Guide to the Cannon Mills Records, 1836-1983
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.
- Collection Number
- Cannon Mills records
- Cannon Mills Company
- 160 Linear Feet, Approximately 63,000 items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Information Series
- James William Cannon Series, 1887-1937, bulk 1907-1922
- Charles Albert Cannon Series, 1836-1971, bulk 1916-1963
- Eugene Thomas Cannon Series, 1921-1948
- Martin Luther Cannon Series, 1907-1918
- Secretaries' Office Series, 1887-1973, bulk 1920s-1930s
- Executive Office Files Series, 1923-1980, bulk 1940s-1970s
- Executive Office Files: 1950Series
- Executive Office Files: 1952 Series
- Executive Office Files: 1970 Series
- Executive Office Files: 1971 Series
- Executive Office Files, 1979, Series
- Harold P. Hornaday Series, 1971-1982
- Joseph C. Ridenhour Series, 1944-1956
- Hearne Swink Series, 1955
- Cotton Department Series, 1916-1970, bulk 1916-1917 and 1938-1970
- Cannon Manufacturing Company and Cannon Mills Series, 1888-1976
- Cannon Mills, Inc., Series, 1920-1974
- Cannon Mills Plant at York, S.C., Series, 1900-1953
- Cannon of West Coast, Inc., Series
- Central Mills Series, 1930-1957
- Barringer Manufacturing Company Series, 1907-1928
- L. T. Barringer and Co. Series, 1932-1983
- Bloomfield Manufacturing Company Series, 1919-1930
- Brown Manufacturing Company Series, 1949-1963
- Brown-Roberta Foundation Series, 1947-1960
- Roberta Manufacturing Company Series, 1910-1978
- Cabarrus Cotton Mills Series, 1893-1928
- Franklin Cotton Mills Series, 1908-1928
- Gibson Manufacturing Company Series, 1899-1928
- Hobarton Manufacturing Company Series, 1923-1928
- Imperial Cotton Mills Series, 1909-1976
- J. A. Skipwith and Co. Series, 1908-1912
- Kesler Manufacturing Company Series, 1895-1928
- Klumac Cotton Mills Series, 1922-1936, bulk 1934-1935
- Norcott Mills Company Series, 1915-1928
- P. M. Morris Real Estate Company Series, 1910-1953
- Patterson Manufacturing Company Series, 1893-1928
- Rowan County Farm Life School Series, 1913-1922
- Social Circle Cotton Mills Co. Series, 1913-1971
- Swink Manufacturing Company Series, 1897-1947
- Trading and Commission Company Series, 1916-1942
- Travora Textiles, Inc., Series, 1961-1967
- Windemere Knitting Mills Series, 1899-1903
- Wiscassett Mills Company Series, 1898-1955
- Miscellaneous Series, 1895-1927
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
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All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
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.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Cannon Mills Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Reference material including histories, historical articles, biographical sketches of the Cannons, and data on some of the textile mills.
Correspondence, memoranda, legal and financial papers, reports, and volumes centering upon the founder of Cannon Mills. Important files relating to mill operations concern the early years of Buck Creek Cotton Mills at Siluria, Ala., and Cannon's management of Paola Cotton Mills at Statesville, N.C. There is considerable financial data and some correspondence for the New York office. A record book contains early production, cost, labor and other statistics. Overseer Joseph D. Bacon's reminiscences provide a vignette of J. W. Cannon's early years in management. T. C. Thompson, a builder and contractor, was associated with Cannon in Buck Creek Cotton Mills.
Information about J. W. Cannon's finances and personal investments is extensive. It includes his dealing with H. Hentz and Co., J. S. Bache and Co., and the Farmers' Loan and Trust Co. of New York City. Trading in securities and commodities was considerable. There is also some record of other ventures such as real estate and oil production.
Papers relating to Cannon and his family include wills, estate records, and financial documents and accounts. Files for the settlement of the estate of Mrs. Cannon's uncle, Aaron J. Bost, are extensive, and securities investments are itemized.
