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Textile Highlights

Martinsville Cotton Mill  Fieldcrest Products  Martinsville Nylon Week
Martinsville Cotton Mill (c.1899)                      Fieldcrest Linens at a Greensboro Retailer      Display for Martinsville Nylon Week

1909 Robert L. Walker moved to Martinsville and founded the Martinsville Cotton Mill, located in the former Rucker & Whitten Plug Tobacco factory. 

1917 Chicago's Marshall Field & Company began construction of Fieldcrest Mills, a plant that would eventually cover four acres. Along with the mill also came the area's very first paved road, connecting Fieldale to Martinsville. 

1919 Fieldcrest Mills was one of the first textile mills in the area, producing towels. Marshall Field had created the largest retail and wholesale dry goods company in the world, and also the facilities needed to manufacture the merchandise it sold. 

1925 William L. Pannill relocated to Martinsville to found Pannill Knitting Company. This was the first mill in the South to knit cotton textiles (rather than spin yarn or weave cloth).

1928 Samuel Walker, who had been mentored by William L. Pannill, founded Virginia Underwear Corporation. The plant manufactured women's and boy's underwear and children's sleepwear. 

1937 William L. Pannill helped create Sale Knitting Company; operated by his son-in-law, Mike Sale, it manufactured fleece goods. Fieldcrest Mills began  distributing merchandise directly to retailers including Sears and JCPenney.

1939 Women's hosiery, a popular novelty, was presented at the World's Fair. The first pair to be made from nylon yarn manufactured in Martinsville was presented to Eleanor Roosevelt.

1941 Samuel Walker assumed leadership at Bassett-Walker Knitting Company E.I. DuPont De Nemours, Inc. chose Martinsville as the location for the world's largest textile nylon yarn factory.

1942 World War II required DuPont's sole focus to be shifted to production of nylon for parachutes.

1945 An expansion doubled DuPont's capacity; the plant capacity would later quadruple over the next few decades and employment was at over 4,000 people. DuPont closed its doors in 1998.

1953 Fieldcrest Mills began manufacturing sheets, blankets and bedspreads Virginia Underwear Corporation was renamed Walker Knitting Company.

Church Street in 1953     Bassett-Walker Layup
Church Street in Martinsville (1953)                Sale Knitting's 70's Fashions                          Layup Machine at Bassett-Walker (1979)

1957 L. Dudley Walker became president of Walker Knitting Company while his father was at the helm of Bassett-Walker Knitting Company.  

1960's Martinsville & Henry County manufactured 60% of the sweatshirts made in the world.

1964 After Samuel Walker's untimely death, his son, L. Dudley Walker became president of Bassett-Walker Knitting Company which was merged with Walker Knitting Company to become Bassett-Walker, Inc. Employment grew to more than 7,000 people manufacturing sweatshirts, jackets, knit slacks and t-shirts.

1968 Sale Knitting used 18 million pounds of cotton and synthetic yard and produced 24 million sweatshirts and sweatpants. Their color control department created and maintained 123 different colors that were a consistent match batch after batch. 

1971 Sale Knitting merged with the Henry J. Tulley Corporation and was renamed the Tultex Corporation in 1976.

1984 Bassett-Walker, Inc. was sold to the VF Corporation and ceased operation in 2002.

1986 Fieldcrest Mills acquired Cannon Mills, a chief competitor, and was renamed Fieldcrest Cannon.

1989 Pannill Knitting Company was purchased by Sara Lee Corporation and employed over 5,000 people. It ceased operation in 1994. 

1994 Diversified Distribution Inc. opened becoming one of the country's leading order fulfillment, logistics and warehousing companies for textiles and apparel. 

1995 Drake Extrusion opened becoming a supplier of polypropylene fiber worldwide to industries including automotives and home furnishings.

1997 Fieldcrest Cannon was bought by Pillowtex and operated until July 2003. Applied Felts, the world's leading cured-in-place (CIP) felt liner manufacturer opened a Martinsville plant.

2001 Nylstar, a global producer of nylon, opened a new state-of-the-art production facility in Martinsville.

2003 Solid Stone Fabrics begins manufacturing and distributing stretch fabrics for dance, team/spirit, costume, active apparel, swimwear and many other markets. 

2009 Nylstar was acquired by NILIT and became one of the world's largest nylon 6.6 producers for the apparel industry.  

2010 The Virginia Home Inn, a full service bed & breakfast, was opened in the restored 1920 Marshall Field & Company's Dormitory by Innkeepers William Lewis and Edward Lewis. 

2013 An initiative of the Deep Roots project, Martinsville-Henry County's Textile Heritage Trail opened. Later in the year, the trail won a MarCom Gold Award for interpretive signage design. Also, Solid Stone Fabrics announced an expansion that will result in 16 new jobs and a $1.0 million capital investment.