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Cone Mills

Printed From: denimbro
Category: Denimbro
Forum Name: Denim/workwear research
Forum Description: historical
Printed Date: 18 Jun 2019 at 11:54am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.10 -

Topic: Cone Mills
Posted By: Guests
Subject: Cone Mills
Date 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.

Posted By: Guests
Date 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.

Posted By: Guests
Date 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.

Posted By: Guests
Date 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.

Posted By: Guests
Date 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

Posted By: Guests
Date 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.  

Posted By: aho
Date 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 ;)

Posted By: Guests
Date 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.

Posted By: hoggreaser
Date Posted: 20 Jul 2013 at 4:11am
I for one  am definitely interested in the heathered denim.
Carry on - as you were!

Posted By: Guests
Date 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.  

Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 22 Jul 2013 at 6:36am
Interesting Inventory Magazine article regarding Cone's White Oak Plant, shot by Farhad.  I will say this, John 'Bud' Strickland no longer works for them, now working for MVM.  Interesting how in the video interview he states that Cone loves to work with their clients to get them fabrics they want, but in reality that translates to "We do what LVC tells us to do."

Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2013 at 5:51pm
Update:  I am meeting with several persons on Wednesday and Thursday of this week that will determine if my operations will be in Revolution Mills, former world leader in production of corduroys and flannels under the Cone Mills umbrella of manufacturing plants and textile facilities.  Wish me luck everyone!

If things go well, lots of transport to be arranged and putting old retirees back to work!

Posted By: Sardine
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2013 at 6:02pm
Wishing you lots of luck Conehead. I for one would love to have american made flannels to choose from. 

Posted By: devilish
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2013 at 6:09pm
Seconded. Some US made flannel of the same quality that 5 Brother and Big Mac used to produce would be awesome. In that long lost really textured and open type weave. Especially if they are in western sizes. Good Luck.

Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2013 at 6:15pm
Klondike, King Kole, 5 Brother Union Made, and Cone Mills amongst other brands, themselves all were producers using Revolution Mills Flannel.  It has a pretty identifiable pattern to most of their production.  Five Brother still has a few deadstock more recent shirts floating around with the original Revolution Mills Flannel branding rat tail/hang tags.. Hard to find though.  

PM me and I will send you photos of the tags.

Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2013 at 6:18pm
The funniest thing BTW is that the point man for green/red lighting my entrance into Revolution Mill requested that at the meeting I bring product to show.  Do I bring loose woven denim off a sample machine I have, original 10s-30s Cone fabrics, original garments, original texts and letters and posters, or do I bring photos and manuals of sewing machines and textile books from early 20th and late 19th century?  My immediate thought when I was informed I needed to bring products to show was "of weaving? of sewing? of vintage? of memorabilia?"  Do I overwhelm them or bring minimal amounts?  Not sure, such a double edged sword.

Posted By: Sardine
Date Posted: 25 Aug 2013 at 6:27pm
IMO I think you bring what you would like to produce and examples of a finished product (your goal so to speak). You have a real passion for the history so that I think is the most valuable asset.

Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2013 at 8:39am
Met this weekend with Henry Wong, another fellow Conehead.  We exchanged stories, showed pieces from our collections, and had a lovely meal at the Printworks Bistro, the restaurant adjacent to the Proximity Hotel.  

Before taking too many turns and blurring this post, Printworks is rated in the top 50 hotels in the world, received accolades of all types for LEED platinum, etc., and is owned and run by the Quaintance-Weaver Group.  Mr. Weaver grew up in the mill village to mill working parents, and he has a neat collection of items, all of which inspired him to name his hotel and restaurant in Greensboro after former mills of Cone's, Proximity and Printworks.  

Now, back to the post.  Henry showed me some beautiful covert cloth Blu Blood kids bibs, Lone Ranger painted deeptone dungarees with Tonto and the Lone Ranger on each front pocket, and several other items all things Cone.  In return, I showed him some of my items as well.

He mentioned to me that he runs a small blog that has very interesting denim posts on it, and I wanted to share this with you:" rel="nofollow -

Henry's enthusiasm for denim and close ties to textile production make him a great insight and opinion on the internet.  

As for me, I am proceeding with the development of this project, working on a few small issues before fully getting up and running before year-end.

Posted By: mr randal
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2013 at 9:37am
Good luck, Conehead! You have a lot of people rooting for you.

Posted By: flatpattern
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2013 at 10:08am
Good luck dude! You have a real passion for it! Can't wait to see the results.

Posted By: clayton
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2013 at 10:33am
go Evan go!

Posted By: proulxsie
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2013 at 11:08am
Definitely bring samples of the type of textiles you appreciate in that same vein. Good luck!


Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2013 at 2:53pm
Thanks for the kind words everyone, the end resulting fabrics will be for the little guys in the world, not for the big snails we know as corporations.  

Posted By: Shorty Long
Date Posted: 23 Nov 2013 at 8:34am
what happened here? did conehead disappear? 

Posted By: Sansome
Date Posted: 23 Nov 2013 at 11:46am
Originally posted by Shorty Long Shorty Long wrote:

what happened here? did conehead disappear? 

I think Conehead tapped out?

Posted By: CRSands
Date Posted: 24 Nov 2013 at 8:37am
I was lucky enough to tour the White Oak facility a couple months back and take a look through their archives.  Here are a few pics from the trip:" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">

Posted By: mr randal
Date Posted: 24 Nov 2013 at 1:39pm
Beautiful shots, CRSands, nicely done.

