There is a saying in the textile world that to know the history of one mill is to know them all.
Mergers, acquisitions, buyouts and joint ventures have all contributed to the close interrelationships which have existed among textile mills and affiliates since their beginning in this country. Springs Industries is an example of a survivor which rather than being absorbed by Indian Head Inc. instead purchased part of that company when Indian Head became a conglomerate and changed the course of its business operations.
One of the most famous and recognizable logos in the world, the Springmaid.
– Courtesy The Springs Story Traveling the same diversified route, Springs has gone from a weaver of quality fabrics to a supplier for leading retailers with a complete line of coordinated home furnishings designed to simplify home decorating for every consumer ranging sheets and pillowcases, comforters and comforter accessories, bedspreads, blankets, bed skirts, quilts, duvet covers, pillow shams, decorative and bed pillows, mattress pads., towels, bath accent rugs, shower curtains, ceramic and other bath accessories, window hardware, decorative rods, horizontal blinds in a range of widths and materials, motorized blinds, pleated and cellular shades, soft window treatments such as drapes, valances and balloon shades to bed and bath products for institutional and hospitality customers, home sewing fabrics, and baby bedding and apparel products.
Licensing agreements include kitchen and table linen items, decorative napkin rings, flannel and knit sheets, toilet seat covers, blankets and throws, and fabric covered lampshades. What is remarkable is that Springs is still headed by a member of the founding family since the company’s founding 117 years ago. More remarkable is that even with the textile woes this country has faced over the past 40 years, Springs continues to maintain a heavy domestic production output.
Springmaid, Wamsutta, Bali, Regal and Daisy Kingdom are some of its popular household names. Like Stifel and Skinner, Springs has quite a story to tell, one that is probably the most varied and interesting of any mill in American history. As you will note, Springs like Indian Head Inc. branches into the ready-made market, buying, consolidating, investing and selling as a means of economic survival and staying abreast of modern business methods to be competitive.
The Springs Story 1876 – Wamsutta Mills begins operation; 109 years later will become part of Springs Industries.
1886 – Leroy Springs [often referred to as Col. Springs] establishes a cotton shipping company, Leroy Springs & Co., for buying and shipping of cotton in Fort Mill SC.
1887 – The future Springs Mills, Fort Mill Manufacturing Company, is established in Fort Mill SC by Col. Samuel Elliott White who preferrs being called Capt. White. 200 looms; weaving operations only. 176 employees earn between 56¢ to $1.68 a day. Mill contains dye room and drying room. Produces first yard in February 1888 and by April is producing 8,000 yards daily.
Soon about 10,000 yards of gingham plaids a day are turned out under good quality Equity and lesser quality Scarsdale brand. Mill becomes known as The Gingham Mill. Equity and lesser quality Scarsdale brand. Mill becomes known as The Gingham Mill. Cotton is purchased from local farms until around 1900.
1892 – Luna Cotton Mills is built. Will be renamed Sugaw Creek Mfg. Co, then Millfort Mill Co.; will later become Springs’ White Plant for spinning operations.
1892 – Leroy Springs marries Capt. White’s daughter, Grace, uniting Fort Mills two most prominent business families. Their son Elliot will eventually head the company and revolutionize advertising.
1895 – Leroy establishes Lancaster Cotton Mills in Lancaster SC.
1899 – Leroy purchases Chester Mfg. Co, a gingham mill; names it Springsteen Mill as a tribute to the original family name of his Dutch ancestors.
Col. Leroy Springs – Courtesy The Springs Story
Capt. Samuel Elliot White – Courtesy The Springs Story
Original of the Fort Mill Mfg.Original of the Fort Mill Mfg. Co around 1888-90. Building and land cost $522.
– Courtesy The Springs Story
Lancaster Cotton Mills Plant 1 c1895. Sign reads that smoking is forbidden on the grounds and in vicinity of railroad tracks.
-Courtesy The Springs Story 1901 – Leroy purchases Luna Cotton Mills for weaving of chambrays and twills and renames it White Plant.
He becomes a major force in the American cotton industry. By 1907at age 46 he is president of four cotton mills, five mercantile companies, two banks, a railroad, a cotton compress company, water power company and director of eight SC banks and the Southern Railroad.
