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Trion Cotton Mill 1st Shift, 1940

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When I first saw this image, it propped up on the bumper of a Jeep Wrangler in a fuzzy cellphone snapshot. Because of its delicate condition, Picnooga had it removed from its frame and professionally photographed. It will be reframed using quaility materials to ensure its future preservation.

Yard-long company photographs like these were popular from the early 1920s into the early 1950s. It was a novel and effective way to capture a large workforce in one shot. This image only features the Trion Cotton Mill’s first shift. Click the image below for a closer view. *Image courtesy of Keith Thomas of Waterville, Cane Creek, and Halls Valley History.

Some history about the mill…

“Incorporated in 1869, the textile industry in Trion began with the first cotton mill in northwest Georgia, Trion Factory, in 1847. The original mill included 600 spindles and employed 40 people to produce yarn and osnaburg sacks for the local wheat crops.

During the Civil War. Trion Factory had a contract with the Confederacy to manufacture course woolens for the soldiers. Spared from the destruction of the war, Trion Factory later burned in 1875 possibly due to an arsonist. Forming a new company, Trion Manufacturing Company, the mill owner constructed a new two-story brick building and began producing indigo denim. In 1889, the company added a second mill and a third mill in 1900.

By 1912, the mills belonging to the Trion Manufacturing Company were in decline. Benjamin D. Riegel, a New York businessman, purchased the mills and renamed the company Trion Company. Both the mill and the town prospered during this period. In 1931, a glove mill employing over 900 young girls opened prompting the building of Leila Riegel Hall in 1934, a dormitory to accommodate any single girls working for the company. Later the building became the Trion Inn.

In 1934, the plant closed for a third time in its history due to the General Textile Strike of 1934. “Flying Squadrons” of union activists, traveled to Trion to encourage other textile workers to join them. Met with violence from local authorities, on September 5, a deputy opened fire on two strikers. In Trion that at least 22 people died or received injuries during the strikes. The mill remained closed for six weeks.

Presented with the prestigious Army-Navy E Award in 1943, Trion Company and its employees produced 50 million yards of herringbone for use in making fighting uniforms, 4 million yards of tent twill, and over 7.5 million yards of material for gun patches, during World War II. The Glove Mill also produced over 7.5 million dozen gloves for the armed forces.

In the late 1940s, the Trion Company and Ware Shoals Manufacturing Company became Riegel Textile Corporation. Various machinery upgrades and mill expansions are made through the 1950s and 60s. In 1971, the mill began producing denim fabrics.

Unlike other textile mills, Mount Vernon Mills business was still steady in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1985, R. B. Pamplin Sr., owner of Mount Vernon Mills purchased the Riegel Textile Corporation. In 1991, the company modernized and still produces over a million yards of denim a day as of 2015.”

http://westgatextiletrail.com/trion/
Early aerial view of Trion Mill and housing. Photo courtesy: Trion Public Library

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