Stewart Bell Jr. Archives
Monday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
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
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.
BOX 1 Berkeley, Crawford, Dunn Woolen Companies
Real Estate Deeds & Leases, 1942-1949
Berkeley Woolen Booklet, c. 1936
Charter amendments, stock, etc., 1914-1948
Financial records, 1942-1952
Group Insurance Plans
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
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
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
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
Sale to Lee Industries, 1956-1958
Sjostrom, Ludwig - salary dispute and article
Stock sales and correspondence
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):
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
1942-January, February (2 copies), March (2 copies), April (2 copies),
May through December
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):
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
M. 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):
Contract of sale (includes the following):
Tenant Prospects (includes the following):
Preservation Plan (includes the following):
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)
- 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
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 and other images belonging to this collection may be accessed online through http://handley.pastperfectonline.com/