1911 – Capt. White dies; Leroy is named president of Fort Mill company which is renamed Plant 1 1912 – Leroy buys Kershaw Cotton Mill to eventually produce shade goods and lawn.
1913 – Fort Mill expanded; 600 new Draper looms to produce sheeting. Mills produce fabrics under names of Lynwood, Kanawah, Ivanhoe, Trossach, Winton, Equity, First Equity, Saranac, Scarsdale and Kenwood.
1914 – Leroy’s Lancaster Mills assumes control of Fort Mill Manufacturing Company. Lancaster now has weave room with 3,016 looms, slasher room spooler rooms, tying room and large cloth room; covers 8-1/2 acres.
1919 – Leroy operates five textile mills in South Carolina as separate companies – Fort Mill Plant, White Plant, Lancaster Plant, Kershaw Plant and Eureka Plant.
1923 – Boll weevil epidemic shuts down many cotton plants; some work every other week.
1924 – Lyman plant is built.
1927 – Leroy requests son Elliot to leave New York City and return to learn mill business. Elliot refuses at first as he is earning $50,000 plus royalties annually as one of the country’s best magazine writers but returns in 1928 as company treasurer-secretary.
1931 – Upon the death of his father Leroy, Elliott White Springs inherits six cotton mills with 5,000 employees, 7,500 looms, and 300,000 spindles valued at $7,250,000. But equipment is outdated and creditors are at the doors. Many doubt mill’s future based on Elliot’s playboy reputation and Depression economy.
He astounds everyone with his financial acumen and business strategy, consolidating and modernizing during his 28-year reign to make company one of the foremost industrial giants. Goals are a Springmaid ad campaign and establishment of a selling house and shrewd calculating that there would be a demand for cloth but company first had to become a major producer of finished goods. He keeps these goals in mind for the right moment to strike.
Prior to 1940 southern mills only produced grey goods and were at the mercy of northern converters for finishing which was where the real profit lay. Further complications were lack of communications among each type of converter, often causing huge, unnecessary inventory buildups at mill warehouses. Springs uses J.P Stevens for bleaching and Lowenstein for printing and dyeing.
Workers at Fort Mill Plant No. 1 spindle room in 1919.
– Courtesy The Springs Story
Spooling room workers at Lancaster Plant in 1929 proudly wear uniforms of donated company-made cloth .
-Courtesy The Springs Story
Elliot Springs in 1931 shows some of the obsolete equipment he inherited.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1933 – Elliot puts all mills under the name of Springs Cotton Mills. Buys Aragon-Baldwin Cotton Co., a division of JP Stevens built in 1900. Names it Gayle Plant.
1935 – Financial picture reveals that Springs produces 7.7% of the nation’s print cloth and 4.8% of broadcloth. Largest customers are Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penny and Textile Leather Corp. which prepares Springs 42″ broadcloth for nation’s two largest adhesive tape manufacturers. Figures confirm that Springs should establish a finishing plant.
1936-40 – Elliot enlarges Chester plant and installs new combers at Kershaw Plant which has become the nation’s largest producer of best cotton combed goods. Other plants are modernized. Plans for a massive Springmaid ad campaign and bleachery are put on hold as war breaks out in 1939 in Europe.
1941 – Springs gets army contract to make Type 4 army uniform drill. Sheeting looms are converted to run 45″ raincoat fabric.
1941 – Elliot enlists for active duty in air force. During WWI he was the fifth-ranking American flying ace, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross and authored War Birds, the definitive book on WWI combat aviation. He is commissioned a captain, then promoted to colonel but due to ill health he resigns in 1942.
1943 – Company gets more military contracts for summerwear, bandoleers, decontamination cloth, gas masks, herringbone twills, shirtings, mattress covers for navy, meadscloth for medical corps, nurses uniform cloth, operating gown fabrics, ordinance tape, poplin jacket fabrics, sheeting for gun covers for navy, tent duck and sheets and pillowcases for army, navy and merchant marine. No contract is refused and all contracts are met on time.
1944 – All plants receive coveted Army-Navy E Award for Excellence. Employees given Christmas bonuses equivalent to one-week pay. 2,200 of the 9,000 workforce serve in the military.
WWI flying ace Elliot with British camel plane c1918 enlists in airborne during WWII.
– Courtesy The Springs Story
War Birds brandname was patented in 1940 for sheets and shirtings. Name was likely taken from his book of that title.
