Frank IX & Sons
Founded in 1919, Frank Ix & Sons was originally based in
Union City, New Jersey. In 1928, Frank Ix, Jr. moved to Charlottesville,
Virginia to build the third and eventually largest of six mills.
He’d only planned to stay a year but liked it so much,
he stayed a lifetime.
Known around town as the silk mill, Ix & Sons produced
“greige goods”, unfinished fabrics. All dying
and sewing was done in other factories in other towns. Reams
of white silk and satin were shipped across the country to
be transformed into everything from daringly short dresses
for flappers to dashing scarves for aviators. For seven decades,
Ix & Sons thrived. Even as fashion rode an economic roller
coaster, the company remained solid and stable, the helm quietly
passing from father to son to grandson to great-grandson.
Resourcefulness was a large part of their longevity. During
World War II, Ix & Sons shifted the emphasis of their
output from bolts of fabric to nylon parachutes. Four times,
the Undersecretary of War awarded Ix & Sons the Army-Navy
Production Award, both for their industry and their contribution
to the development of new fabrics such as rip-stop nylon,
a true lifesaver for American paratroopers. By the 1950s,
silk had returned to fashion, so the Ix team scoured old records
and within months, they were weaving fine quality silk again.
As time went on, they expanded to produce lycra for swimsuits,
cloth for mainsails, backpacks and camouflage tarps for military
Looms ran around the clock, six days a week. A weekly electric
bill of $30,000 was par for the course. That’s what
it took to produce as many as one million yards of fabric
per week. For decades, Ix & Sons was Charlottesville’s
largest employer, known for its fairness and warm family atmosphere.
Most employees stayed with the mill at least twenty-five years.
Many never worked anywhere else.
But in 1999, the grand old mill bowed to an enemy it could
not see; a depressed domestic textile market. Their high of
1,400 employees shrank to only 150. After years of struggling,
Ix & Sons finally succumbed to the pressure of foreign
competition and closed its doors. The roaring machines fell
silent. The old mill, whose labor had helped win a war and
touched the homes and backs of millions of people in the course
of four generations, relegated itself to the local history