James W. Cannon 1852-1921 and Charles A. Cannon 1892-1971 were a father and son team who wrote the
history of towel production in North Carolina. James W. was born in Mecklenburg County North Carolina to a
family of farmers and planters. He was educated in private school but withdrew in1866 at age 14 to begin work
in a store in Charlotte. In 1868, he joined Cannon, Fetzer and Wadsworth, a mercantile company in Concord
just a few miles north of Charlotte, where his brother was a partner. By age 21, James earned his way into a
partnership and acted in various capacities including cotton buyer. He was elected a director of the Odell
Manufacturing Co. in Concord in 1886. In 1887, he became interested in textile manufacturing and left his
brother’s firm to build a mill for spinning coarse cotton yarn, Concord Manufacturing Co. This led to the
formation of other mills: Cabarrus Cotton Mills founded at Concord, N.C., by J. W. Cannon and others;
Patterson Manufacturing Co. founded at China Grove, Rowan Co., N.C., by J. Frank Patterson, J. W. Cannon,
and others; Kesler Manufacturing Co. founded at Salisbury, N.C.
The expansion was due in part to the manufacture of something a little different. That product was termed
“Cannon Cloth”, a coarse cloth suitable for wiping. Meanwhile, in 1892, a son, Charles Albert Cannon, was
In the mid-1890s, James W. Cannon decided to manufacture cotton towels. In 1898, his mill produced the first
towel finished in the South. Other mills followed over the next ten years:
1898 Wiscassett Mills Company founded at Albemarle, Stanly County, N.C., by J. W. Cannon and D. F. Cannon.
1899 Windemere Knitting Mills established at Albemarle, Stanly County, N.C.
1899 Gibson Manufacturing Co. founded at Concord, N.C., by the Cannons and others.
1903 Bloomfield Manufacturing Co. founded in 1903 at Statesville, N.C.
1903 Windemere Knitting Mills became part of Wiscassett Mills Co.
1906 Franklin Cotton Mills established at Concord, N.C., by members of the Cannon family.
1907 Barringer Manufacturing Company founded.
About 1906, Cannon decided to build a mill and a town devoted exclusively to the manufacture of towels. He
named it Kannapolis after the Greek root, namely, city or place of Cannon. Kannapolis developed into the
largest unincorporated town in the world. Cannon built houses, schools, churches – everything needed for a
town. When the mill opened in 1908, it could produce more towels than any group of mills. In addition to being
a towel city, Cannon had done enough for his employees that Kannapolis was recognized as a model city.
The Cannon Mill manufactured a variety of cotton cloth into muslin and percale sheets and pillowcases, tire
fabrics, and women’s hosiery. Additional mills were opened and acquired:
1909 Imperial Cotton Mills founded at Eatonton, Georgia, by J. W. Cannon.
1911 Buck Creek Cotton Mills founded at Siluria, Ala.
1913 York Cotton Mills, York, S.C., purchased.
1915 Norcott Mills Co. established at Concord, N.C., with the Cannons and the Southern Power Co. among the
ca. 1915 Social Circle Cotton Mill Co., Walton County, Georgia, acquired by the Cannons.
1921 J. W. Cannon died. Son Charles Albert Cannon became company president. At this time, there were 12
mills that employed 15,000 workers with a sales of $40,000 000 per year. In Kannapolis, more than 300,000
towels were produced each day.
Charles did not stop and rest on his father’s laurels. Further expansion was required to keep up with the
growing prosperity of the Roaring Twenties. More mills and acquisitions:
1923 Hobarton Manufacturing Co. founded at Concord, N.C., by Charles A. Cannon and others.
1923 Swink Manufacturing Co., Rowan Co., N.C., incorporated.
Consolidation was needed in order to bring order to the far-flung empire.
In 1928, Cannon Mills was formed from consolidation of Cannon Manufacturing Co., Cabarrus Cotton Mills,
Barringer Manufacturing Co., Franklin Cotton Mills, Gibson Manufacturing Co., Kesler Manufacturing Co.,
Patterson Manufacturing Co., Norcott Mills, and Hobarton Manufacturing Co.
In approximately 1928, Bloomfield Manufacturing Co., Statesville, N.C., was acquired by Cannon Mills. Swink
Manufacturing Company was dissolved in 1931 and assets taken over by Cannon and Swink.
1935 Issaqueena Mill, Central, S.C., purchased and became Central Mills. 1935 Bloomfield Manufacturing Co.
sold to J. W. Abernethy.
ca. 1944-1945 Plant at York, S.C., combined with Central Mills.
1947 Brown-Roberta Foundation established at Concord, N.C.
1949 Travora Textiles at Graham and Haw River, N.C., incorporated.
1956 Brown Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C., acquired by Cannon Mills.
1956 Roberta Manufacturing Co., Cabarrus County, N.C., acquired. 1957Central Mills closed.
1967 Travora Textiles at Graham and Haw River, N.C., liquidated.
ca 1970-1971Brown Manufacturing Co., Concord, N.C., closed.
The end of the golden era of Cannon control came in 1971 when Charles Albert Cannon died.
1971 Don S. Holt became president.
1974 Harold P. Hornaday became president.
1976 Imperial Cotton Mills at Eatonton, Georgia closed.
1978 Roberta Manufacturing Co. liquidated.
1979 Otto G. Stolz became president.
1982 David H. Murdock, purchased Cannon Mills.
1983 Social Circle Cotton Mill Co., Walton County, Georgia, liquidated.
1985-1986 Fieldcrest, Inc. purchased bath and bedding operations of Cannon Mills, and Fieldcrest-Cannon
Ingham, John N.,1983, Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, Greenwood Press.
http://historync.org/laureate%20-%20Charles%20Cannon.htm Biography of Charles Cannon.1892-1971
Kesler Cotton Mill Salisbury, NC 1895 – 2003 became part of Cannon then Pillowtex
http://www.answers.com/topic/cannon-mills-company Cannon Mills from Wikipedia
http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/nc_post&CISOPTR=288&REC=5 Color Postcard of
Cannon Plant - UNC
Page Copyright Gary N. Mock 2009-2012
If you can contribute added information, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
A view of the Cannon Main office in Kannapolis
with plant in the background. Note the large
sign with the Cannon logo and "Largest
Manufacturer of Towels in the World"
Source: UNC Postcard Archives
Modern logo 2008 from Fieldcrest web site
Kesler Manufacturing Co.,
Salisbury, NC, built 1895.
Later became Cannon Mill # 7
Closed August 2000
Source: Rowan County Public
Charles A. Cannon 1895-1971
Office in summer 2005 shortly
before demolition to make way for
the North Carolina Research
Source: Wikipedia Answers.com
Another view of the mill and sign.
Courtesy of Bill Wornall Textile
Aerial views of Kannapolis - City of
Looms. Note the pond on the right above
Courtesy of Bill Wornall
A postcard of the Salisbury Cotton Mill
Courtesy of Bill Wornall Textile Postcard Collection
Life Magazine 1933
Life Magazine 1935
Life Magazine 1943
Ads courtesy TJS-Labs
Right: Cannon Percale Sheets and How to
care for them in War Time
Life Magazine 1943
Royal Family towels
information sheet ca. 1960
Courtesy Ann Dingee
Click on images to enlarge
Left: "To Hell with Hitler Towel" 36
Cannon emblem woven in body by
Jacquard and name tag attached
Any ideas about this item?
Courtesy Barbara Vater