– Textile Brandnames Dictionary
Presentation of the Army-Navy E award in 1944.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1945 – With empty warehouses and capital to expand, southern mills realize the war has given them the break to shake free from converters.
Within several years, Elliot will begin operating a bleachery and finishing plant and begin his long-awaited Springmaid ad campaign.
1945-50s – Springmaid ad campaign riles advertising industry but is an instant hit with consumers with its sassy, clever humor. It will become one of the most memorable and important in ad history. Requests still come in for souvenir copies.
Two of the clever Springmaid ads which caught the public’s fancy, enraged advertisers and revolutionized the ad industry. Ads are collectors items.
– Courtesy The Springs Story As a way to rebuff magazines which would not carry these ads, Elliot issues Clothes Make the Man, a compilation of some of his short stories, brief histories of Springs plants and other assorted literature. First printing of 100,000 sells out immediately, 40,000 more printed and there are still requests for this booklet. With such consumer endorsement, ad industry yields..
1946 – Elliot gains a son in law when daughter Anne marries Hugh “Bill” Close who will inherit company reins in 1959.
1946 – New York-based Springs Mills, Inc. is established as the textile-selling house for the Springs Cotton Mills.
1947 – Robert Amory, former president of Nashua Mfg. Co [Indian Head] and a legendary textile figure, becomes head of sales force and is responsible for Springs’ successful transition from grey goods to one of the largest finished goods manufacturers and distributors in the industry. Some of the newly finished goods in the form of Springmaid tablecloths can be seen on www.mamawiskas.com, a vintage textile and memorabilia website offered by Lynette Gray.
1947 – Pilot Mills enlarged. It is a testing lab for cloth strength, fiber length, cotton fineness and fiber uniformity.
1948 – Grace bleaching and finishing plant begins operations. Cost is $15 million. But will be enlarged many times in the years ahead as the demand for Springs fabrics is so great.
1949 – In further expansion, Springs places the largest single order in the history of American textile business, purchasing 14,000 looms from the Draper Corp. at the rate of 100/mth.
1950 – Most cotton is now purchased from Mississippi Delta, Southwest and West Coast as local cotton farmers turn to construction work.
1951 – Another in the largest order category is placed with Whiten Machine Works for 315,000 new type cotton spinning spools.
1951 – Springs reopens Springs Park, built in 1940, to a record crowd of 25,000. Park is scene of Miss Spring and other talent contests, country music stars, square dance exhibitions. Boasts 3 mini trains and enormous amphitheater. This is one of many employee and community benefits the company sponsors and provides throughout its history.
In 1952 the delightful Gypsy Rose Lee and her son unveiled the John Reed King ferris wheel at Springs Park reopening.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1956 – Is first company to install computers and data processing department.
1958 – Springsteen Plant gets an additional 76,000 sq. feet for $3 million; will run high-grade pima.
1959 – Elliot dies. During his tenure he took a down-turn company in the Depression worth $7.25 million and turned it into a $104. 5 million empire; from 5,000 employees to 12,000; from 7,500 looms to 17,000; from 30,000 spindles to 836,000; and spent $95 million on expansion and modernization. Upon the death of his father-in-law Elliott Springs, H.W. Close, 39, becomes president of The Springs Cotton Mills and Springs Mills, Inc. He builds a new generation of plants, broadens the product line, takes the company public, and tells the American textile story to a wide variety of audiences.
1960 – Springs becomes the world’s largest supplier of sheets and pillow cases.
1961 – New cotton mill, Elliot Plant, is built. Is new type of facility with straight run-through production flow of goods from opening room to cloth room. Twin structure, Francis Plant, isbuilt beside it for Springmaid sheets and pillowcases. Total cost is $15 million.
1962 – Springs Mills, Inc. completes a 21-story office building in midtown New York. New location enables Springs to better attract buyers from department stores.
Always the innovative advertiser, Springs has its new Springcale sheets get an approval from J. Fred Muggs on one of the early Dave Garroway shows.
– Courtesy The Springs Story
The first Draper shuttleless looms were installed at the Lancaster Plant in 1962.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1963 – Company observes 75th anniversary. Is the largest industrial taxpayer in SC; issues Story of Springs Cotton Mills booklet..
