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"C" is for Columbia Mills

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"C" is for Columbia Mills. The Columbia Mills Company, the first textile mill in the world to be powered exclusively by electricity, was chartered in 1893. Two 1,000 horsepower turbines supplied electricity to operate fourteen 65-horsepower electric motors located throughout the mill. Columbia Mills specialized in duck (a durable plain-weave cloth, widely used for belting, awnings and tents) and sailcloth (a heavy duck meant to withstand the elements in all kinds of weather). Mount Vernon-Woodberry Cotton Duck Company of Baltimore acquired the plant in 1899. By 1907 the mill operated more than thirty thousand spindles and had twelve hundred employees. Operations ceased in 1981. In the late 1980s Mount Vernon Mills donated the old Columbia Mills building to the state of South Carolina—which transformed it into the South Carolina State Museum.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.