1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Sayles Biltmore Bleacheries


 Business records, 1921-1960

 Size: 3.5 ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 6 sg 28

 Processed by: Harold E. Kemble, Jr., August 1977

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            As the decline of the New England textile industry deepened, Sayles Finishing Plants looked at the southern states for a place to which to relocate. Labor costs were found to be much lower there in New England and the labor force was not as extensively unionized. The textile industry also viewed such a move as reducing costs by bringing their manufactories nearer both to the sources of much of their raw materials and to their principal markets, which had shifted to the Mid-West and the West.

            In 1913 Sayles found and purchased for their future plant a large tract of land near the town of Asheville, North Carolina. The company's intention to relocate was carefully withheld from the public; the purchase was made by a land company set up for that purpose and made up of local people. Not until 1923 was the move announced and a new manufacturing company, the Sayles Biltmore Bleacheries, incorporated. Construction on the plant and the new village for the mill workers was begun in 1925 and the plant began operating in 1927, bleaching and finishing cotton fabrics. This company was closely run as a subsidiary of Sayles Finishing Plants, Inc. Unlike other Sayles subsidiaries which had their officers, the executives and Directors of Sayles Bilmore Bleacheries were the incumbent officers and directors of Sayles Finishing Plants, Inc.

            The ultimate failure of the Biltmore plant is attributable to a curious combination of factors arising in part from the vertically integrated organization of Sayles Finishing Plants. Sayles Biltmore was not built to manufacture "grey" goods but to bleach and finish the grew goods made by other mills. They were dependent for their trade upon converting companies whose business it was to purchase grew goods and have them "converted" through bleaching, dyeing, printing, etc. to finished goods at mills like Sayles Biltmore. It must have seemed at the time like sensible management for Sayles Biltmore to depend for most of their finishing work on contracts with the American Bleached Goods Company of New York, another Sayles-owned company; at one time as much as sixty percent of their grey goods came through A.B.G. commissions. Being entirely dependant upon the manufactures of others, companies like American Bleached Goods declined at a sometime faster rate than the manufacturers during the decade of the 1950s. In 1951 "various mills" apparently combined to boost the price of grey goods by reducing their production, a crippling blow to A.B.G. As A.B.G. declined it began losing more money for Sayles than Sayles Biltmore could make for them. It was decided that because of their symbiotic relationship both companies had to be disposed of. The Sayles Biltmore Bleacheries mill and property were sold in May 1960 to the Dan River Mills Company. The company itself was dissolved in December 1961, as was the American Bleached Goods Company.


"Sayles News," especially Volumes IX and X.

Rhode Island Historical Society, Manuscript Collections. Inventories of MSS 6, Sayles Finishing

            Plants collections, sub-groups 1 and 3.

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Scope and content:

            This collection consists of business records produced by the Sayles Biltmore Bleacheries of Asheville, North Carolina, 1920-1961. The company finished "grey" cotton goods manufactured in other mills. The most important of these surviving records are the Superintendent's Book, 1921-1928; the Instructions book, 1925-1932; and the Finish Formulae books, 1931-1949. These provide information about the Sayles company's reasons for moving to North Carolina; details of the legal and contractual arrangements made concerning the purchase of the land and construction of the plant and the village; procedures to be followed and processes to be used in the daily operations of the mill.

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Processing note:

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Item 1. Superintendent's Book. C 100  Dec 1921 - Mar 1928
Item 2.  Instructions. C 100 Jun 1926 - Oct 1926
Item 3. Instructions. 4 Mar 1927 - Mar 1932
Item 4.  Finish Formulae. D 5 (D 7 Starch Formulae) Oct 1931 - Oct 1937 
Item 5. Finish Formulae. D 5 Aug 1933 - Feb 1949
Item 6. Voucher Register and Cash Sheets Jan 1927 - Dec 1930
Item 7. General Ledger Mar 1935 - Sep 1950
Item 8. General Ledger. Lorraine Division Accounts Jan 1954 - Jun 1960
Item 9. Intercompany Invoices Approved and Journalized at Saylesville Jun 1943 - Dec 1948
Item 10. Cost Estimates for Repairs and Alterations May 1940 - Apr 1948
Item 11. Lunch Counter Club Monthly Statements 1936 - 1949
Item 12. Reprints of Advertising. includes American Bleached Goods c. 1941 - 1951
Item 13. Reprints of Advertising  c. 1951 - 1953
Item 14. Scrapbook (publicity, clips from the Sayles News, newspaper accounts, memoranda having to do with Sayles Biltmore Bleacheries) 1923 - 1931


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African Americans - Employment.

American Bleached Goods Company.


Business records - North Carolina - Asheville.

Cotton finishing - North Carolina - Asheville.

Fessenden, Samuel M.

Harman, Ethelbert, d. c.1950.

Lorraine Manufacturing Company.

Manley, John W.

Sayles Finishing Plants.

Textile industry - North Carolina - Asheville.

Wood, Kenneth Foster, 1873-1925.

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