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Industries in Orange

American Silk Mills

Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, agriculture and manufacturing in and around Orange increased and laid the groundwork for later commercial success of the small town. In 1929, there were over 1200 farms in the county and 20 manufacturing companies that employed 204 persons (mostly located in and around Orange). By 1937, manufacturing had been reduced to 13 companies, but they employed 700 people. A 1930s manufacturing survey of the county noted that much of the progress was due to its good accessibility.

Most of the industries located in Orange were described as "Food and Kindred Products"; however, other industries were also successful. One example, the American Silk Mills, Inc., was established in Orange in 1929. This New York-based firm imported raw silk and processed it into a finished material. During World War II, the mill shifted its production output and was awarded a presidential citation for manufacturing parachutes for the U.S. Military. The mill initially employed 150 people on 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. At its peak, the silk mill employed about 500 people.

Sneade Company WW2

Snead & Company opened their Orange location in 1936 and during WWII manufactured "pontons" (sometimes referred to as "pontoons") for boats and metal bridges, glider aircraft, and fuel tanks for fighter aircraft. The plant, located near the intersection of Old Gordonsville Road and Route 15 on the old fairgrounds tract, produced transport gliders for the US Navy, which rapidly adopted this technology for military applications during the early war years. At its height of production in 1945, the Orange facility employed more than 600 people. At the end of the war, the plant remained in Orange, becoming Virginia Metal Products, Inc., and rapidly transformed its operation to the design and manufacture of metal library book stacks and conveyors, of which they were a recognized industry pioneer.

The Orange Produce Company was established in 1918 on Chapman Street and served as a distributor to Northern markets of local eggs, poultry, and butter. Other successful major businesses in Orange included a velvet manufacturing plant (Specialty Weavers) on Spicer’s Mill Road, the West Virginia Timber Company (later Kentucky Flooring Company, now American Woodmark), the H.O. Lyne Flouring Mill (Mill Street), and the Orange Try-Me Bottling Company (North Almond Street).


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