Correspondence, memoranda, legal and financial papers, reports, and volumes relating to C. A. Cannon, the company's manager from 1921 to 1971. There are notable files for the advertising agencies of Young and Rubicam, N. W. Ayer and Son, and the Market Research Corporation of America. External public relations and industry concerns were expressed through such organizations as the American Cotton Manufacturers Association, American Cotton Manufacturers Institute, National Cotton Council, Textile Committee on Public Relations, and the Committee for a National Trade Policy. Lawsuits between Cannon and the Collector of Internal Revenue and the estate of William A. Stribling, a cotton buying and receiving agent, caused the compilation of considerable information and financial statistics about Cannon Mills and some of its subsidiary and related mills. There are also records from the antebellum Concord Steam Manufacturing Co.; the Odell Manufacturing Co.; Charles Cannon's investments and cash transactions; the securities investments of James W. Cannon and Mary Ella (Bost) Cannon; the estate of Thomas T. Smith, a former secretary of Cannon Manufacturing; the consolidation of 1928; and a lodge of Freemasons at Concord, N.C.
Primarily legal and financial papers of this son and heir of James W. Cannon and Mary Ella (Bost) Cannon including financial correspondence of Mrs. E. T. Cannon. This series contains copies of wills, court documents, and financial reports and letters from the trustees of James W. Cannon's estate, and including information relating to the estate that is not available elsewhere in the collection. Other topics include taxes, a suit against Appalachian Hall, an institution at Asheville specializing in the treatment of nervous disorders, and Davidson Cotton Mills, a Cannon family enterprise.
Insurance agency ledger recording accounts with mills in the Cannon group, other textile mills, non-textile businesses, James W. Cannon, and T. W. Smith.
Files during tenures of successive secretaries J. W. Cannon, Jr., G. B. Lewis, T. T. Smith, Jr., F. J. Haywood, Hearne Swink, J. H. Cannon, and B. T. Beck, concerning mostly the corporation's charter, stock and stockholders. Arranged alphabetically.
Files include annual reports; cloth samples; correspondence; economic stabilization; electric power meter reading cards for rental buildings and houses (includes names of workers); President Don S. Holt and his speeches; merino yarn; the retirement plan; the union election in 1974 lost by the Textile Workers Union of America (communications to and from employees included); the W. T. Grant Company; an investigation of corporate slush funds; a suit involving racial discrimination; and civic projects. Arranged alphabetically.
Chiefly correspondence and files for organizations that dealt with state and national issues of interest to business. National Cotton Council of American material includes correspondence, memoranda, and kits containing speeches for use on radio and elsewhere about national agricultural, economic, labor, and medical issues. Officials represented in this series include Charles A. Cannon, president; Hearne Swink, secretary and vice president; G. A. Batte, Jr., secretary to Mr. Cannon; Joe C. Ridenhour; and T. C. Haywood. Arranged alphabetically.
These files are considerably more complete than those in the series for 1950. Larger files include: miscellaneous correspondence; several mills in the Cannon group, especially Central and Wiscassett; state and national industry organizations; Ewing-Thomas Corp. of Chester, Pa., and the U.S. government (New York Quartermaster Procurement Agency). many important writers and topics appear in the extensive miscellaneous correspondence files. Cannon, Swink, Ridenhour, Batte, and Haywood continue to be principals in the correspondence. Arranged alphabetically.
Primarily files for officials, departments, and plants within the company, including extensive sales reports from several regions in the country. Arranged alphabetically.
Primarily files A-M including correspondence with officials, sales data, business with textile mills and related companies, and national and state industry organizations. Officials represented include President Cannon and Vice Presidents Batte, J. H. Cannon, and Harold P. Hornaday. Arranged alphabetically.
Includes files A-C and L-Z that are somewhat more extensive than the records for 1950, 1952, 1970, and 1971. Concerns various aspects of production and sales, Wiscassett Mills, dealings with state and national industry and governmental organizations, especially the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and the North Carolina Textile Manufacturers Association. Numerous officials are represented in the correspondence including President and Chairman Hornaday, Vice Chairman and Treasurer Batte, Vice Presidents Adams, Jenkins, and Spence, Secretary Beck, Don S. Holt, Joe C. Ridenhour, and others. Arranged alphabetically.
Chiefly minutes of the Board of Directors' Audit Committee and Hornaday's expense reports and speeches. During this period he served as vice president, president, and chairman of the Board of Directors. Arranged alphabetically.
Files of this long-time official concerning advertising, ceiling prices, and the Laboratory Department. Includes some correspondence. Arranged alphabetically.
Correspondence and statistical compilations relating to labor, production, and marketing. Swink was vice president and secretary of the company.
