Guide to the Erwin Cotton Mills records, 1832-1976 and undated, bulk 1892-1967
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.
- Collection Number
- Erwin Cotton Mills records
- 1832-1976 and undated
- Erwin Cotton Mills
- 156 Linear Feet
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Information series, undated
- Account books series, 1892-1967
- Alphabetical series, 1832-1967
- Labor Relations series, 1933-1952
- William Allen Erwin series, 1871-1932
- Pearl Cotton Mills series, 1892-1932
- Cooleemee Cotton Mills series, 1899-1916
- Erwin Yarn Company series, 1919-1948
- J. N. Ledford Company series, 1901-1963
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.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Use & Permissions
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.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Erwin Cotton Mills Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The Information series consists of files of histories produced by the company, along with articles, biographical sketches, and other reference materials from various sources.
The Account Books series are familiar in form until 1949, when the company stopped posting accounts by hand and began using business machines for its bookkepping. At this point, the ledgers and journals become difficult to interpret, and subsidary records such as the supporting papers for journal entries, voucher registers, check registers, and cash record books can be essential to dating and identifying the numbered ledger books.
Beginning in 1905, finding particular accounts in the ledgers can be difficult because transfer ledgers were adopted. When a ledger became bulky, account sheets were moved into one or more transfer ledgers with similar dates. This practice produced wide variance in the dates within a particular ledger. Most ledgers are not indexed.
The company labeled their journals as daybooks until the 1930s, when they adopted the customary terminology of "journal."
The Exhibit books record quarterly or annual summaries of expenses, income, and profit and loss.
The Plant ledgers have both technological and architectural interest because they itemize equipment, buildings, and workers' houses, usually with dates of acquisition or construction. These records were begun in 1928 but list assets on hand dating as early as the 1890s.
"Payroll letters" are quarterly financial summaries of labor expenses; time books, unfortunately, are not included in the collection, meaning workers' names are difficult to obtain. Some names appear elsewhere occasionally, including in the Workmen's Compensation Check Registers, individual rent accounts in some of the ledgers, and in some files of the Alphabetical series.
Journal entries for 1949-1951 Sept. included in volumes 19-21 with the ledgers during this period.
Journal entries for 1957-1963 included in volumes 28-33 with the ledgers during this period.
Journal entries for 1965-1967 (3 pages) are in Box 23.
Supporting papers for journal entries for 1949 Jan.-May are in Box 37; for 1949 June-Dec. are in Box 38; for 1949 Dec.-1950 Jan. are in Box 39.
Included with volumes 28-33 in the ledgers from this period.
Compiled in the mid-20th century including buildings and equipment, 1890s-1960s. Serves as an index to the plant ledgers but also contains considerable data.
The Alphabetical series consists of randomly surviving files constituting only a small percentage of what were once massive office files. These records span the life of the company and include financial, legal, correspondence, reports, and volumes arranged by topic and name in alphabetical order. There is information about costs, purchases, labor, marketing, income, expenses, profit sharing, equipment and buildings, plant operations, property acquisitions, trade organizations, agencies of the state and national governments, other companies and mills, individuals, and so on.
The Price Books (Account Books series) and Memorandum Books include production and marketing statistics for Erwin Mills as well as management's memoranda about the statistics and the overall industry.
Names of mill workers can be found in files for notes receivable, mill house sales, accidents, employee accidents, profit sharing, and elsewhere. Notable files for textile mills owned or controlled by the same interests as Erwin Mills are Alpine Cotton Mills, Durham Cotton Manufacturing Co., Locke Cotton Mills, Oxford Cotton Mills, and the Flint and Co. file.
For Erwin Cotton Mills, Durham Cotton Manufacturing Co., Pearl Cotton Mills, Locke Cotton Mills, Alpine Cotton Mills, and Oxford Cotton Mills
Cotton processing tax, floor stock tax, Sanforizing royalty, drawback on export waste shipments
The Labor Relations series focuses upon the company's relationship with its workers, the Textile Workers Union of America, and the federal government. Files largely date from the late 1930s and early 1940s. The series documents strikes and extensive negotiations with employees, as well as contracts, memoranda, correspondence, wage charts, labor agreements, and other materials. There is also material from the United Textile Workers challenging the Textile Workers Union of America in 1951 and 1952.
The William Allen Erwin series consists mainly of files representing his personal and family interests and business. Also included are correspondence files that contain both personal and business correspondence regarding the mill and textile industries. The correspondence largely dates from 1928. Notable topics include: national and state issues; North Carolina parishes of the Protestant Episcopal Church; St. Mary' School in Raleigh; correspondence regarding his salary in 1920 with James B. Duke; St. Joseph's Episcopal Church; real estate; house and dormitory construction; the textile industry; University of North Carolina; Duke University; politics; and hunting dogs. Correspondents include Albert Anderson, Thomas Hall Battle, Martin E. Boyer Jr., Joseph Blount Cheshire, Heriot Clarkson, Benjamin Newton Duke, H.R. Fitzgerald, John A. Law, Edwin Anderson Penick, Edward Knox Powe, James Augustus Thomas, Hobart Brown Upjohn, and members of the Erwin and Holt families.
