Virginia Woolen Mills Company Records

Stewart Bell Jr. Archives Room
Handley Regional Library
Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society

P.O. Box 58, Winchester, VA 22604
(540) 662-9041 ext. 17
archives@handleyregional.org
www.handleyregional.org 

Virginia Woolen Mills Company Records
1119 WFCHS

Finding aid created by Archives Staff 01/90. Last revised 12/17

ACCESS RESTRICTIONS: Collection is open to all researchers. 

USE RESTRICTIONS: Restrictions may apply concerning the use, photoduplication, or publication of items in this collection. Consult a member of the archives staff for information concerning these restrictions. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of copyright.

EXTENT: 4.0 linear feet

DATE:  1900 – 1998

ABSTRACT: The woolen industry in Winchester, Virginia and Martinsburg, West Virginia began to develop in the late 1800s as investors and entrepreneurs recognized that the complex of railroads that served both towns made them ripe for industrial development. These businessmen established a number of Woolen Mills in the Northern Shenandoah Valley to make textiles for clothing, car upholstery and other products. For the first half of the twentieth century these mills prospered and were major employers in the area, especially during World War II when wool was in demand for uniforms and blankets. After the War, however, demand fell. This, along with foreign competition and changing consumer preferences led to closures, by the 1970s, no mills remained in the area.

SCOPE AND CONTENT: This extensive collection documents the histories of several woolen mills that operated in the Northern Shenandoah Valley region, including the Crawford Woolen Company, the Dunn Woolen Company, the Martinsburg Worsted & Cassimere Company, and the Berkeley Woolen Company. The bulk is from the Virginia Woolen Company of Winchester. The collection also includes records for the Varel Mill, a finishing plant established in Jefferson County, West Virginia in the mid-1940s. 

The materials in this collection include real estate records, plans, blue prints, correspondence, insurance and financial documents, minute books, shipping notices, and details of labor contracts and negotiations. The collection also includes some biographical information about the companies’ executives as well as insights into the lives of its employees through newsletters, articles, and scrapbooks.  There are also a number of catalogs for machinery and other services used in the mills’ operations. 

Wilbur S. Johnston used the materials in this collection to write Weaving a Common Thread: A History of the Woolen Industry in the Top of the Shenandoah Valley, published by the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society in 1990 and available in the Archives reading room, call number 975.5991 Joh. 

BIOGRAPHICAL/HISTORICAL: The woolen industry in Winchester, Virginia and Martinsburg, West Virginia began to develop in the late 1800s as investors and entrepreneurs recognized that the complex of railroads that served both towns made them ripe for industrial development. William Henry Crawford (1867-1914) of New Rochelle, New York, recognized these possibilities and in 1891 he established the Crawford Woolen Mill in Martinsburg. He was also a founder of the Virginia Woolen Company in Winchester, established 1900, and likely played a role in founding the Martinsburg Worsted and Cassimere Company, of which he was also president. By 1912, however, Crawford found himself deep in debt and was forced into bankruptcy and his assets sold. 

The failure of Crawford’s enterprises did not dampen interest in Woolen manufacturing in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. The Worsted and Cassimere Mill in Martinsburg later became the Dunn Woolen Company when Thomas L. Dunn (1854-1933), the plant manager for Crawford’s mills, was able to raise enough capital to purchase the Mill at the receiver’s sale in 1914.  Another group of investors purchased land, buildings and machinery that had once belonged to Crawford Woolen and, in 1914, began production as the Berkeley Woolen Company. The Virginia Woolen Company also prospered under the leadership of Hollie B. McCormac, Sr. (1875-1937). McCormac had begun his career as a mill employee and worked in every department of the mill. He earned the confidence of the mill’s directors and was himself elected to the directorate in 1912. He became the general manager in 1916. 

Woolen production in Winchester and Martinsburg continued to expand through the first half of the twentieth century and the mills were significant sources of growth and employment in both towns. The two World Wars boosted profits as the mills provided fabric for uniforms and blankets. Virginia Woolen also provided woolens to upholster car seats for an expanding auto industry and material for clothing, working with a New York Selling Agency to promote its products. 