Correspondence principally among Charles A. Cannon, other officials of the company, and the Cotton Department concerning government regulation and the supply, marketing, acquisition, and utilization of cotton. Also cotton invoices for Franklin Cotton Mills, bills and lading, and account books. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Files and account books of the mother company and of the consolidated corporation beginning in 1928 including the factories at both Concord and Kannapolis (operating 30,000 and 125,000 spindles, respectively, in 1916). Includes minute books; stock records; files recording how the company implemented the state's early child labor laws (both boys and girls); superintendent's records; time books mostly from the Weave Room, Plant No. 1, arranged by the names of overseers and other supervisory personnel; financial statements and inventories; registers of employee injuries; geographical distribution of orders and billings; ledgers; journals; trial balances; cashbooks; bank ledgers; and miscellaneous files and account book for purchases, production, sales, construction, employees, and equipment. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Primarily minutes of meetings of the stockholders and the directors of Cannon's selling agency in New York City after its incorporation in 1920. There are also scattered financial papers. Earlier files relating to the New York office are available elsewhere in the collection. Arranged alphabetically.
Scattered financial and production records and account books of the factory and also accounts of the company's general store that include business with millworkers. Purchased by the Cannons and operated as Cannon and Company until 1916 when the plant became a division of Cannon Manufacturing Company. The plant manufactured towels and had 14,676 spindles in 1927. It was part of Central Mills, ca. 1945-1957. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically. 166 Cannon of West Coast, Inc., Series, 1976. Minutes of the Board of Directors concerning Cannon Mills' retirement plan and trust fund. The function of this corporation remains unclear.
Minutes of meetings of stockholders and directors and miscellaneous insurance and stock purchase records of this wholly owned subsidiary in Central, S.C. Cannon Mills purchased the factory in 1935 and operated it until dissolution in 1957. The factory produced print cloths and had 25,680 spindles in 1936. The plant at York, S.C., continued to function. Arranged alphabetically.
Charter and bylaws, minute books, gold bonds, stock ledgers, stock certificate books, and scattered correspondence, financial statements, stock holder proxies, and historical and biographical information. James W. Cannon and the Rev. Paul Barringer, each a one- third owner, established the mill in 1907. It became Cannon Mills Plant No. 11 in 1928. In 1927 the factory had 13,964 spindles that produced yarn, beams, balls, tubes, and skeins. Arranged alphabetically.
Minutes of the meetings of the stockholders and directors and scattered correspondence and financial statements of a major cotton brokerage house at Memphis, Tennessee, doing both domestic and foreign business. Lewis T. Barringer of the North Carolina Barringer family founded the firm. It merged into Cannon Mills in 1983. Arranged alphabetically.
Ledgers, invoice book, and miscellaneous financial records of this cotton mill at Statesville, N.C., established in 1903 and owned by Cannon Mills during ca. 1928-1935. In 1930 the mill had 6,944 spindles and produced combed peeler, ball warps, and cones. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Stock records of this textile mill at Concord, N.C., founded in 1905, operated for many years by the Johnston family, and owned by Cannon Mills from 1956 until closure in ca. 1970-1971. The factory had 15,216 spindles producing outings, shirtings, and interlinings in 1953. Arranged alphabetically.
Chiefly bank records of this organization at Concord, N.C., that contributed funds, usually less than $500, to schools, social groups, health organizations, charities, and especially to churches. Related to the Johnston textile interests until the Cannons assumed control in the 1950s. Arranged alphabetically.
Stock certificate book and minute books of the stockholders and directors of this hosiery yearn manufacturer in Cabarrus County. The Cannons acquired control from the Johnston family in 1956 and operated the mill until its liquidation in 1978. Never a large mill, Roberta had 6,054 spindles in both 1929 and 1950. Arranged alphabetically.
Extensive but incomplete account books including stock records, ledgers, journals, trial balances, financial statements, bank ledgers, cash records, notes payable and receivable, and miscellaneous volumes and files concerning the charter, employees, and finances. The Cannons were among the founders of the company. There were plants at Kannapolis and Concord that became Cannon Mills' Plants No. 4 and No. 5 respectively in 1928. The Concord factory produced sheeting with 28,016 spindles in 1927, and the facility at Kannapolis had 80,000 spindles making combed yarns, sheetings, and fabrics. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Minute books of stockholders and directors and considerable financial information and scattered records for payroll, production, sales, tenants, consolidation with Cannon Mills, and construction. The account books are ledgers, journals, and cashbooks. James W. Cannon and his sons founded the mill in 1906. The factory, operator of 25,500 spindles in 1927 producing warp yarns, became Cannon Mills' Plant No. 9 in 1928. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Chiefly minute books of the stockholders and directors, stock certificate books, and stock ledger of this mill founded at Concord, N.C., in 1899. The Cannons and the Southern Power Company were early minority stockholders. The factory became Cannon Mills' Plant No. 6 in 1928. Gibson had 31,396 spindles in 1927 that manufactured colored yarns, fancy ginghams, dress goods, etc. Arranged alphabetically.