The Pearl Cotton Mills series consists of records from the 1890s until its absorption by Erwin Mills in 1932. The accounting records are represented through stock certificate books, ledgers, journals, trial balances, cash and bank account books, and inventories. The files are minimal but include the minutes and a variety of significant financial reports, statements, and other papers.
The Cooleemee Cotton Mills series contains primarily records from the late 1890s until its acquisition by Erwin Mills in 1906. Some material dates as late as 1916. The accounting volumes are ledgers, a journal, and cashbooks. There are minimal files but they include legal and financial papers as well as stock certificate books for the Cooleemee Water Power and Manufacturing Company.
Records of the textile-selling agency at Philadelphia from its origin in the 1920s until its liquidation in the 1940s. Minutes, stockholder records, ledgers, journal, cashbook, and sales journal, and several files of legal and financial papers. Volumes arranged chronologically within types. Files arranged alphabetically.
Including certificate of incorporation and bylaws, 1925.
The J. N. Ledford Company series contains records of this department store in Cooleemee, N.C., from its origin in 1901 until the 1960s. William Allen Erwin was an original stockholder, and by 1919 Erwin Mills was the majority stockholder. Files include minutes, stockholder records, and scattered legal and financial papers and volumes. Some workers at Cooleemee Mills are identifiable through the Accounts Receivable.
Including certificate of incorporation and bylaws, 1901.
Including certificate of incorporation, 1901; bylaws, 1955-1958; correspondence, 1955-1956.
Erwin Cotton Mills incorporated, the Duke family owning a controlling interest with Benjamin N. Duke as president and William Allen Erwin as manager.
Mill No. 1 in West Durham began operation
Mill No. 1 doubled in size
Mill No. 2 built at Duke (now Erwin), Harnett Co., N. C.
Colleemee Cotton Mills, Cooleemee, Davie Co., N. C., acquired and operated as Mill No. 3
Mill No. 4, bleachery and finishing plant built in West Durham
Erwin Yarn Company, a selling agency, established in Philadelphia, Pa.
Mill No. 5 built at Erwin, N. C.
William A. Erwin succeeded B. N. Duke as president
Kemp Plummer Lewis succeeded W. A. Erwin as president
Pearl Cotton Mills in North Durham acquired and operated as Mill No. 6
Finishing plant added at Cooleemee, N.C.
Erwin Yarn Company liquidated
Diana Mills at Neuse, Wake Co., N. C., acquired and operated as Mill No. 7
William Haywood Ruffin succeeded K. P. Lewis as president
Stonewall Cotton Mills, Stonewall, Miss., acquired and operated as Mill No. 8
Accounting procedures changed from longtime standard forms posted by hand to radically different forms utilizing business machines
Company changed name to Erwin Mills
Abney Mills of South Carolina acquired control and its president, Francis Ebenezer Grier, became chairman of the board
Burlington Industries acquired control, Erwin Mills continuing as one of its divisions
Mill No. 6 in North Durham closed
J. P. Stevens acquired and closed West Durham plant
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Alpine Cotton Mills (Morganton, N.C.)
- Cooleemee Cotton Mills (Cooleemee, N.C.)
- Durham Cotton Manufacturing Company (Durham, N.C.)
- Duke, James Buchanan, 1856-1925
- Duke, Benjamin N. (Benjamin Newton)
- Erwin, William Allen, 1856-1932
- Erwin Yarn Company (Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Erwin Cotton Mills
- Episcopal Church
- Erwin family
- Holt family
- J.N. Ledford Company (Cooleemee, N.C.)
- Locke Cotton Mills (Concord, N.C.)
- Oxford Cotton Mills (Oxford, N.C.)
- Pearl Cotton Mills (Durham, N.C.)
- Riverside and Dan River Mills (Danville, Va.)
- Stonewall Cotton Mills (Stonewall, Miss.)
- St. Mary's Junior College (Raleigh, N.C.)
- Springs Cotton Mills (Lancaster, S.C.)
- Smedes family
- Thomaston Cotton Mills (Thomaston, Ga.)
- Textile Workers Union of America
- Architecture -- North Carolina
- Cotton textile industry -- Records
- Department stores -- North Carolina
- Hunting dogs
- Industries -- North Carolina
- Labor and laboring classes -- North Carolina
- Real property -- North Carolina
- Textile industry
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.
Processed by: Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Staff, 1987.
Encoded by Meghan Lyon from paper guide, 2018.