Founded in Atlanta during the late 1860s, the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills operated under the management of Jacob Elsas and his descendants for more than a century. The architectural drawings document the design and construction of most of the major buildings of the Atlanta site of Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, as well as its machinery and equipment. The collection also contains drawings of the housing in the Atlanta mill village, as well as some drawings of other Fulton Bag sites, including Dallas and New Orleans.
(55 flat file drawers and Oversize)
Some parts of the collection may be restricted because of the size or condition of the originals. Please consult one of the archivists to obtain permission to access these parts of the collection. Some drawings may require a 24- to 48-hour waiting period before they can be retrieved.
Permission to publish materials from this collection must be obtained from the Head of Archives and Special Collections.
125.92 Cubic Feet
The architectural drawings in this collection document the design and construction of most of the major buildings of the Atlanta site of Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, as well as its machinery and equipment. The collection also contains drawings of the housing in the Atlanta mill village, as well as some drawings from other Fulton Bag sites, including Dallas and New Orleans. SERIES 1 consists of maps of the Atlanta mill and factory buildings and site plans for the village, including maps of the Atlanta mill and factory buildings, mostly dating from the early stages of its history, and site maps of the mill village. SERIES 2 contains drawings of the buildings in the mill village, including drawings of various house plans. Most of the blueprints are drawings of floor plans, elevations, foundations, and structural details of the houses. SERIES 3, the largest of the series, consists of blueprints for most of the buildings that were constructed on the Atlanta site. Some of these drawings date back to the late nineteenth century. SERIES 4 includes designs of a variety of machinery and equipment for the Atlanta mill. SERIES 5 contains drawings from other Fulton Bag mills including those in Dallas, New Orleans, Denver and Minneapolis. SERIES 6 is made up of a few drawings of the personal residences of Jacob and Norman Elsas.
Architects whose names figure prominently in the drawings include Shand and Lafaye (Columbia, SC), Smith Whaley (Boston), and Lockwood Greene (Atlanta and Columbia), particularly for those dating from 1895 to about the second decade of the twentieth century. Later, the Atlanta architectural firm A.K. Adams is well represented.
For further details on each series and subseries, see the detailed description below.
The beginnings of the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills can be traced to Atlanta in 1868, when Jacob Elsas, an immigrant of German Jewish descent who had recently arrived in Atlanta from Cincinnati, began work in the city in the rag, paper, and hide business. Elsas soon recognized the need of his and other area businesses for cloth and paper containers to house their goods. Within two or three years Elsas had switched to the new business of manufacturing cloth and paper bags and had joined forces with fellow German Jewish immigrant Isaac May. In January 1872, the new company became known as Elsas, May and Company. Located in the former Atlanta slave market house, the company expanded during the 1870s; by the end of the decade, the firm consisted of a bleachery, print shop, and bag mill, and it employed between 100 and 160 workers, including women and children.
After receiving financial backing from Cincinnati banker Lewis Seasongood, the company began construction of a new complex of buildings on the south side of the Georgia Railroad line, east of downtown. By 1881 the company had become known as the Fulton Cotton Spinning Company, adding a bag factory to the new site in 1882. By the end of the 1880s the partnership between Jacob Elsas and Isaac May had discontinued. One part of the company evolved into the Elsas, May Paper Company and the other, led by Jacob Elsas and incorporated in 1889, became the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill Company.
Within a few years Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill Company had outgrown the capacity of the existing buildings, resulting in the construction of a second mill on the Atlanta site in 1895, with more than 40,000 spindles. A third mill added 50,000 additional spindles by 1907. In addition, a neighboring village with housing for the mill workers was well established by the turn of the twentieth century. Bag plants in New Orleans and St. Louis were bought during the 1890s, and mills in New York and Dallas began operation in the early years of the twentieth century. Additional plants in Minneapolis and Kansas City were established during and after World War I, and a plant in Denver was added in 1945, at the end of World War II. Expansion of the Atlanta plant also continued throughout the first half of the twentieth century: Offices, two picker buildings, and several warehouses were constructed during these years, and the Jacob Elsas Clinic and Nursery was established in the early 1940s.
