Alexander City, Alabama USA, May 1902 is where is it began with 10 sewing machines, 8 knitting machines and a 26 year old man named Benjamin Russell.
The original mill produced ladies undershirts and children’s undergarments with a beginning capacity of 150 garments daily. In 1910 Russell Manufacturing Co. became an established business. With a long-term commitment to Alexander City, Ben Russell built the town a kindergarten, school, hospital, hotel, laundry, grocery store, bakery and installed the telephone operation.
The Birth of the Sweatshirt
The ‘Sweatshirt’ is attributed to Benjamin Russell Junior, who was playing football for the University of Alabama at the time.
Knowing the comfort and durability of cotton, he suggested to his father that an all cotton version of the original woollen football jersey be produced in order to avoid the chaffing and discomfort caused by sweating in wool. This change in fabric content resulted in the inception of the ‘sweatshirt’ as we know it today. Russell went on to acquire Southern Manufacturing Company, which gave the company access to athletic team apparel. This was the beginning of the Russell Athletic division’s cutting and sewing operations. Russell began making woven athletic garments, including basketball, baseball and football pants and jackets.
The Eagle has Landed
During the 1960’s the ‘Athletic’ division was the largest marketer and manufacturer of athletic apparel and uniforms in the USA.
By 1962 Russell Manufacturing Company had changed its name to Russell Mills, Inc. and began using the American Eagle to represent its iconic brand image. Then in 1973 Russell Mills, Inc. name was changed again to Russell Corporation and expanded manufacturing across Southern USA, also to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Scotland.