The mission of The Patch Works Art & History Center is to preserve, sustain, and maintain the historical identity, relevance, and integrity of Atlanta’s Cabbagetown—a resurging, 19th-century mill-town community impacted by major urban development—through exhibits of history and local art, and community-based public programs and events.
Over 100 Years Working With Cotton
Operations at the “Cabbagetown” (Fulton Mill Village) location continued for almost 100 years — from 1881 to 1981. The Elsas family owned the mill until 1956, after which ownership changed hands a few more times before the factory eventually shut its doors…
Please enjoy this timeline, which The Patch Works and its volunteer researchers compiled in 2017 (with information available at that time). Check back periodically, since some of the details might change: presenting history can be quite challenging; new facts — or a new perspective on facts — sometimes emerge.
|1842||Jacob Elsas is born Oct 6th in Wurtemburg, Germany.|
|1850||Population of Atlanta is 2,5691.|
|1861||• Civil War begins on April 12th.|
• Jacob Elsas arrives in America to work with an uncle in Cincinnati.
|1864||Confederate (Atlanta) Rolling Mill fire.|
|1864||Gen. Sherman orders Atlanta citizens to leave the city before burning it on his March to the Sea1 (paraphrase).|
|1865||• Civil War ends on May 9th.|
• Jacob Elsas opens retail store in log cabin in Cartersville, Georgia, selling general merchandise (he later builds the first brick store in Cartersville).
|1867||Jacob moves retail store to Atlanta.|
|1868||• Along with fellow German immigrant Isaac May, Jacob founds Elsas, May & Company.|
• Elsas, May and Company begins operating under the name of Southern Bag Manufactory, based in the Old Slave Market House at corner of Mitchell & Pryor Streets (there, cotton cloth is produced, bleached and finished for use in bag manufacturing).
• Jacob also establishes Elsas & Bro. (with his brother Isaac, selling discarded rags, paper and hides), Jacob Elsas & Co. and The Star Store (selling jeans).
|1876||Jacob Elsas purchases charter of Fulton Cotton Spinning Company for “$30” (as the legend goes, but sources suggest closer to $2,500) from H. I. Kimball and Clark Howell4, 5.|
|1881||• Atlanta Cotton Expo1|
• Jacob Elsas restructures all his businesses as Fulton Cotton Spinning Company.
• Jacob buys the site of the Atlanta Rolling Mill ruins next to Oakland Cemetery and constructs a new mill.
• Mill begins operations.
• Jacob develops mill town for workers (now Cabbagetown) — the earliest mill dwellings are built shortly after 1881.
|1882||A bleachery is added to mill4.|
|1885||Jacob helps found the Georgia School of Technology, leading the fundraising effort1.|
|1888||Isaac May dies.|
|1889||• Jacob builds a power plant and boiler house — containing the largest steam engine in the south — to power the mill.|
• Fulton Cotton Spinning Company’s name is changed to Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills on May 4th 3, 5
|1892||Grady Hospital opens its doors, with a $150,000 donation from Jacob Elsas to help establish it.|
|1895||2nd mill (today’s “H Building” at The Stacks) is built2.|
|1896||The mill employs nearly 700 people.|
|1897||First branch of plant opens in New Orleans after purchasing Delta Bag Company3.|
|1898||Second plant opens in St. Louis after purchasing Keokuk Bag Company3.|
|1900||Population of Atlanta is 89,872 according to the official census1.|
|1902||3rd mill (today’s “E Building” at The Stacks) is built4, 5.|
|1906||First bag factory in Texas opens in Dallas.|
|1914||• Jacob retires at 72 years old.|
• Oscar Elsas becomes President of Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills.
|1916||Plant opens in Brooklyn, New York (the plant is purchased elsewhere in New York in 19016 and moved to Brooklyn in 1916).|
|1917||Mill opens nursery for mill workers’ children4.|
|1920||Plant opens in Minneapolis.|
|1927||Plant opens in Kansas City, Kansas.|
|1932||Jacob Elsas dies on March 5th.|
|1941||Norman Elsas becomes President of Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills5.|
|1945||Plant opens in Denver after purchasing Grimes Bag Company3.|
|1948||Plant opens in Los Angeles after purchasing West Coast Bags4.|
|1950||• William Elsas becomes President of Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills.|
• Population of Atlanta is 331,314 according to the official census1.
|1951||Clarence Elsas becomes President of Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills — he was the last of the Elsas family to be head of the company.|
|1953||• Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills has between 2,200 and 2,300 workers in its Atlanta operations.|
• Outside Atlanta, it has 1,500 more workers.
|1953||New bleachery & finishing plant is built5.|
|1956||• Controlling interest of Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills is sold to three directors of the Dan River Cotton Mills of Virginia, who later sell off their shares to a group of investors headed by Jay Levine of New York.|
• The name is changed from Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills to Fulton Cotton Mills, a division of Fulton Industries, Inc.
|1958||• The last bag printed in the Atlanta operation comes off the presses on November 28, 1958.|
• The company decides to concentrate on the production of fabrics for use in industry — the new product line includes fabrics for the automotive field, mattress and pillow ticking, upholster goods, toweling and materials for such items as labels and books (a canvas lines is continued as well).
|1961||The Mill begins to sell its company-owned houses in the mill village — it offers the houses first to the tenants who are employees of the mill; remaining houses are sold to outside investors.|
|1968||• Allied Products Corp. buys Fulton Industries2.|
• Clarence Elsas retires, and for the first time in the 100-year history of the company, a person outside of the Elsas Family is elected president.
• Lloyd O. Harris remains the head of the company until 1971, when his position is assumed by Meno Schoenbach.
|1972||Fulton Industries is combined with Geneva Mills and becomes FabricsAmerica Corp.|
|1974||A recession hits the entire textile industry particularly hard, finally forcing the complete closing of cotton mill operations on October 11, 1974.|
|1978||Due to continued heavy losses, all finishing operations in the Atlanta plant are discontinued.|
|1981||• A small sewing operation, with 100 employees and concentrating on industrial and terry toweling, continues to operate in the Bag Factory building.|
• In July 1981, this operation closes down, leaving the mill completely without any manufacturing for the first time since 1881.
1Atlanta Historical Society, Inc. Datelines of Atlanta History, Part 2: 1866 – 1950. Atlanta: Atlanta Historical Society, 1980. Print.
2Source Unknown. Fulton Cotton Mills’ First 100 Years. 1970?
3Beatty, R. T. “Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills: A Pioneer Atlanta Industry.” Milling Production Aug. 1945: n. pag. Print.
4 Danforth, Ed. History of the Company. N.d.
5“Compounds Successful Operation Policy from Two Major Ingredients.” America’s Textile Reporter 21 May 1953: n. pag. Print.
6Jacob Elsas: An Historical Family and Business Timeline, 1842 to 2015. 5 Dec. 2015.