Burlington Industries, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of textiles and related products, received its name from the town of Burlington, North Carolina, where the enterprise was started and where the first small plant was completed in 1924.
J. Spencer Love, a young man recently home from World War I, was the founder. After the war, Love looked in vain for a job in the Boston area and finally located in Gastonia, North Carolina where an uncle owned a spinning mill.
After purchasing the mill, Love realized the mill’s real estate was worth more than the business itself. He sold the real estate, stored the machinery and went searching for a new location, finding enthusiastic help in Burlington. So the new company, “Burlington Mills,” was chartered on November 6, 1923.
That first plant, employing 200 people, was built in the middle of a cornfield and production started before the building was completed. Only half the weave room had a floor – the other half was mostly dirt.
The first products were flag cloth, bunting, cotton scrims, curtain and dress fabrics, as well as “birdseye” (a diaper cloth), all made of cotton.
A year later, many of these products were out of style. The young company tried new products, but business did not improve.
Almost in desperation, Love decided to try rayon instead of cotton. That was when rayon was only in its experimental stage. Burlington Mills began manufacturing rayon bedspreads, which became a big seller in the marketplace. Within a few years, Burlington was a national leader in rayon textiles.
Thirteen years after its founding, by year-end 1936, Burlington had 22 plants in nine communities, with sales of $25 million. The following year Burlington made its appearance on the New York Stock Exchange.
Burlington was growing so rapidly that new plants were built with one wooden wall which could be torn down on short order to add more floor space. It was the wooden wall that made Burlington plants easy to spot and was a signpost of the company’s post-war growth. In 1952, Burlington became the first textile firm to advertise on network television.
The name was changed to Burlington Industries in 1955.
Mr. Love, after guiding the company he founded for nearly 40 years, died in 1962. In the same year, Burlington was the first textile firm to pass the $1 billion mark in sales, and it was the first textile firm to attain $3 billion in sales in 1981. With the increased import pressures and changing global dynamics, Burlington entered into one of the biggest restructurings of its history in 2001 and was purchased in 2003 by WL Ross and Company. In March 2004 Burlington merged with Cone Mills to create International Textile Group, Inc (ITG).
Innovation, quality, and performance continue to define Burlington brand products today. The combination of Burlington’s deep textile heritage, innovative technologies and designs, and its vast global R & D and manufacturing platform provide customers leading solutions for performance and fashion-driven fabrics.