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  • The story of the cotton thread industry began in the town of Paisley, Scotland where weavers had begun to reproduce the rare Kashmir shawls of India at greatly reduced prices. Napoléon's blockade of Great Britain stopped imported supplies, including silk, which was necessary for the shawl industry in Paisley.

    James and Patrick Clark, operated a mill supply business in Paisley, Scotland. Patrick created a method of twisting cotton yarns together to produce a thread that was smooth and strong as silk that could be used by the weavers, but it was soon discovered that it was strong enough to replace linen and silk thread for hand sewing. Patrick Clark and his brother James opened the first factory for making cotton sewing thread in 1812. The familiar spool was not introduced until much later. In fact, the first thread was sold in hanks or skeins. To help his customers, Clark would often wind the skein on to a spool and charge them an extra half-penny which he refunded when the empty spool was returned to him.

  • Seeing the success of the Clark mill, another Paisley man started a similar enterprise in 1826. James Coats, a weaver, brought a sound knowledge of fine yarn twisting to the thread business. He prospered and built a small factory. Upon his retirement in 1830, his two sons, James and Peter, took over the company, which became J. & P. Coats.

    Around this time Clark's thread was introduced to the women of America, brought from Britain by sailing captains.

  • Both Coats and Clark firms sent members of their families to America to act as selling agents. Under the direction of these men, exports to the United States continued to grow until the outbreak of the War Between the States, when, because of the transportation difficulties and high tariffs, plans were made to manufacture in America. The Clark Thread Company opened its first plant in Newark, New Jersey in 1866.

  • Before the invention of the sewing machine by Elias Howe in 1860, all thread was for hand sewing. It had a glazed finish and was too wiry and stiff for machine sewing. George Clark developed a six-cord, soft finished thread, the first suitable for the sewing machine which revolutionized the thread industry. He called it "Our New Thread" which became known as O.N.T., the famous trademark for the Clark Thread company.

  • J & P Coats company hit upon the idea of utilizing the by-products of their spool factory to make cases which could be placed on counters in stores. In 1877 a special box factory was erected in Pawtucket, RI to turn out thousands of boxes for general stores. Thread cabinets today are highly treasured collectibles. Have you collected a Coats & Clark thread cabinet?

  • Edison tried a carbonized thread, his notebook reads... "No. 9 ordinary thread Coats Co. cord No. 29, came up to one half candle and was put on 18 cells battery permanently at 1:30 AM. This bulb burned for thirteen and one half hours and was the sign that at last they were on the right track."

  • During that time both the Clark Co. and J. & P. Coats Co had designated selling agents in different geographic areas. Thomas Russell & Co, George A. Clark & Brother, the Auchincloss Brothers are often seen on the Victorian trade cards that were a form in advertising in that day.

    Selling Agents also had color cards to present their seasonal color lines to their customers.

    Calendars were also used with the art of the trade cards. As part of our anniversary celebration Coats & Clark is producing 2012 calendars featuring the art from these antique trade cards: download the PDF and print them now.

    View the gallery
  • The Coats' and Clarks' interests were consolidated, although both companies retained their separate identities. Two years later, The Spool Cotton Company became the sole selling agent for both companies. The merchandising association continued until 1952.

  • Even though there was much overlap and common ownership in the two companies, they were independent until 1931 when the two firms elected a single president, John B. Clark.

    First southern mill constructed in Austell, Georgia. In honor of the Clark family, the Town of Austell was changed to Clarkdale. Over the next 20 years, mills were added in Toccoa (1937), Pelham (1943), Albany (1947), Thomasville (1947).

  • In 1939 World's Fair was billed as "The World of Tomorrow." The fair emphasized new ideas and especially the consumer products such as the television. Like many other companies of the time, Coats & Clark commemorated the event.

    Zippers were seen as a natural adjunct to the thread industry and the Spool Cotton Company distributed Crown Zippers. Market conditions changed in the 1940's due to the textile requirements of World War II. American women began to sew again but zippers were scarce because production was going to the war effort for everything from Eisenhower jackets to airoplane flaps. In fact, the company was awarded the Army-Navy Production Award for Excellence in War Production.

  • In 1941 Coats & Clark becomes a national sponsor for the 4-H Club program. John B. Clark was the highlight of National 4-H Club Congress for many years. Coats & Clark sponsored the Clothing & Textile project and also the national poster contest.

  • Complete integration was achieved in late 1952, when J. & P. Coats (The Spool Cotton Company) and The Clark Thread Co. merged and Coats & Clark, Inc. was formed.

    Thread-finishing plant in Toccoa Georgia housing the world's largest mercerizer machine began operations. Mercerization is the process of passing a cotton thread through a caustic soda bath, under controlled tension, and then through several rinses. Mercerization increases the strength, luster, and dye affinity of cotton thread, as well as improving its colorfastness. The plant covered 10 acres of ground, 350,000 square feet and cost $7,500,000 to build.

  • New fibers, fabrics and finishes created a demand for a new thread. Coats & Clark, known for its research and development, introduced Dual Duty Plus®. Unlike cotton thread, Dual Duty Plus® thread could be used on natural or synthetic, knit or woven fabrics.

  • The variety of fabrics for home sewing in the 70's included the "new" synthetics - polyester and double knit requiring new sewing techniques. The Feminist movement and women entering the workforce meant not as many were sewing clothing at home.

  • In a unique marketing effort Coats & Clark Sponsored NASCAR Driver Dale Jarrett, and created a commemorative racing thread pack. Jarrett hoped to have a trip to Victory Lane "sewn up".

  • In the 1980's Overlock Sewing machines were introduced to the home sewer creating a whole new sewing concept. These machines stitched, trimmed and overcast all in one operation just like in manufacturing. Suddenly the home sewer need larger cones of thread for the new sergers or overlock machines.

    Dual Duty Plus became the most popular thread choice for sewing projects due to its quality and color range. The number of colors offered was unequaled in the market and the company constantly updated the range based on trends in fashion and home decorating.

    By the 1990's computerized sewing machine that could embroider digitized patterns hit the consumer market creating a demand for Rayon and later Polyester embroidery threads. Coats & Clark developed Rayon Color Twist which produced a unique heathered effect.

    Quilting also grew in popularity during this period and continues today. Coats unique Hand Quilting thread with a glace finish is a favorite of quilters.

  • As home sewing machines became more advanced, Coats & Clark recognized the need for a thread in which all variables could be controlled to produce a consistently smooth thread and introduced Dual Duty XP. Through a unique manufacturing process applied to a polyester-wrapped corespun construction, Coats & Clark used advanced spinning technology to produce a thread for the new millennium.

    It is this ability to adapt to the times and sense of pride in quality that has secured for Coats & Clark the position of leader in the thread industry.

  • Gold metal spools replaced wooden spools. These were soon replaced by plastic spools. The image above shows the evolution of Coats & Clark spools through present day. Keep a souvenir of your stay with our timeline PDF.

    Over 200 years of commitment to quality, selection and innovation has made Coats & Clark the thread company to trust for generations. Share your sewing story to pass along to the next generation of sewers and quilters.