Despite the early prosperity of the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, the company was troubled by periods of labor unrest. A wage dispute resulted in a two-day strike in November 1885. A second brief strike occurred in August 1897, when white workers protested the hiring of black women. The 1897 strike was settled after five days. A lengthier strike took place in 1914-1915, triggered by management's disapproval of the growing efforts among the workers to join the United Textile Workers. Besides the issue of unionization, the strikers demanded an increase in wages, a 54-hour work week, and a decrease in the use of child labor. The strike gained national notoriety when it drew the attention of the newly formed U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, who sent representatives to Atlanta to gather testimonies in March 1915. The strike ultimately failed in May of that year.
Many of Jacob Elsas' large family assumed management roles in Atlanta as well as in the other locations of the company. After his retirement at age 70, Jacob turned over the Presidency of the firm to his son Oscar in 1914. Sons Victor, Louis, and David worked in New Orleans, New York, and Dallas, respectively. Another son, Benjamin, succeeded Oscar as President in 1924. In 1942 a grandson, Norman Elsas, assumed the Presidency of the firm, followed by a second grandson, William Elsas, who served briefly as President in 1950. Following William's sudden death, Clarence Elsas, also a grandson, took over the Presidency in 1951. Clarence Elsas served as President until 1956, and again held the position from 1960 to 1968.
Jacob Elsas played an instrumental role in the founding of the Georgia Institute of Technology. He became one of the early customers of the Georgia Tech shops, and he enrolled his son Oscar at the school for two years. Other family members, including Jacob's grandson William, also attended Tech. Elsas' activities also extended to philanthropy, particularly in the support of the Grand Opera House, the Hebrew Orphan's Home, and Grady Hospital in Atlanta. The elder Elsas died in 1931.
Changes in packaging after World War II sparked changes within the company. Products such as multiwall paper bags, canvas goods, osnaburgs and barrier materials replaced some of the old products, to respond to the new market opportunities presented in the postwar era. In 1956, Eastern and Midwestern investors bought controlling interest in the company, the nine bag manufacturing companies were sold, and in 1960 the parent company became Fulton Industries Inc. The Atlanta mill, which remained known as Fulton Cotton Mill, continued in operation under the management of Elsas family members until 1968. In that year Fulton Industries Inc. was sold to Allied Products Corporation. Fulton Cotton Mill's last President, Meno Schoenbach, served in that position from 1971 until 1978, the year the Atlanta mill finally closed its doors.
In 1997 Aederhold Properties redeveloped the historic Fulton Cotton Mill in Atlanta into a mixed-income community of 182 loft apartments.
The collection has been divided into six series:
The drawings within each series are grouped into folders and arranged by size. For ease of access, the folders are normally listed alphabetically by folder title.
Because of their age and condition, many of the drawings in this collection are very fragile. Some of the most fragile drawings have been removed for treatment and/or scanning. Removal sheets for the removed drawings are placed in the appropriate folders. Careful handling of all the materials in this collection is required.
A print copy of this finding aid is available in the Georgia Tech Archives reading room.
Accession Number: 1985.0801 (old number: 1985-08-01). This collection was acquired from the Fulton Cotton Mill in Atlanta in 1985.
Digital reproductions of selected items in this collection are available on the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills Digital Collection website.
The manuscript materials and photographs in this collection have been processed separately. See the finding aids for the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills records (MS004) and the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills photographs (VAM004) to access these materials.
Oversize drawings (those greater than 36" x 48") are stored separately and labeled as folio drawings.
(55 flat file drawers and Oversize)
The drawings in this collection were apparently originally organized according to a system, as many of the drawings are labelled with drawer numbers. In processing the collection, it was not feasible to reproduce the original storage system. However, the original drawing labels guided the organization wherever possible.
Christine D. de Catanzaro completed the partial finding aid in October 2005, with the assistance of Grayson Cason and Valerie Ellis.