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What was the Wilmington Hosiery Mill?

Ben Steelman
Wilmington Hosiery Mill

The former Wilmington Hosiery Mill. (Courtesy New Hanover County Public Library, Louis T. Moore Collection)

Located at 1018 S. Fifth Ave., Wilmington [Map this], the Wilmington Hosiery Mill was incorporated shortly before World War I. In 1915, the Wilmington News-Dispatch reported “satisfactory” progress on the construction of the mill building.

The company’s president and treasurer was John Henry Kuck (1865-1947), a native of Hannover, Germany, who had previously been owner of Kuck Knitting Mills. H.F. Martinat was plant superintendent.

The “hosiery” it made were knit socks. In April 1917, the Wilmington Morning Star reported the mill had landed a lucrative contract to make 10,000 pairs of socks for the U.S. government.

The plant employed 100 workers, of whom 85 were women, according to statistics from the N.C. Department of Labor. Wages were $2 “semi-monthly” for women workers and between $3 and $7 for men for the same two-week period, according to the Labor Department. At its peak during World War I, the mill operated 94 knitting machines.

In 1921, Kuck took a leave of absence from the company to travel to Germany, seeking treatment for an unspecified stomach disorder. Soon afterward, the company was forced to file for bankruptcy, as a result of the 1922 collapse of the Commercial National Bank of Wilmington.

 (The collapse led to the trial of former bank president William B. Cooper, a onetime president of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and lieutenant governor of North Carolina from 1921 to 1925, on charges of making false entries in the corporate books. His conviction was overturned on appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

In 1924 S.B. Bear & Sons bought the remaining property of the Wilmington Hosiery Mill at public auction for $7,000. The company had originally been capitalized at $132,000.

Kuck’s personal fortune apparently survived the bankruptcy. In 1930, his daughter Helen was presented at the annual debutante ball in Raleigh. The Kuck family home at 518 Grace St., Wilmington [Map this], still stands.

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One Response to “ What was the Wilmington Hosiery Mill?”

  1. On November 15, 2010 at 10:51 am Bill Turner, wrote:

    Thanks Ben, Good answer for my Question. I Have a Picture of the Mill, … I grew up in that area… Bill

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