by F. Marie Foley
The following synopsis of the history of
Auburn Hosiery Mill appeared in Gerber's Newsletter to their employees in the Spring of
1998. It was written by F. Marie Foley shortly after Gerber's purchase of Auburn Hosiery
Mills (Auburn & Adairville plants) and their sister company in Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry,
Ireland. The history of the Mills was further updated in 2005.
"It was in 1937 that Auburn Hosiery Mill went into
operation as a company engaged in the manufacture of womens silk hosiery. Only the
knitting was done locally; the production of the Auburn plant was sent to Belding,
Michigan for dyeing and finishing.
The initial work force was 30 persons who were paid
at a rate of $1.00 per day for women and $1.50 per day for men.
The building occupied by the company was an example
of cooperation between the city and industry. Constructed by the Auburn Industrial
Foundation, one of the first in the state, it was leased to the company until 1946, at
which time the Mill purchased the building and launched an expansion program which was to
take several years and more than double the floor space. Roger Kimball, President of the
Company was known to Logan Countians as a man with a restless, energetic mind who set for
him and his company high standards of performance.
As early as 1944, the company set up a profit sharing
plan. The company made all contributions to the fund. By 1962 the fund contained
more than $265,000.00, which was available to employees as loans for
construction of homes. Company contributions at the time were being made at the
maximum allowed by the U.S. Treasury Department, 15% of wages paid to employees.
Many employees were able to buy or construct homes as
a result of this plan.
In 1946 the Adairville Plant was opened as a knitting
operation. This plant was known as Auburn Hosiery Mills #2 and was located in
the west corner of Railroad And Gallatin Streets. It is said to have been
established due to the persistence of a Mrs. Frances Mason Rice. Equipment to manufacture the new seamless hosiery was installed. After two
years the then new seamless stockings failed to be popular, and the mill was converted
back to the old flat bed knitting machines, knitting conventional hosiery, replacing the
state of the art multifeed circular knitting machines. It was not until 1956 that
hosiery of the seamless variety became vogue and the plant was re-converted.
In 1951, the Auburn Dyeing and Finishing Co. was
formed to dye and package the product of both mills.
In 1962 after 25 years in operation, sales had
reached the highest peak in the history of the company, 22,000 dozen pairs a week. Brands
from Auburn were named Auburn, Lareine, and Promenade.
Soon, more and more shipments were going out to large outlets, which then sold the
made-in-Logan County hose under their own labels.
Most of this history is very familiar to me. My father
after retiring from farming was an employee of Auburn Hosiery Mills for many years.
In 1978 Roger Kimball sold the business to Mr. James P.
Manning and Mr. Hugh Sears, which at this time
was still a sheer hosiery operation.
In November 1988 the Adairville plant was expanded by
30,000 sq. ft. to house the facilities for manufacturing Wilson Sport Socks for
the United States and European markets. This expansion went into production on
July 5, 1989.
In April 1989 James P. Manning became the sole owner of
Auburn Hosiery Mills, Inc.
Also in 1989 the company began to phase out the sheer operation
and changed over to socks, which was completed by 1995. During this period there has been
phenomenal growth experienced by the company.
The city of Auburn and Auburn Hosiery Mills have had a long
and fruitful relationship. We have every reason to believe that this relationship will
grow and prosper in the future with Gerber Childrenswear."