After World War II the mills faced a decline as they had to switch back to peacetime production levels. This led to the merger of the Virginia and Berkeley companies in 1946 in an attempt to consolidate assets. The mills also faced increasing pressure from local authorities and citizens to limit pollution to the creeks and streams. In 1948 they established a modern waste treatment plant near Middleway in Jefferson County, West Virginia known as the Varel Mill to serve both the Berkeley and Virginia mills. 

Despite these measures the mills could not survive. Berkeley Woolen closed for good in 1948. Virginia Woolen lasted for another ten years, but the expense of establishing Varel and of transporting goods the distance from Winchester to Middleway eventually pulled it under. Dunn Woolen closed in 1952. The demise of these companies reflected a pattern in the woolen industry in the region and in the country as a whole. A growing preference for synthetic fabrics, a lack of capital to upgrade machinery, labor disputes, and foreign competition all combined to extinguish the woolen industry in the Valley by the 1970s. 

The buildings that once housed the Virginia Woolen Company in Winchester were used by Virginia Fruit Sales and as an annex for the Post Office after the mill’s closure in 1958. They were demolished in 1999 and the site is now occupied by the Timbrook Public Safety Center. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Wilbur S. Johnston, Weaving a Common Thread: A History of the Woolen Industry in the Top of the Shenandoah Valley (Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, 1990). 

CITE AS: Virginia Woolen Company, 119 WFCHS, Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA, USA. 

ACQUISITION INFORMATION: Acquired as a gift. 

ORGANIZATION

BOX 1                        Berkeley, Crawford, Dunn Woolen Companies

Berkeley Woolen: 

Real Estate Deeds & Leases, 1942-1949 

Berkeley Woolen Booklet, c. 1936 

Charter amendments, stock, etc., 1914-1948

Correspondence, 1942-1944

Correspondence, 1945

Correspondence, 1946

Correspondence, 1947-1948

Correspondence, 1949

Financial records, 1942-1952

Group Insurance Plans

Insurances, 1941-1948

Labor contracts and correspondence, 1945-1947

Labor contracts and correspondence, 1948

Minutes, financial statements, 1944-1949

New plant, 1945

Real estate – correspondence, 1949-1952

Real estate-correspondence, 1953-1956

Real estate-deeds and leases, 1942-1949

Real estate-leases and court cases, 1949-1955

Unemployment compensation, 1948-1949

Crawford Woolen:

Waybills, 1899

Dunn Woolen: 

Contracts and correspondence, 1916-1949

Dunn Family obituaries

Dunn News – company newsletter, May 1943-January 1947

Pamphlet – Modern Salt Brine Usage, 1946

Poem-“Three Score and Ten” to T. L. Dunn, 1924

BOX 2                        Varel Mills, Virginia Woolen Company 

Varel Mills:

Articles of incorporation, corporate and stock papers

Building, road, water, 1946-1948

Deeds-Riparian rights, 1946

Deeds/Riparian rights/Turkey Run tracts, 1947-1949

Deeds/Riparian rights, 1950-1956

Miscellaneous, 1948-1955

Taxes, 1947-1958

Virginia Woolen Company:

Acquisition of Berkeley and stock transfers, 1947-1949

Anniversary booklet, c. 1936

Anniversary program, 1900-1950

Bylaws, minutes, stockholders, 1946-1956

Christmas program, 1917

Deeds, correspondence, 1924-1953

General - November 1940 to December 31, 1950

General - January 1, 1951 to December 31, 1955

General - January 1, 1956 to May 6, 1958

Labor Agreements – 1944, 1947, 1954, 1956

Labor arbitration, 1948

Labor arbitration, 1954-1956

Labor contract correspondence, 1947-1948

Labor contract correspondence, 1949-1951

Labor contract negotiation papers, 1946-1951

Labor – miscellaneous

Pension plan

Sale to Lee Industries, 1956-1958

Sjostrom, Ludwig - salary dispute and article

Stock sales and correspondence

Taxes, 1942-1951

BOX 3                        Virginia Woolen Company 

News articles—Virginia Woolen Mill, printed (photocopy), unnumbered

Agreement Between Virginia Woolen Company and United Textile Workers of America, 1944, 1946, 4 items, printed

