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Archive for January, 2010

We’re fond of telling anyone who will listen about the roots of Ohio Knitting Mills- and so we hope a few people in the world know that we were founded in Cleveland, Ohio in the year 1927 by Harry Stone and his business partner, Walker R. Woodworth.

Harry Stone, c. 1932. Yes, this is a knit portrait.

Over the next some months we’ll share in this blog more of the authentic and colorful history of our amazing company- the people, the times, the products, and the legacy that came to be “America’s knitting mill”. These are stories of more than just a factory and a business: OKM was one of the most technically sophisticated textile design houses in the world, and was an important contributor to the emergence and mainstreaming of that most American of fashion genres: sportswear. So, let’s get into our way-back machine, shall we…..

Harry and Walker started their knitwear careers working for Rich-Sampliner Knitting Mill; Walker was the production manager, and Harry was in the field as one of the salesmen.

A sales brochure from Rich-Sampliner Knit Goods, c. early 1920's

These two enterprising gents struck out on their own in 1926 when the Rich Co. fell on hard times. They pooled all their resources, which basically was Harry’s automobile, and Walker’s $500, and they started their own knitting mill, which was originally called the Stone Knitting Mill. They set up their operation in a vast industrial complex, the National Screw and Tack Building, located in Cleveland’s cacophonous industrial east side.

The vast National Screw Builoding housed many industrial businesses in the 1920's; including Stone Knitting Mill.

Walker was the inside man, running the nuts and bolts of the operation, and Harry was the outside man, traveling throughout the Midwest and East coast meeting with customers and selling their lines. They specialized in menswear- both worsted wool sweaters for fall/winter, as well as cotton short sleeve shirts. The young business thrived, and by the early 1930’s, in spite of the economic hardships of the Great Depression, the Mill was employing close to 1,000 workers.

For much of the 20th Century, Cleveland had a thriving garment industry; estimated to be second only to New York at various times. The city was home to over 25 knitting mills, as well as large factories producing coats, dresses, suits, hosiery, millinery, etc, as well as much of the support industries that made garment production possible- yarn spinning, dye-houses, cut & sew shops, notions, finishers, and machine manufacturers (White Sewing Machines was a Cleveland-based company back then).

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