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Women showing how their jobs were performed. Photo courtesy: Tallapoosa Museum

An early gold mining town in Haralson County, Tallapoosa’s easy access to the Tallapoosa River and the Georgia Pacific Railway made it an ideal place for cotton manufacturing. Due to the low cost of shipping and building in the city and the presence of a ready workforce, Tallapoosa became home to several cotton mills. Cotton manufacturing brought new commerce and jobs to the city.

Alliance Knitting Company, Tallapoosa’s first cotton mill, opened in the 1890s. Women and children were hired to spin, knit, and weave cotton, wool, and silk fibers. Between 1900 and 1908 Kimball Knitting Company, producer of ribbed hosiery, and Tallapoosa Cotton Mills began operating. By the 1920s, the mill employed 200 local residents many of whom lived in the mill village consisting of more than 100 homes.

The Jackson brothers, owners of Tallapoosa Mills, sold their majority stock holdings in the company to the William Whitman Company, after World War I, but the organization remained mostly unchanged. At the beginning of the Great Depression, C. E. Pearce continued to serve as manager of the cotton mill and A. V. Howe, one of the original organizers and officers, served as president. After operating part-time during the Depression, the mill closed in 1939 due to economic decline.

The northeastern-based American Thread Company (ATCO) purchased Tallapoosa Mills in 1943 to make combed cotton yarn and reopening the mill on January 28, 1944. World War II ended in 1945 and ATOC expanded the Tallapoosa plant in February 1947. The three-story extension of 110,000 square feet was built next to the original building, adding 25,000 spindles.

Manufacturing volume increased by 140 percent as did the number of employees, rising from 315 to 680. In 1959, ATCO expanded operations once again. To help promote ATCO brand yarn in the 1940s and 50s, the ATCO franchise published a series of knitting and crocheting pattern books, called “Star Books.” ATCO’s Tallapoosa mill closed early 1980s, the last textile manufacturer to close in the city. Today we can only see the remnants of this and other textile mills within Tallapoosa, Georgia through photographs.

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