Posted By: Jelthead
Date Posted: 24 Nov 2013 at 4:28pm
Thanks for posting the great photographs! What a treat it must have been to see and meet the people that still make great denim.
Years ago had the chance to meet the nice folks at the Cone Mills office in Manhattan. They had a collection of 30's-60's overalls and dungarees all made from Cone Deep Tone denim that was amazing to see. Also Cone Mills salesmen books show all the selvage denim the offered from the 30's onwards.

Posted By: Maynard Fried-San
Date Posted: 20 Jan 2014 at 2:21pm
Someone buy this:" rel="nofollow - Cone STF Denim

Posted By: Joseph Hill
Date Posted: 21 Jan 2014 at 7:14am
I'm pretty sure that's just Pacific Blue Denims throwing some of their stuff up on eBay.  Just hit them up directly.  I think it may be cheaper (if you buy enough to aggregate out the cutting fees).

Posted By: Shorty Long
Date Posted: 22 Jul 2015 at 9:56am
looking at the Cone Mills instagram feed, it looks like they've got some interesting things in the pipeline: shirting fabrics (already available from Tellason) and natural indigo denim are in the works" rel="nofollow -

Posted By: Maynard Fried-San
Date Posted: 22 Jul 2015 at 10:10am
More info on the" rel="nofollow - Natural indigo project

Posted By: Shorty Long
Date Posted: 24 Jul 2015 at 12:00pm" rel="nofollow -
here's a pic of the denim

Posted By: hollows
Date Posted: 24 Jul 2015 at 12:27pm
Looks like typical flat cone :X

I make things out of" rel="nofollow - leather .

Posted By: Ben
Date Posted: 25 Jul 2015 at 11:16am
Yep pretty underwhelming!

Posted By: HudsonOallCo
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2015 at 7:04am
Just wanted to say, sad news from the Cone Mills family... the famous red headed weave room loom operator, Mildred Bolen, has had a stroke.  She no longer works at White Oak, but a close friend of mine informed me that she suffered a stroke and is having to have a caregiver at all times at her home.  

She has been one of the few workers from the old guard that has been spotlighted and made into a celebrity during her career at White Oak.  Many loom operators from her era started their work at Cone learning every job in the weave room, and witnessed the evolution of textile fabrication from Drapers, throwing on a narrow frame producing 28-30'' fabrics (E models) to 58-60'' wider fabrics for growing demand (X2 and X3 models), and some stayed around long enough to being working on Sulzer looms 120"+ widths.  

In other news, the natural indigo denim White Oak is producing is $12.50/yard.

Goods with Purpose.

Posted By: Shorty Long
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2015 at 7:20am
is $12.50/yd reasonable? i think standard selvedge denim ranges from $10-$15, but i could be mistaken

Posted By: Boyo
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2015 at 8:35am
Peaceful thoughts to Mildred^

Posted By: Shorty Long
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2015 at 10:40am
Ugh...I'm ashamed for not expressing my sympathies for Ms. Bolen's illness in my previous post. I hope she can find some comfort and happiness moving forward.

Posted By: bumrush
Date Posted: 04 May 2016 at 2:54pm
Not sure how long this has been the case, but it appears that Cone is now selling rolls of various selvege denim and some shirting fabrics via their White Oak website:" rel="nofollow -
"The White Oak Shop is Cone Denim® Mill’s exclusive online storefront offering up select styles of our premium selvage denim’s in personal-sized quantities to fellow denim enthusiasts and aspiring designers."

Posted By: Joseph Hill
Date Posted: 05 May 2016 at 7:11am
It's nice to see.  They could learn a little from PBD about pictures of the material though.  It's tough buying fabric over the internet.  Sharp magnifiable pictures front and rear are a necessity.

My coat has nine buttons, but I always fascinate.

Posted By: indigo_eagle
Date Posted: 01 Nov 2016 at 8:08am
The parent company of Cone Mills (something like Internation Textile Group) has been sold to a Private Equity company (I think Platinum).
Let's see, what will happen to US made Cone denim.

Posted By: Bob Dale
Date Posted: 06 Dec 2016 at 8:18pm" rel="nofollow -

thought this was kind of cool - 95th anniversary of the 'rope dying' patent

Posted By: gcdrygoodsco
Date Posted: 22 Mar 2017 at 8:07am
According to Victor from Raleigh Workshop, Cone has made a very small batch of Black Warp/Black Fill denim in the Draper weave room that will be available through specific brands in limited quantities.  Definitely the most interesting denim I've heard of, although not especially a fan of black over blue, but I believe it will do well in the marketplace.  Keep an eye peeled!

Posted By: Dr_Heech
Date Posted: 26 Oct 2017 at 12:30am
Originally posted by indigo_eagle indigo_eagle wrote:

The parent company of Cone Mills (something like Internation Textile Group) has been sold to a Private Equity company (I think Platinum).
Let's see, what will happen to US made Cone denim.

Well now we know for sure what will happen to it: Closing down by December 31st this year, allegedly.

Posted By: Dr_Heech
Date Posted: 03 Nov 2017 at 9:33pm
Something to chew over.

Borrowed from Heddels:" rel="nofollow -

Posted By: Shorty Long
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2019 at 6:51pm
Looks like the looms from the White Oak plant will remain in NC start producing denim again in the future." rel="nofollow -

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