1963 – Consumer line expands into kitchen and bath domestics with the purchase of Morgan Jones and Scotland Mills in NC. Morgan Jones, est. 1872, has six plants for producing woven bedspreads, thermal blankets and kitchen cotton items. This is a significant year as Springs, five years behind other textile firms, finally gives in to producing synthetic poly/cotton blends due the vast technological improvements.
Uses Eastman’s new Kodel IV 65% poly/35% cotton under the name Avanti. Grace Plant expands again for $7 million, making it the world’s largest finishing plant.
1964 – Screen printing machines installed; begins joint overseas marketing programs.
1965 – Becomes first company to achieve an all-cotton permanent press fabric called Spring-set. However, as chemicals weaken fibers only made in heavier weight fabrics for slacks, sportswear and outwear. But can’t compete with blends and eventually production is pulled. Acquires Carolina Carpets of York.
1966 – Springs becomes a publicly traded company; stock sells within 24 hours. Gains financial clout as member of NY Stock Exchange. Now has 19 plants, 18,000 employees and textile sales of $250 million. Leroy Plant is first U.S. manufacturing plant designed to solely produce cotton/poly blends in broadcloth and batiste.
1968 – Kathleen plant construction begins along with other plant modernization. Fashion craze causes colored shirts to outsell white. Grace Plant runs 18 shirting colors in 50/50 blend.
1969 – Springs enters the knit fabric market with purchase of International Stretch Products Security Stretchlon Inc. Will produce double knits, interlock and jersey knit fabrics. Completes a 10-year modernization program of equipment and expansions costing over $230 million.
1969 – A time of significant change. Close becomes board chairman, and for the first time an outsider is selected as president. Peter Scotese, another textile industry legend, former VP at Indian Head and at Federated Department Stores, will guide the company for the next 17 years through a successful period of transition during the turbulent 70s with its oil shortage, energy consumption restrictions, environmental laws and increasing imports of foreign textiles.
It is said this is hiring is one of the best decisions Close ever made.
Two men who had profound effects in shaping the modern Springs with latest in business technology and strategy – new president Peter Scotese [l] with board chairman Bill Close [Elliot Springs son in law] in 1969.
– Courtesy The Springs Story Scotese will implement a philosophy of think return on investment which is to make more money than it costs to finance it – a long-range planning program which shifts from manufacturing to marketing, selling off unproductive units, formalizing budgeting and profitable acquisitions and hiring chemists and engineers as computer and other scientific technology change the way textiles are made.
1970 – Company acquires Indian Head Goods and Finishing Division and creates a new Retail and Specialty Fabrics Division.
1971 – Introduces Ultrasuede and 100% textured poly washable crepes and satins.
1972 –Buys and sells unprofitable purchases – Seabrook Foods and York Carpet Plant.
1974 – Converts Aileen Plant from woven bedspreads to profitable sheeting fabric. Pinsonic process turns sheeting and poly filling into quilted bedspreads quilted with sonic heat. Introduces popular Metropolitan Museum of Art prints in Metropolitan line of sonic quilted bedspreads. English Manor most popular design. A note about the fashion designer name which has enormous impact on the growth of textiles in home furnishing sector. In 1949 Springs notices the consumer taste for color in bedding, especially sheets.
During the 40s, Spring sheets were flat folds, white and of coarse cotton backfilled with starch, unpackaged with only a paper label for information. Sheets were loss leaders for stores. The new program in 1949 puts colorful printed cellophane wrapping around sheets bearing the Springmaid name. By the mid-1950s, percale sheets in solid colors are offered. These fashion sheets aree sold in boxes and mostly at Christmas time as gifts.
In the late 50s-early 60s, Candycale stripes in one color are made, then Echotone stripes and Echotone dots in two tones and floral patterns in Princess Rose and Fresh Daisy appeared. By the late 60s pattern overshadows brand and Springs becomes the first to use designer names beginning with the Emilio Pucci collection. From 1970 through 80 Bill Blass collection added. Spring sheets and coordinated bedding dominate the field.
1977 – Space-age technology at the Elliot Plant as 53 air jet looms are installed. Eliminates noisy shuttle, faster, quieter and makes virtually perfect cloth. 64″ batiste is first product. Springs becomes leading air jet weaver in the country.
