date Event
Cannon family associated with Concord Steam Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C.
James William Cannon born in Mecklenburg County, N.C.
J. W. Cannon elected director of Odell Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C.
J. W. Cannon joined mercantile firm of Cannon, Fetzer, and Wadsworth, Concord, N.C.
J. W. Cannon founded Concord Manufacturing Co.
Charles Albert Cannon born, Concord, N.C.
Cabarrus Cotton Mills founded at Concord, N.C., by J. W. Cannon and others.
Patterson Manufacturing Co. founded at China Grove, Rowan Co., N.C., by J. Frank Patterson, J. W. Cannon, and others.
Kesler Manufacturing Co. founded at Salisbury, N.C.
Cannon production shifted from cloth to towels.
Wiscassett Mills Company founded at Albemarle, Stanly County, N.C., by J. W. Cannon and D. F. Cannon.
Windemere Knitting Mills established at Albemarle, Stanly County, N.C.
Gibson Manufacturing Co. founded at Concord, N.C., by Cannons and others.
Bloomfield Manufacturing Co. founded in 1903 at Statesville, N.C.
Windemere Knitting Mills became part of Wiscassett Mills Co.
Franklin Cotton Mills established at Concord, N.C., by members of the Cannon family.
Barringer Manufacturing Company founded.
Cannon Manufacturing Company began production at Kannapolis, N.C.
Imperial Cotton Mills founded at Eatonton, Georgia, by J. W. Cannon.
Buck Creek Cotton Mills founded at Siluria, Ala.
York Cotton Mills, York, S.C., purchased.
Norcott Mills Co. established at Concord, N.C., with the Cannons and the Southern Power Co. among the early stockholders.
ca. 1915
Social Circle Cotton Mill Co., Walton County, Georgia, acquired by the Cannons.
J. W. Cannon died. Charles Albert Cannon became company president.
Hobarton Manufacturing Co. founded at Concord, N.C., by Charles A. Cannon and others.
Swink Manufacturing Co., Rowan Co., N.C., incorporated.
Cannon Mills formed from consolidation of Cannon Manufacturing Co., Cabarrus Cotton Mills, Barringer Manufacturing Co., Franklin Cotton mills, Gibson Manufacturing Co., Kesler Manufacturing Co., Patterson Manufacturing Co., Norcott Mills., and Hobarton Manufacturing Co.
ca. 1928
Bloomfield Manufacturing Co., Statesville, N.C., acquired by Cannon Mills.
Swink Manufacturing Company dissolved and assets taken over by Cannon and Swink.
Issaqueena Mill, Central, S.C., purchased and became Central Mills.
Bloomfield Manufacturing Co. sold to J. W. Abernethy.
ca. 1944-1945
Plant at York, S.C., combined with Central Mills.
Brown-Roberta Foundation established at Concord, N.C.
Travora Textiles at Graham and Haw River, N.C., incorporated.
Brown Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C., acquired by Cannon Mills.
Roberta Manufacturing Co., Cabarrus County, N.C., acquired.
Central Mills closed.
Travora Textiles at Graham and Haw River, N.C., liquidated.
ca 1970-1971
Brown Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C., closed.
Charles Albert Cannon died.
Don S. Holt became president.
Harold P. Hornaday became president.
Imperial Cotton Mills at Eatonton, Georgia closed.
Roberta Manufacturing Co. liquidated.
Otto G. Stolz became president.
David H. Murdock, purchased Cannon Mills.
Social Circle Cotton Mill Co., Walton County, Georgia, liquidated.
Fieldcrest, Inc. purchased bath and bedding operations of Cannon Mills, and Fieldcrest-Cannon was established.
Processing information:

Processed by David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Staff

Encoded by Gabriela A. Montoya

Processing Note: The pre-processing arrangement of these surviving records was also random. The company had stored parts of their earlier records in various places, and either the major part of its archives had never been stored or else had been discarded. Thus, retention, storage, and retrieval for this collection were all random. The result was a jigsaw puzzle that had to be both designed and assembled during processing.

The provenance of the files was greatly disturbed, and the structure and location of many files in the company's offices is unclear. Effort has been made to assign files to series appropriate to the office or constituent company to which they belonged, but, in many cases, filing represents a processing decision rather than known provenance.

The executive office files are a particular case of mixed provenance. The five series for 1950, 1952, 1970, 1971, and 1979 remain in their original arrangement, but where they were kept in the company's main office is not clear. Correspondence of major executives is in these files, but letters for the same individuals are also in other series. The Executive Office Files Series, 1923-1980, is largely a repository of records for which reconstitution of provenance required undue time and effort. The term "Executive Office Files" was adopted in order to indicate that these files usually represent the higher levels of the managerial structure.

Each series contains one or the other or both of two form divisions: Boxed Files and Volumes; and Volumes Shelved in Numerical Sequence. The Boxed Files and Volumes are mostly files, but some volumes are included, usually for better preservation. The Volumes Shelved in Numerical Sequence are mostly account books, many of them too large for housing in boxes.

Printed publications removed from the collection are partial files of "Cotton's Week," "Kiplinger Agricultural Letter," "Kiplinger Tax Letter," "Kiplinger Washington Letter," Whaley- Eaton Services "American Letter" and "Foreign Letter," "Textile Hi-Lights," "Textile Trends," Babson's "Weekly Staff Letter," "Gallagher President's Report," "The Corporate Shareholder," and the "Seidman News Bulletin."

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in the Cannon Mills Records have not been transferred to Duke University. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Cannon Mills Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.