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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Cone Mills
    Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 6:01am
This will be the thread where I discuss a lot of the Cone Mills history.  

To preface: I am not an expert, just one learning what information I believe should never be forgotten.  There are several other reputable sources which should also be consulted whenever there is a question regarding the history of the company, but my journey is a bit different than just facts about the denim itself and the manufacturing of the denim. 

I will do my best to post stories I have compiled interviewing mill village workers over the past many months on a consistent basis.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 6:08am
Today's Stories:

It is commonly known that the Cone Brothers (Herman and Moses) built a dynasty in Greensboro, North Carolina.  What isn't broadly reported is how it fell into their lap here in my hometown.  By 1895, the Cones had no doubt already begun their dive into textile manufacturing, having already invested in several other plants manufacturing textiles in North Carolina.  But, in 1895 they purchased a tract of land outside of a place that had just changed its name from Greensborough to Greensboro.  This tract had previously been purchased by a businessman who had once aimed to build the 'little Pittsburgh of the South.'  However, the mineral composition of the soil produced steel that wasn't hard enough and proved too brittle, leading to bankruptcy and the selling off of the land.  It was an opportune time to purchase by the Cones and they acquired it and immediately embarked on building Proximity Mill.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 6:17am
The first denims came off the looms in 1896 at Proximity Mill, and by 1914 Proximity had 1,029 employees.  White Oak was opened in 1905 after a long building process, and by 1914 it employed 1,320, totaling 2,389 employees for the company.  This was at a time when Greensboro's entire population hovered somewhere between 16-17,000.  The resulting math equation is 13% or so of the population worked for this one company.  No wonder a topographer mislabeled the city Coneville in the late 1890's.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 6:18am
I will write later today about one of two topics: pinto denim and heathered denim

Users choose for me.  The other will come later.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 6:22am
Ahh, last but not least.. I am still learning the process of uploading pictures onto the interweb to allow them to be posted, but in the meantime please check out my Instagram which is a collection of my adventures and abandoned house finds (with a few purchased pieces and gifted garments included)... gcdrygoodsco
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 11:01am
Pinto Denim:

So in 1969 there was a flood.  It was due to Hurricane Gerda/Camille (depending on who you ask), but it flooded the basement store houses in the Printworks facility.  If you are familiar with the layout of the Mill town, Proximity Printworks is located just down the hill on Fairview St. from White Oak, and just across the Revolution ballpark (in present, but neighborhoods in past).  Due to the flooding of the storage, millions (this is verified) of yards of denim were inundated.  

According to my sources, several members from the R&D facility aimed to salvage the goods.  They ran some through washes, finding it highly inefficient.  They ran some down a conveyor hosing it off, to find the same inefficiency.  They then determined that sending the rolls to South Carolina to a bleachery plant (near Greenville) and vat bleaching them would be the best option.  This produced a denim that was spotty, obviously washed out, and effectively what would become better known as acid wash.  This was the second time that R&D and intelligent minds at Cone were able to produce a fabric using a slight difference in the process to develop a new offering.  The acid wash was a sales hit in New York at Cone's sales offices and it became highly demanded fabric.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote aho Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jul 2013 at 6:55pm
Thanks for the thread and mini posts! Glad this history is able to survive somewhere...

...and btw, here I was all liking your photos on instagram without knowing it was you! Funny to connect the dots ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jul 2013 at 12:50am
Next story:

James Payne is a man that also went to NC State University for the textile program and came out to be hired by Cone, just like Ralph Tharpe, former Director of Technical Design among many other positions while working for the company.  James, according to Ralph, eventually found his home in Salisbury working in the Cone plant there.  He developed the plaid indigo denim that was for sale on Pacific Blue Denims a while back, and it was also he who helped Cone to begin the process of archiving their own history and garments and fabrics (Ralph would go on to champion this process and create a beautiful thing at White Oak between the archive room and the Found collection.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hoggreaser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jul 2013 at 4:11am
I for one  am definitely interested in the heathered denim.
Carry on - as you were!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jul 2013 at 5:41am
I've got several sanforization machine diagrams that can confirm the accuracy of the technical side of the story.  Wally (Wallace) Culbreth (pronounced Coal-berth), a mill retiree who has never lived anywhere but the mill village, in one of only two houses (one he was born in and the one they live in now his wife was born in) on Hubbard Street near White Oak, told me this story.  He worked for White Oak's beaming room for 37 years before retiring, but sometime during his career, someone working in the sanforizing room decided to jokingly add a sheet of sandpaper to the roller, resulting in the denim being roughed up and softened, picked slightly, and texturally resulting in what he referred to as heathered denim.  I found this interesting, not just because of the vocabulary used in the story Wally told, but merely by the fact that this was done as a comical joke and it resulted in a demanded product that sold for more when it was merely carefully damaging raw goods with sandpaper.  

Interestingly enough, heathered denim is when fiber colors are used that create an altogether different color (black/white producing salt and pepper, etc.).  Heathered is also at times referred to as frosted.  

What was actually produced was an abrasion denim that could possibly have been the forefront of knowledge leading to different washes on the denim before sales.  This is interesting to me because now Cone (when ordering direct from White Oak) offers Raw, Rinse, Vintage, and Antique for washes on their fabrics.  
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