1978 – Introduces new Springmaid collection designed by Princes Grace of Monaco. Instant success.
1979 – Acquires Latex Industries of Dalton GA, home furnishings products, and Graber Industries of Middleton WI, window decorating products.
1980 – Walter Y. Elisha joins Springs Mills as its sixth president as Peter Scotese becomes VP of Board and CEO. Productivity is a key goal; Springs begins 7/24 production.
The world’s largest bleachery, Grace Printing and Finishing as it looks in 1977.
– Courtesy The Springs Story
Princess Grace and Prince Ranier of Monaco visit the Kathleen Plant in 1978 to view the production of her sheet designs.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1982 – The company is renamed Springs Industries, Inc. to reflect its diversity. $175 million spent to replace 6,600 older looms with 1,160 air jet weaving machines. Fort Mill, Gayle and Springsteen plants phased out.
1983 – Bill Close dies. Company acquires L&N Custom Designs which makes waterbed sheets, mattress covers and accessories.
New presidents Walter Elisha, shown with artist Georgia O’Keefe at a Springs-sponsored art show in 1983, and Paul Tippett who succeeded Elisha in 1985.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1985 – W. Paul Tippett, president of American Motors, is appointed Springs’ seventh president. Due to consumer demand, sheet content changed to 60% cotton, 40% poly; Wamsutta remains no-iron cotton.
1985 – Springs Industries acquires Lowenstein Corporation for $286 million; purchase helps to make Springs one of the largest companies in the U.S. textile industry. Gains Wamsutta and Pacific brands and 93% interest in Clark & Schwebel Fiber Glass Corp, largest producer of woven fiber glass in the country. Adds 9,000 employees and brings plant total to 43. Lowenstein, an old and respected manufacturer, deserves historical mention. See end of column for its story and the solution to the kettlecloth question.
1987 – Springs observes a year-long 100th anniversary by opening copper box time capsule from the cornerstone of the 100-year-old Fort Mill manufacturing facility and publishing The Springs Story which details history of the company to that date. Celebration coincides with company being chosen as the model mill by Textile World magazine.
1988 – Centennial Year ends with planting of 50-year time capsule under a marker in front of the Fort Mill executive office.
1988 – Springs continues to modernize with a $370 million latest technology program for facilities; restructures Finished Fabrics Group and closes Rock Hill and two other plants; acquires Andre Richard Co. and Uniglass Division of United Merchants and Manufacturers Co. for $68 million.
Not your average polka dot bikini – the 21-story Springs Building in New York City took on a new look in 1985 to promote Springs fabrics and drew nationwide attention.
– Courtesy The Springs Story
Springs community spirit was demonstrated during the 1985 drought. Its trucks hauled hay from the Midwest for cattle farmers in parched South Carolina.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1989 – Increases production with acquisition of Carey-McFall Corp for $35 million, maker of Bali brand window furnishings and hardware; H. W. Close Plant in Fort Lawn begins producing comforters and bed accessories for Springmaid Home Fashion Division, previously known as Consumer Fashion Division.
1990 – Springs reports loss for first time in 25 years as a public company; loss due to $70 million restructuring of business. Closes Orr Plant.
1991 – Acquires C.S. Brooks [Nashville Plant]. Plans to close Wamsutta Plant are reversed.
1992 – Acquires C.S. Brooks Canada Inc., Finlayson Enterprises Ltd. and Griffiths-Kerr; new business named Springs Canada.
1995 – Springs acquires Dundee Mills, Dawson Home Fashions and Nanik window coverings; sells Intek office panel business. Company reorganizes into three groups: Bed Fashions, Bath Fashions and Diversified Products.
1996 – Expands operations at Grace Plant; closes Kershaw, Olympia/Granby, Wamsutta 1; converts 5 other plants to warehouses; sells Clark & Schwebel for $193 million; acquires certain Daisy Kingdom operations; acquires 50% American Fiber Industries Corp, maker of pillows and bedding.
1997 – Spends $30 million for fabrication equipment and consolidates home furnishings sewing production involving Grace, Lyman and Riverland plants.
1998 – In January, Crandall Close Bowles, daughter of H.W. Close, is elected president and CEO, becomes fifth generation of Springs family to lead the company.