Minutes of meetings of stockholders and directors and stock records of this textile mill established at Concord, N.C., in 1923 by Charles A. Cannon and others. In 1925 the factory had 112 narrow looms, employed 100 persons and produced fine ginghams and fancy dress goods. Hobarton was consolidated in 1928 with Gibson Manufacturing Company to become Cannon Mills' Plant No. 6. Arranged alphabetically.
Extensive, but incomplete, account books including ledgers; journals; trial balances; balances of income, expense, and accounts receivable accounts; bank ledgers; and cash records. Several files contain minutes and legal, financial, and stockholder information. Imperial, established by James W. Cannon in 1909 at Eatonton, Georgia, was not part of the consolidation in 1928 and continued as an affiliate of Cannon Mills until closure in 1976. The factory had 16,208 spindles producing sheetings in 1971. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Order ledger and journal (including invoice register for yarn) for this firm of cotton brokers at Concord, N.C. Skipwith served as buying and receiving agent for Cabarrus Cotton Mills, Patterson Manufacturing Co., Cannon Manufacturing Co., Kesler Manufacturing Co., Wiscassett Mills, Gibson Manufacturing Co., Tuscarora Cotton Mill, Durham Hosiery Mill, Franklin Cotton Mill, Imperial Cotton Mill, Buck Creek Cotton Mills, and Amazon Cotton Mills. Volumes shelved numerically.
Stockholder records, charter and bylaws, minutes, scattered correspondence and financial papers of this textile mill founded at Salisbury, N.C., in 1895. Rare and unusual access to the operations of a textile factory is provided by the diary of Superintendent John C. Mason who managed Kesler. The Cannons and the Rev. Francis Johnstone Murdoch became stockholders and executives. In 1925 the mill had 27,456 spindles and produced sheetings. During the consolidation of 1928 Kesler became Cannon Mills' Plant No. 7. Arranged alphabetically.
Customer files, lawsuits, correspondence, financial statements, sales invoices, and weekly production and sales reports of this factory at Salisbury, N.C., that produced damask and rayon bedspreads. Klumac sold its goods through Cannon Mills in New York City, and Cannon also assisted with finishing work in North Carolina. Klumac had economic difficulties in the mid-1930s, went into receivership, and did not operate for several years. Cannon sued Klumac in 1934. The records document the Cannon-Klumac relationship and its difficulties. Arranged alphabetically.
Minutes, stock certificate books, and stock ledger of this textile mill established at Concord, N.C., in 1915. C. W. Johnston managed the company for many years until the Cannons acquired control in the 1920s. The factory had 12,096 spindles and produced singled ply ball and chain yarns in 1927. It became Cannon Mills' Plant No. 10 in the consolidation of 1928.
Minutes, correspondence, financial papers, cashbooks, and rent books by this firm at Concord, N.C., owned and managed in part by J. W. Cannon and other officers of Cannon Mills. Rentals and management of buildings for businesses, including the St. Cloud Hotel at Concord, are prominent in the records. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.
Files include minutes, financial statements, inventories of goods and assets, stock records, sales, superintendent's reports, invoices, and records of the company store and an insurance agency. Account books include ledgers, financial statements and inventories, stockholder records, statements of costs and superintendent's reports, cashbooks, early time books, production statistics, cotton records, and sales. patterson was one of the earlier components of the Cannon textile empire. James W. Cannon and J. Frank Patterson established the factory at China Grove, Rowan Co., N.C., in 1893. The mill, operator of 11,056 spindles producing sheeting and yarns, became Cannon Mills Plant No. 8 in the consolidation of 1928. Records of the Patterson Store Company, a general store, contain the names and accounts of many millworkers. Extensive invoices and checkbook stubs provide a rare sample of the nuts and bolts operation of a textile mill during its early years as well as filling some bookkeeping gaps. Files arranged alphabetically and volumes shelved numerically.