February 10, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
James Cannon

James William Cannon came of age in the Reconstruction Period of the South.
His schooling ended when the Civil War ended at the age of 13. There was distress and destruction everywhere. The war-torn South was a total economic disaster area.

Cannon began clerking in a general supply store for bed and board, earning nothing but his keep. He clerked until he had developed a successful business buying and selling cotton crops and opened a general merchandise store in Concord, North Carolina in 1877.

The South was still reeling from the devastation of the War. For ten years Cannon watched poverty-ridden farmers come to his store and pay high prices for commodities imported from the North, particularly cloth manufactured out of cotton they ad sold for pennies a pound.

Like other men of the day Cannon realized that the South must have industry, not just agriculture. He studied the small mills around Concord with the idea of starting mills to provide employment and rupture the high-priced competition. With $12,000 of his own money and $75,000 from the sale of stock he started Cannon Mills in 1887.

His product that first year was a cotton yarn and he then introduced a coarse grade of cotton known as Cannon cloth. In 1898 Cannon produced the first cotton hand towel produced in the South. He built a series of mills to produce the popular towels until 1905 when he purchased a 600-acre farm to build a state-of-the-art factory to produce hand towels.

A rambling company town soon formed on the farm to house Cannon's 20,000 employees. It was called Kannapolis (Greek for "loom city') as Cannon grew to be the largest of the manufacturers of household textiles. Cannon was able to make it all work because of integrity and industry. He had never played as a boy and never played as an adult. He had no hobbies, no form of recreation. He was not social, not public-minded, not inclined to publicity. "The less you say the less you will have to take back," said the man who presided over the mills until his death in 1921.

Much of the progress and development in household textiles is the result of Cannon's merchandising, advertising and research. He planned a vast consumer advertising program - unheard of in the textile trade - but couldn't come up with a way for people who liked his products to ask for them by name before he died.
It was left to one of his six sons to discover a way to sew the Cannon trademark to each towel and expand the immense textile business beyond even his father's vast vision.


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