By-laws – February 6, 1952

Manual for Advanced Course in Cost, budgetary and Profit Control

Reports (profit, loss, actual costs, standard cost control) December 31, 1946-January 1, 1950

Shipping office manual

Spinning Efficiency and Woolen Production Process

Textile Industries, Woolen and Worsted Manual: Selected Articles, 1953, 1 item, 210 pages

Standard cost control system

Tax computations, inventory of pricing, profit control and job cost 

Clippings (folder includes the following):

  • Clipping, advertisement for Textile Machinery featuring carding machine, undated, 1 item, 20 x 34 cm, printed
  • Clipping, image of Davis & Furber 3-Cylinder Set of 60x60-Inch Woolen and Rayon Staple Fiber Cards, with Center-Draw Broad Band Intermediate Feed and Double-Apron Tape Condenser, 1 item, 10 x 20 cm, 21.5 x 28 cm, printed

Pages from manufacturing record (incomplete) for April 1958, 12 pages, 18.5 x 29.5cm, manuscript on lined paper 

BOX 3a          Virginia Woolen Company 

The Virginia All-Wool – employee newsletter, 17 items, printed

1941- December
1942-January, February (2 copies), March (2 copies), April (2 copies),
May through December
1946-December
1947-July

The Virginia All-Wool – employee newsletter 1943-44, 18 items

The Virginia All-Wool – employee newsletter 1945-47, 18 items

Leelon McNealy’s Recollections of the Virginia Woolen Company [1930s?], with notes, undated, 3 leaves, typescript

Addresses, Virginia Woolen Mill Employees Now Serving With the United States Armed Forces, dated prior to May 1, 1944, 1 item, 4 leaves, typescript, photocopy

Welcome to the Virginia Woolen Company—50th Anniversary Brochure with fabric sample, August 5, 1950; 2 items, printed

Virginia Woolen Company, Brief History, undated, 1 item, 28 leaves, typescript, photcopy

Notebooks used by Lynwood H. Newbraugh when he worked at the Woolen Mill as a carder from the 1940s until its closing (folder includes the following):

  • Notebook to record lay out for spinning, unused, 1954/55, 1 item
  • Notebook, personnel time record and stripping record, 1950-1953, 1 item, transcription
  • Notebook, personnel timekeeping record, circa 1955, 1 item
  • Notebook, carding department, employees rates, 1947-19511 item
  • Notebook, rates, 1951-1955, 1 item 

BOX 4            Scrapbook and Christmas Greetings to H. B. McCormac 

Scrapbooks, 1925-1950, 3 items

Berkeley Woolen Mill – Employee Christmas greetings to H. B. McCormac (Virginia Woolen Company employees) 1936. 1 item, leather-bound

Virginia Woolen Mill -- Employee Christmas greetings to H. B. McCormac (Berkeley Woolen Company employees), 1936, 1 item, leather-bound

BOX 5             Virginia Woolen Company 

Minute book, August 1, 1900 to July 1, 1924, 1 item, manuscript/typescript, bound, fragile

BOX 6             Published Catalogs 

  1. Byers, Wrought Iron for Radiant Heating, No date, 5 pages

Allan T. Shepherd Company, the Armstrong Steam Trap Book, 1951, 44 pages

American Power Transmission, The American Pulley Company, no date, unnumbered

The Anchor Packing co., Mechanical Packing for Every Purpose, no date, unnumbered

Approved Equipment for industrial Fire Protection, Associated Factory Mutual fire Insurance Companies, 1955, 180 pages

Approved Equipment for Fire Protection, Associated Factory Mutual Fire Insurance Companies, 1958. 184 pages

Detroit Steel Products Company, Fenestra Industrial Steel Windows, No date, 7 pages

Illinois Engineering Co., Illinois Selective Pressure Control, Heating System Specialties, Steam Specialties, 1948, unnumbered

Insul-Mastic Corporation of America, Insul-Mastic in Industry, 1952, 44 pages

Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., Control Buying Data, 1943, unnumbered

