As exciting as it is to find a piece of clothing for my collection, I am just as thrilled when a bit of printed matter concerning the textile industry comes my way. The Bur-Mil Review was the employee magazine published by Burlington Mills. It’s a great mixture of official company news and spotlights on the accomplishments of employees.
It was not unusual for companies to publish a magazine that was given out to all employees. The paper mill in the town where I grew up released a monthly journal called The Log. I’m sure that most of the attics or basements around here would produce a copy or two, mainly because so many of the employees got their picture in it over the years. And I bet the same is true in towns that had a Burlington Mills facility.
And there were quite a few towns and cities that had Burlington plants. It all started in 1923 when Spencer Love re-located some mill equipment he’d inherited to Burlington, NC. There he opened up a cotton weaving facility, but he had not counted on the competition and the changing times. But before going bust, Love did some research, and decided that rayon was the wave of the future. He was right, and Burlington Mills prospered.
The company grew, mainly by buying up other businesses that produced other products. By 1950 the company was quite diverse, making everything from cotton yarn to rayon ribbon. They made Galey & Lord printed textiles, and high grade rayon for lingerie and blouses. They had plants that produced nylon stockings, and in 1950 they were beginning production of a new fiber, Orlon.
I thought it was interesting that there were fashion pages in the magazine, but that was, after all, their business. I’m sure that many of the employees went to the department stores mentioned in the articles and bought the fruits of their own labor.
This article on Orlon was very interesting. It talked about all the advantages of the new fiber, and mentioned that it would not go into production until later in the year. And while Orlon was developed at du Pont, Burlington’s research labs had helped solve the problems associated with dying the fiber.
You might think that anyone working in the textile industry would know all about the day of a weaver, but even in 1950 Burlington was a huge, multi-faceted company. I’m sure many of the employees were never even near a loom.
Many mills did sponsor special activities like baseball teams and bowling leagues. Especially interesting were the bits about recent high school graduates in the mill community. Many had received scholarships and were headed off to college in the fall. Only a generation before there was no hope of a mill worker’s child gaining a higher education.
The Burlington Mills Bur-Mil logo is a familiar one to collectors of vintage lingerie. On many rayon items from the 1940s and early fifties, you will have the Bur-Mil logo along side the brand name.
Companies that used Bur-Mil fabrics often included this fact in their advertising. The suit ad above is from May 1950.
Note: It was a common practice, even through the 1970s, for a clothing manufacturer to collaborate with the fabric maker in their ads. Contrast that with common practice today, when clothing companies often don’t know a thing about the fabrics they use.