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ITASCA COTTON MANUFACTURING COMPANY

ITASCA COTTON MANUFACTURING COMPANY. Until 1900 raw cotton grown in Hill County had to be shipped to the coast and from there to the East for processing. The Itasca Cotton Manufacturing Company was organized at Itasca, Texas, on March 6, 1900, to meet the need for a local processing facility. Many of the stockholders were members of the Files family, which had been prominent in local affairs since the 1850s, and family members managed the ICMC during its sixty-seven years of operation.

From the beginning, the mill was a vertical operation that processed raw cotton by dyeing, spinning, and weaving it into finished fabrics. Initially the mill produced drill to be made into overalls and sheeting for flour sacks. It began production with 100 bales of cotton on September 7, 1901, and operated with 6,000 spindles and 200 thirty-six-inch plain Mason looms powered by steam engines. In 1902 the ICMC board decided to build a mill village to provide low-rent housing for the workers. When a child was accidentally killed while playing in the mill area, the board took out its first employees' liability insurance. The company houses were provided with free water and sewerage, and also free electricity as soon as the mill itself was electrified in the 1920s. In 1906 the board added a nondenominational church and a schoolhouse to the mill village. Occasionally whole families were employed by the mill, and many employees worked for the company their entire lives.

For the first fourteen years the company's fortunes fluctuated widely. At times the ICMC was close to bankruptcy; at other times it was fairly prosperous. World War I, however, brought solvency to the company by generating a great need for cotton duck, the heavy fabric used to make army tents. The government bought Itasca's entire output during the war years. Subsequently, the mill erected another building and added more looms. In addition to duck and sheeting, it began to produce ratiné, a popular dress fabric, in the 1920s. In 1922–23 Itasca added more looms and spindles and purchased adjacent acreage. The mill continued to prosper until the Great Depression, during which the facility was closed for a while. By 1940, however, ICMC was in full-time operation again, producing a wide variety of clothing fabrics in addition to duck and sheeting. During World War II the company was again converted to making duck for the government and operated day and night.

After the war the growth of labor unions and the synthetic fiber industry beset the mill. By the mid-1950s the company was losing money, and plans were made for liquidation. The plant was shut down in 1959. The company dissolved on March 27, 1967. The ICMC was founded partly in order that area farmers might have a local market for their cotton. By the time the company was dissolved farming in the area had become much more diversified, and the relatively small mill could not compete with larger mills, particularly those that were parts of multipurpose corporations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Ellis Bailey, A History of Hill County, Texas, 1838–1965 (Waco: Texian Press, 1966). Hill County Historical Commission, A History of Hill County, Texas, 1853–1980 (Waco: Texian, 1980). Itasca Cotton Manufacturing Company Papers, Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University.

Sara Hamilton

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Sara Hamilton, "ITASCA COTTON MANUFACTURING COMPANY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dli01), accessed April 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.