1998 – Sells Rock Hill printing and finishing plant; Ultrasuede business to Toray of Japan; Kershaw plant and Industrial Products Division. Spends $67 million for expansion and modernization to augment towel manufacturing in Georgia.
Crandall Close Bowles, fifth generation of the Springs family, is elected president and CEO.
– Courtesy The Springs Story 1999 – Springs sells its Springfield Division and UltraLeather business; converts Eliott Plant from apparel weaving to home furnishings plant and consolidates weaving operations; purchases Regal Rugs, an upscale bath and accent rug supplier, solidifying the company’s commitment to regain the number one spot in the textile industry.
2000 – Wins Harry Potter licensing to supply bedding, window coverings, bath accessories, shower curtains, rugs; increases presence in Wal-Mart stores. Closes several plants and baby products facilities in CA.
2001 – Company announces partnership with Heartland Industrial Partners to take Springs private. Cartersville GA, rug yarn plant purchased from Maybank Textiles. Strategic long-term alliance is formed with Coteminas, a Brazilian manufacturer of bed and bath products. Springmaid brand is expanded to mass market channel. Closes Aileen weaving and North Vernon plants; merges Eureka plant with two other plants.
2002 – Springs acquires Beaulieu’s accent rug business with manufacturing operations in Dalton, Ga., and Stratford, Ontario; Burlington Industries window treatments and bedding consumer products businesses; and Ultima Enterprises to expand sourcing capabilities in Asia. Renames AFI business Basic Bedding Division.
2002 – Fort Mill, Fort Lawn, Chester, Lancaster and Laurel Hill, N.C. plants closed and restructured.
2003 – Springs purchases famous Owen Manufacturing blanket business. Company, founded in 1892 as Atlantic Mills in RI, produces worsted and cotton fabrics. Started Beacon Mfg. Co for blankets in 1898. Sold Beacon to National Distillers in 1966. Named changed to Charles D. Owens Mfg. Co in 1973, is leading supplier of consumer blankets.
2003 – Closes finishing operations at Lyman Plant, consolidates production at Lancaster and Grace finishing plant and closes Gainesville baby plant. Adds Target stores t its customer list.
2003 – Textile World magazine honors Springs with its 2003 Innovation Award.
2004 – Begins year still a privately held company with 40 manufacturing facilities in 12 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico producing home furnishing textiles, sheets, towels, baby products and sewing fabrics. Employs 17,000 with 13 persons marking 50 to 72 years of service! 2004 – Predictions by Textile World Magazine for a favorable 2004 economic outlook for the country’s textile industry is welcome news for Springs and other US mills.
Report cites reasons include “ongoing mill reorganizations and consolidations, as well as the improved production and marketing steps currently being taken by an increasingly savvy industry…. shuttering of older inefficient mills, continuing plant and equipment spending, solid productivity gains, and a more globally oriented approach should begin to pay off and make for a leaner, meaner industry.”
The Springs family of famous brandnames — Wamsutta®, Springmaid®, Regal®, Beaulieu®, Graber®, Bali®, Nanik®, Dundee®, Wabasso®, and Texmade®. Major licensed brands — Burlington House®, American Lifestyle®, Kate Spade, Court of Versailles, Liz At Home®, Harry Potter®, mary-kateandashleyTM, Coca-Cola®, Serta® and NASCAR.
One man’s opinion of synthetics In a humorous vein, Elliot Springs tells a customer in 1953 what he thinks of man-made fibers. In some respects, his views are not so farfetched! Dear——- I have your letter of July 30th asking about our experience with synthetic sheets. At present we are experimenting with a nylon filament sheet and a blend of cotton and nylon for sheets.
So far, we have not been able to make one which we thought was as good as a cotton sheet. The suppliers of the fibre don’t know whether it will increase the life of the sheet or not but they are certain it will improve the abrasive quality. That means if you toss and turn in your sleep, your skin would wear rather than the sheet.
We have found that, if a lady wears a rayon nightgon and slides into bed between nylon sheets, she will light up like the aurora borealis from the static and, if she wears a nylon nightgown and is taken ill, the doctor won’t have tp pull down the top sheet to examine her appendix.