Davis and Furber Carding Machinery (North Andover, MA: Davis & Furber Machine Co., 1942), 1 item, 20 x 27 cm, 136 pages

BOX 7             Sales Offerings/Warehouse Information 

Sales Offering (includes the following):

  • Correspondence from R. J. Turner to Guy Martin, April 11, 1989
  • Maps-4 leaves-printed
  • Advertisement, Potomac Edison, n.d., 1 page
  • Document, sales offering, The Woolen Mill of Winchester, n.d. unnumbered
  • Article: “Winchester Woolen Mills, “ n.d. 2 leaves

Contract of sale (includes the following): 

  • Correspondence regarding real estate sale
  • Contract of sale documents
  • Letters of intent
  • Spreadsheet with fiscal information about Winchester Woolen Mills
  • Spreadsheets with tax information about Winchester Woolen Mills

Tenant Prospects (includes the following): 

  • General Correspondence Regarding Proposal of Property
  • Proposal From Douglas Legge to R. J. Turner, May 3, 1998
  • Articles regarding prospective tenants, flyers, brochures
  • Sector Notebook, Textile Industry, Standard Industrial classifications
  • Map n t., n.d. showing street of Winchester

Preservation Plan (includes the following): 

  • Agenda – Advisory Committee Meeting, November 24, 1998
  • Preliminary Draft from Strategic Land Planning, Inc. Issues that should be addressed – 15 top issues-Third Winchester Battlefield Preservation Plan, October 27, 1998. 2 leaves
  • Brochure: “Kernstown Battlefield Endangered”
  • Brochure: “Vision Valley Conservation Council”
  • Article: “PHW to City of Winchester Offer of $200,000, “ n.d. 2 leaves
  • Assessment, documentation, 12 leaves
  • 24 Articles/Newsclippings
  • Booklet: Business Week Architect
  • Article: “Little Plant on the Prairie, “ November 2, 1998
  • Article: “Condo Spec,” Forbes, Palmeri, Christopher, “ June 16, 1997, 2 pages
  • Article: “Finding an Unusual Location could Perk up a Small Business, “ Los Angeles Times, Applegate, Jane, 1 page
  • Article: “Planners Endorse Zoning Additions,” The Winchester Star, March 20, 1991, printed
  • Article: “A New Look for the Old Medical Center, “ The Winchester Star, Lazazzera, Teresa, March 20, 1991, 1 page
  • Article: “Partnership-From Bicycles to Buildings, “ The Winchester Star, Skinner, Tina, March 23, 1991, 1 page
  • Article: “Coded Message Spooking the Spooks,” Washington (AP) April 4, 1991, 1 page
    Brochure: “Allen Engineering, “ n.d., 1 page, printed
  • Article: “Woolen Mill Called Thread to Revitalization,” The Winchester Star, Hutchison, Grant, December 8, 1995. 2 leaved printed 

OVERSIZE 

MAPCASE 3, DRAWER 10 

Portion of map of Jefferson County WV, by S. Howell Brown, 1883, from actual survey

Berkeley Woolen Company, Martinsburg WV architectural rendering of plant, November 1, 1942, 1 leaf

Virginia Woolen Company, Winchester VA architectural rendering of main plant, July 21, 1952, 1 leaf (never constructed)

Blueprints
- Industrial waste treatment works-Virginia Woolen Company, Winchester, VA, Albright & Friel, Philadelphia, March 10, 1944 and September 11, 1945, 1 item, 11 leaves
- Industrial waste treatment works – Middleway, WV, Albright & Friel, Philadelphia, November 23, 1946 and March 10, 1947, 2 items, 14 leaves (constructed 1947-1948 0 Varel Mill)
- Details, no date, H.K. Gatley, consulting Engineer, Maplewood, NJ, 1 leaf

Framed Storage

Survey—Main Plant—Virginia Woolen Mill surveyed July 21, 1952 by R.F. Parker—on verso—
“Varal Plant”—Middleway, WV, Feb. 26, 1953 by G. Billings

Chart, Davis and Furber Woolen Spinning Frame Production Chart, 1 item,  27 x 34 cm

PHOTOGRAPHS 

Photographs belonging to this collection may be viewed using the PastPerfect database.