|Stock certificate for Rosman Knitting.|
Hosiery mills were a common industry during
the first half of the 20th century.
There were well over a hundred hosiery mills in North Carolina. Although the
majority were located in Alamance, Guilford,
Catawba, Randolph, Davidson, and Burke Counties there were two hosiery mills in
The Rosman Knitting Mill operated for only a couple of years
in the 1930s but Wheeler Hosiery was a thriving business in Brevard for 18
Alfred W. Wheeler had worked for Chipman Knitting of
Pennsylvania before owning and operating a hosiery mill in East Flat Rock. In 1936 he leased, and later purchased, the
Joiner Building on West Main Street in Brevard.
Wheeler’s son, George, supervised remodeling and machinery
installation. George Wheeler managed the
plant which employed approximately 70 people.
|The former Wheeler Hosiery building is Rice Furniture today.|
Within two years the Wheelers had purchased the Kilpatrick
Building on Caldwell Street in order to expand production of high grade full
fashioned silk hosiery for women. They installed dye and finishing equipment allowing
their product to be market ready from Brevard.
Employment was increase to about 85 people, working three shifts.
Originally the hosiery was made of rayon, before switching to nylon. During WWII the
military used nylon for parachutes so the hosiery industrial returned to using
rayon and cotton for their products.
Wheeler also changed to 12-hour shifts during WWII.
In 1947 workers at the mill voted 54 to 24
to join the American Federation of Hosiery Workers labor union. In October 1951 Chipman Knitting purchased Wheeler Hosiery. They continued to
operate it under the Wheeler name.
The Winter-Spring 1953 Employment Security Commission
of North Carolina newsletter stated that Wheeler’s Hosiery “operated 72 full
fashioned hosiery machines producing ladies’ hosiery, chief brand of which is
Wheeler. Products are sold to jobbers,
chain stores, and department stores.”
Wheeler Hosiery closed in October 1954 due
to over-production and the need for machinery upgrades. The mill employed 60 people at that time. In April 1955 there was an attempt to re-open
the mill. It appears they were
unsuccessful as the 12,500 square foot building was sold to Pearlman’s
Furniture in June 1956.
Photographs and information for this column are provided
by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library
hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional
photographs. For more information,
comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-3151 X242.