However, all the newspapers and magazines have been screaming at the public for the past twenty years that new man-made miracle fibres will revolutionize the textile industry during the next year and, consequently, the buying public will always fall for any new fibre, though it is made out of corncobs, pecan shells, and lame duck feathers. I have thrown away at least a hundred shirts that were made out of blends of nylon, dacron, orlon, rayon, dynel, chromspun, acrilan, saran, vicara, vicuna, vigoro and trillium.
However, this morning I see where another manufacturer is announcing a new one made of coal, sawdust and peach fuzz and I am sure he will sell a lot of them before the public wearies of novelty and makes me run overtime to supply enough plain cotton broadcloth. Just to keep up with the procession, we now have available a chlorophyll sheet, an anti-septic sheet, a perfume sheet, a non-skid sheet and an anti-static sheet.
I have no doubt we will soon be selling a sheet made from a blend of buttermilk, linseed oil, peanut oil, oil of juniper and nighmare hairs. Until that time, we can prove that the combed percale sheet is the best buy in the world.
Yours very truly…………
The Lowenstein Story 1899 – The House of Lowenstein was founded by two German immigrant brothers who imported fabrics from Germany and jobbed them along with off-goods to small cloth outlets.
1907 – Name changed to M. Lowenstein and Sons. Began exporting in 1909. Inc. Added to name in 1981.
1929 – Built first bleachery, Rock Hill [SC] Printing and Finishing.
1938 – Printed the first rayon in the South.
WWII years – Bought first grey mill, Saratoga Victory Mills.
1946 – Added more grey mills, Huntsville Mfg. Co, two Entwistle plants renamed Aleo and Roberdel and Orr Mills.
1947-48 – Went public. Added 2 more grey mills, Hamrick Mills and Limestone Mills and a denim plant Lane Cotton Mills.
1951 – Added first synthetic at Orr Mills location.
1954 – Purchased Wamsutta Mills for first rate sheet and pillowcases.
1955 – Purchased Pacific Mills; built Downtown Textile Mart in New York City for sample display rooms.
1958 – Moved all operations to the South.
1959 – Produced first wash ‘n wear cloth at Pilot Plant.
1960 – Acquired Clark & Schwebel.
1967 – Built Wamsutta I and II; longest textile plant in the country.
1969 – Expanded by buying carpet plant, knitting mill, curtain plant, fake fur plant and built new towel plant in SC.
1977 – Made move from product oriented company to end user by reorganizing into three divisions: Lowenstein Piece Goods, Wamsutta Women’s Wear and Wamsutta Men’s Wear.
1979 – Built modern Wamsutta dye plant; by 1982 working 7/24.
1985 – Merged with Springs Industries. The Kettlecloth Story In the late 1960s-early 1970s Concord Fabrics developed a cloth that was made from a poly/cotton blend and comber noils waste. Cloth was woven to emulate osnaburg, an all cotton trash cloth which had irregularities and was inconsistent from lot to lot.
Once developed this cloth became an all-purpose cloth which was used in children’s apparel, sportswear and home furnishings. With its linen-like look, Kettlecloth went into a variety of end uses. Sometime during the middle 1980s, the fabric was discontinued. Soon after, M. Lowenstein & Sons developed a cloth with the same construction which it called weavers cloth in the apparel and OTC trades and Harvest Cloth in the home furnishings specialty area.
When Springs Industries acquired Lowenstein in 1985, this cloth was added to the Springs family of products. Springs produces weavers cloth in a 55% poly, 45% cotton blend in 45″ width. Fabric is finished in two locations. The Grace facility finishes in white and oyster; at the Lyman facility, fabric is jet dyed in solid colors such as navy, maroon, hunger, khaki, wheat and denim.
Although many companies have tried to copy this cloth, none have been able to duplicate its look with any success. Weavers Cloth is sold at leading fabric and store chains such as Joanne Fabrics and Walmart. My thanks to those at Springs Industries – Molly Laster, Corporate Communications; Ann Evans, historian; and other staff members and former employees for opening doors and for their assistance to make this column possible.
Sources: Springs website springs.com The Springs Bulletin, June 2003 The Springs Story, Our First 100 Years, Louise Pettus, 1987 Textile Brands Dictionary, Textile Book Publishers 1947 Textile World Magazine Nov. 2003 The arbitrary cut-off date for this Vintage Fabric column is 1960.
To stay within the scope of this timeframe, reference materials published up to that date are the prime source of information to more accurately capture actual thoughts of the time.
Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.