A Guide to the Fries Textile Plant Records, 1900-1988 Fries Textile Plant Records Ms1989-039

A Guide to the Fries Textile Plant Records, 1900-1988

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms1989-039


Special Collections, Virginia Tech

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694
Email: specref@vt.edu
URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/

2019 ( CC0 1.0 )

Processed by: Bess Pittman, Archivist, Special Collections

Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Fries Textile Plant Records, 1900-1988
Physical Characteristics
184 Cubic Feet; 182 boxes
Fries Textile Plant (Fries, Va.)
Please note: Material is in off-site storage and requires 2-3 days notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for further information.
The Fries Textile Plant Records includes correspondence, production data, personnel ledgers, photographs, legal and financial materials, internal reports, blueprints, and other administrative materials. The collection provides a complete history of the company's operations, from its founding at the turn of the twentieth century until its closure in the 1980s. It was processed as part of a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research with the exception of records containing HIPAA-protected, sensitive, or personally identifiable information. These records are noted in the file-level description. Contact Virginia Tech Special Collections for more information.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish from the Fries Textile Plant Records must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Fries Textile Plant Records, Ms1989-039, Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Acquisition Information

The Fries Textile Plant Records were deposited with Special Collections in 1989.

Ownership of the collection was transferred to Virginia Tech in 2016.

Additional blueprints and slides were transferred to Virginia Tech in December 2016 and July 2019.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Fries Textile Plant Records commenced in October 2018 and completed in July 2019.

Administrative History

In 1903, Colonel Francis Henry Fries founded the town of Fries and constructed a textile plant in Grayson County, Virginia. Fries was president of the Washington Mills Company as well as Wachovia Bank, for some time. He used his business and political connections to build a spur to a main branch of the Norfolk and Western Railroad and to construct a dam on the New River to generate power for the mill. The Washington Mills Company owned nearly every building in the town, which flourished in the early twentieth century with a population of over 1,700 in 1910. By 1929, there were four textile mills in Grayson County, and Washington Mills in Fries was the largest, employing as many as 600 people.

Employment at Washington Mills peaked after World War II with over 1,200 workers. For decades, the mill had cutting edge equipment and competed nationally with other textile production facilities. By the 1980s, the company faced overseas competition and the need to modernize the plant. In 1988, company leaders chose to close the plant, which at that time employed only a few hundred workers. Sources:

Bond, Avery, and Martha Nichols, comps. and eds. A History of the Town of Fries, Virginia. Collinsville, VA: Collinsville Printing Company, 1977.
"Historical Background, Town of Fries, Compiled in 1953 for 50th Anniversary of Fries," box 34, Fries Textile Plant Records, Special Collections, Virginia Tech.
National Register of Historic Places. "Fries Boarding Houses, VDHR#220-5015," September 14, 2007. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/historic-registers/220-5015/

Scope and Content

This collection includes correspondence, ledgers, production records, employee records, photographs, fabric samples, and other items documenting the history of the town and plant from their creation in the eary 1900s to the close of the mill in 1988.

Series I. Company Files and Series II. Correspondence mainly document the day-to-day running of the mill, highlighting relationships with other local and national businesses in fields such as textiles, factory machinery, coal, insurance, and construction. These records also illustrate some aspects of the lives of the mill employees.

Series III. Financial Records document the more quantifiable aspect of the business through invoices, pay records, and account balance books, showing the health and trajectory of the company over time.

Series IV. Personnel Records convey the activity of the mill by recording the number of each type of employee, how much they worked, and when, as well as some glimpses into the personal lives of the mill workers.

Series V. Production Materials more concretely illustrate the output of the mill through fabric samples and reports of production versus cost over time.

Series VI. Legal Records show how the mill grew and evolved over time in relation to the community in which it operated.

Series VII. Blueprints show how the mill buildings themselves were conceived, built, and changed from 1900-1974, when the last major renovations were completed.

Series VIII. Oral Histories, collected from residents and former residents of Fries, give first-hand accounts of life in town and the impact of the mill.


The collection is arranged by type of material into the following series:

Series I. Company Files
Series II. Correspondence
Series III. Financial Records
Series IV. Personnel Records
Series V. Production Materials
Series VI. Legal Records
Series VII. Blueprints
Series VIII. Oral Histories

Index Terms

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

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Contents List

Series I: Company Files, 1908-1979
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Series II: Correspondence, 1901-1958
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Series III: Financial Records, 1902-1981
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Series IV: Personnel Records, 1902-1975
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Series V: Production Materials, 1904-1981