Pacific Mills began in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1850. After steady success, the company found that it could not weave enough cloth to keep its printing machines and bleaching kiers, or tubs, busy. To get more cloth, Pacific expanded into the South in 1915 by buying four of the sixteen mills of the financially distressed and South Carolina–based Parker Mills.
The new mills, collectively called Columbia Pacific Mills, consisted of Olympia, Granby, Richland, and Capital City Mills in Columbia. Mill villages containing 650 houses came with the purchase. In 1923 Pacific bought 750 acres of land eleven miles from Spartanburg to open Lyman Pacific Mills and another company town. The Columbia operations produced gray cloth that was shipped to Lyman or Lawrence for printing, dyeing, bleaching, and finishing. The Olympia mill had the distinction of having the largest spinning room in the world in the 1920s, with 100,320 spindles. Such massive operations made Pacific into the world’s largest manufacturer of percale, a medium-weight, plain-woven printed cotton commonly used in bedsheets.
During World War II, Pacific’s South Carolina mills turned out more than 350 million yards of fabric for the war effort. This cotton cloth made millions of uniforms, shirts, shorts, sheets, mattress covers, raincoats, and camouflage items. In 1954 Burlington Industries bought the entire Pacific Mills chain but retained the label because Columbia had established a reputation for high-quality bedsheets, pillow cases, and towels. M. Lowenstein & Sons bought the mills in 1955, however, and removed the Pacific name. The new owners closed the Capital City and Richland mills in 1975 and 1981, respectively. Springs Industries acquired Lowenstein in 1985 and continued to operate the Olympia and Granby mills until 1996, when the aging plants were closed.
Byars, Alvin W. Olympia Pacific: The Way It Was, 1895–1970. West Columbia, S.C.: Professional Printers, 1981.
Monk, Fred. “Mills Interwoven with City’s History.” Columbia State, June 29, 1996, p. A10.