Erwin Cotton Mills records, 1832-1976 and undated, bulk 1892-1967

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Erwin Cotton Mills
Account books, nearly complete, and office files, very incomplete, of the Erwin Mills textile mill, chiefly 1892-1967, and some personal papers of William Allen Erwin. The business files include letters, volumes, legal and financial papers, memoranda, printed material, reports, blueprints, and other records of the company.
156 Linear Feet
Physical Description:
357 volumes; 66 boxes; 6 oversize folders.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The records of the Erwin Cotton Mills, a textile manufacturing company, date primarily from 1982-1967 but include items as early as 1832 and as late as 1976. There are ten series: Information; Account Books; Alphabetical; Labor Relations; William Allen Erwin; Pearl Cotton Mills; Cooleemee Cotton Mills; Erwin Yarn company; and J. N. Ledford Company. The collection relates mostly to the company's textile operations and related matters, but there is also some material concerning William A. Erwin's personal and family interests. The account books are largely intact. Most of the correspondence and topical records have not survived and are represented here only by scattered files. Records from the subsidiaries and acquired companies vary but have survived in similar fashion. the Account Books Series and Alphabetical Series comprise the bulk of the collection.

Biographical / historical:
Historical Note
Date Event
1892 Erwin Cotton Mills incorporated, the Duke family owning a controlling interest with Benjamin N. Duke as president and William Allen Erwin as manager.
1893 Mill No. 1 in West Durham began operation
1896 Mill No. 1 doubled in size
1903-1904 Mill No. 2 built at Duke (now Erwin), Harnett Co., N. C.
1906 Colleemee Cotton Mills, Cooleemee, Davie Co., N. C., acquired and operated as Mill No. 3
1909-1910 Mill No. 4, bleachery and finishing plant built in West Durham
1925 Erwin Yarn Company, a selling agency, established in Philadelphia, Pa.
1925-1926 Mill No. 5 built at Erwin, N. C.
1927 William A. Erwin succeeded B. N. Duke as president
1932 Kemp Plummer Lewis succeeded W. A. Erwin as presidentPearl Cotton Mills in North Durham acquired and operated as Mill No. 6
1937 Finishing plant added at Cooleemee, N.C.
1947 Erwin Yarn Company liquidated
1948, ca. Diana Mills at Neuse, Wake Co., N. C., acquired and operated as Mill No. 7
1948 William Haywood Ruffin succeeded K. P. Lewis as presidentStonewall Cotton Mills, Stonewall, Miss., acquired and operated as Mill No. 8
1949 Accounting procedures changed from longtime standard forms posted by hand to radically different forms utilizing business machines
1950 Company changed name to Erwin Mills
1953 Abney Mills of South Carolina acquired control and its president, Francis Ebenezer Grier, became chairman of the board
1960, ca. Burlington Industries acquired control, Erwin Mills continuing as one of its divisions
1969, ca. Mill No. 6 in North Durham closed
1986 J. P. Stevens acquired and closed West Durham plant
Acquisition information:
The records of Erwin Mills, a textile manufacturing company, were gifts and deposits to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library in 1951, 1955-1956, 1966, and 1987, by Dr. Frank T. de Vyver, Nathaniel Gregory, Erwin Mills, and the J. P. Stevens Company.
Processing information:

Processed by: Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Staff, 1987.

Encoded by Meghan Lyon from paper guide, 2018.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in these papers have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

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