north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Born in Mecklenburg County, James William Cannon (1852-1921) moved at age sixteen to Concord where he clerked in a general store. Within three years he was a partner in the business and soon became a cotton buyer. In 1887 he organized a cotton mill, the forerunner of Cannon Mills.

     The first mill, with 4,000 spindles, opened the following year and operated until 2001 as Plant #2. By 1900 the company had factories in China Grove, Albemarle, Salisbury, and Mount Pleasant. Cannon’s marketing sense led him in 1898 to switch from his “Cannon cloth” to the manufacture of towels, for which the company became best known. The “model mill town” of Kannapolis, once among the largest unincorporated towns in the world, was built to further this line of business. His son Charles A. Cannon took over operation of the company on the elder Cannon’s death in 1921.

     By 1921 the company’s annual sales exceeded $40 million. Over 15,000 employees were working in the twelve mills. Production in time expanded to include sheets and other bedding and various other home products. The Cannon brand became one of the most familiar names in American consumer goods. Pillowtex Fieldcrest Cannon, the successor to Cannon Mills, closed operations in Kannapolis in 2001.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 320-321—sketch by Brent D. Glass
W. M. McLaurine, “James William Cannon” (Newcomen Society, 1951)
C. C. Crittenden, William S. Powell, and R. H. Woody, eds., 100 Years, 100 Men (1971)
James L. Moore and Thomas H. Wingate, Cabarrus Reborn: A Historical Sketch of the Founding of Cannon Mills Company and Kannapolis (1940)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


James W. Cannon

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources