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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Sidney Smith, January 25, 1999. Interview I-0081. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

History of the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers

Smith describes the history of the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Sidney Smith, January 25, 1999. Interview I-0081. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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JM: I know you've prepared written pieces in various places that talk about the longer history of the association and so forth. Can you sketch the most salient parts of the trajectory of the Association across the last several decades? What course of the fortunes of the Association-- SS: It was formed in 1905 by a group of national, large companies in the hosiery industry. They could see, looking at other industries, that there were some industries that had coalesced together starting in the late 1800s in manufacturing trade organizations to represent the interests of that industry. In textiles and apparel there were some organizations that came before 1905 and there were some that came after 1905. It cropped up in a very fertile era for the development of industry groups. When they first started, it was run day to day by active mill owners, out of their own offices. There was no staff. There was no home headquarters or anything. If my recollection is correct, the first secretary, if you will, to the organization was a mill owner in Tennessee. Then it was transferred to and set up with a full-time headquarters and a full-time paid staff in Philadelphia, which was viewed as a central location between north and south because there was a lot of northern activity in manufacturing still in place and southern as well. Then in time it was moved from Philadelphia to New York because that's where the market week is. That's where you would make sales. So, they transferred it to New York in the '30s, I believe. In the mean time, a Southern Hosiery Manufacturers Association had sprung up, headquartered in Charlotte. There developed some tugging of war, if you will, between the two. Many of them were the same people, but then there were some that said, “I'm not going to be a member of the national.” Others said, “I'm not going to be a member of the southern,” so you ended up with two organizations. Finally, in about 1953, the two organizations merged. The national was the surviving entity and had two offices, one in New York and one in Charlotte. In 1956, marketplace changes had occurred and they closed the New York office and therefore, it was headquartered in Charlotte and has been ever since. Another big thing that the Association did was the year after they were formed, in 1906, they started a trade show of machinery, of yarns and chemicals. It was started in Philadelphia. It was called the Knitting Arts Exhibitions, KAE. Other industry segments from knitting, knitted outerwear, knitted underwear, sweaters, and there two organizations looked at hosiery group and said, “This is great. Why don't we all go into together?” So, we merged with them as far as the show. The Knitting Arts Exhibition grew, and by the 1930s it had been moved to Atlantic City in the big convention hall right on boardwalk where the Miss America pageant is always held. It was a huge operation. It provided a financial wherewithal that all three associations could count on. But, by the 1970s, Atlantic City was in disarray. It was a very unattractive place to attend, to go to. Most of the hosiery interests had relocated down south out of the New York area. Our members kept telling us, “We want out of Atlantic City. Move the KAE. Put it in Atlanta. Put it somewhere else. Let's just get it closer to home and out of this unsavory Atlantic City environment.” It was before the renovation of Atlantic City. The two partners would have nothing to do with it. They did not want to move. So, after the 1979 KAE was over, we turned to them and said, “We give it to you. It's yours. You can have it. We're walking away and we're coming down to Charlotte, North Carolina. We're starting a new thing called the International Hosiery Exhibition.” We started our own trade show. It has been held every two years and is in the process of being shifted to an every three-year cycle right now. It has been our show. We run it. We have no partners and it has been an excellent vehicle first and foremost as a way of getting technology in front of our people. It's been an excellent vehicle to get exhibitors to show their wares to the entire hosiery industry literally world wide, but particularly throughout the western hemisphere. It certainly has been a strong asset for the Association itself, which is another added on benefit that the Association does.