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Burson Knitting Company

Burson Knitting Company 222 Cedar Street. William Worth Burson formed a partnership with John Nelson in 1866, together they invented the parallel row knitting machine in 1872, which revolutionized the textile industry and this being the beginning of Rockford's great knitting industry. Burson withdrew from the business of Burson and Nelson in 1878. He would organize his own company, Burson Knitting Company in 1892 on the former site of the S. B. Wilkens Company at the foot of Cedar Street at the Rock River. Burson Knitting continued to grow and expand taking in much adjacent real estate in the process. They would construct concrete fireproof additions that would make it one of best and most modern plants in the city at that time. The five story building above was constructed in 1907 for the offices and factory of the Burson Knitting Company on the Corner of South Main and Cedar Streets. The plant covered two city blocks and encompassed 165,000 square feet. One of the later expansions included the construction of a sixth floor.

Burson Knitting Company looking east on Cedar Street toward the river. Rockford industrialists Ralph Emerson, W. H. Ziock and William E. Hinchcliff provided financing to Burson to start the company.  The factory worked in shifts so the factory ran day and night. This plant employed many men but on an interesting note they employed more women during it's existence. Producing an annual output of 1,500 ton of product yearly.

The Burson goods have gained a widespread reputation by means of a comprehensive campaign of advertising through trade magazines and consumer publications like newspapers and magazines and would also mail out pamphlets. Burson became a household name, the result being a surge in sales leading to an enlarged plant to meet the demand for a greater output of product.

The Burson Companies lights gleamed across the city throughout the hours of darkness. Special lighting was installed for the benefit of workers to better see the work and ease strain on the eyes.

In this postcard view, one of the passenger platforms from the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad passenger terminal that was located across South Main Street from the factory is visible on the south side of the Burson Knitting Company building. The now rusty overpass still exists on South Main Street just south of Cedar Street.

A Burson Knitting Company advertisement, published in a consumer magazine in 1909

An advertisement from the Evening World, March 30, 1909 assuring the ladies that they will not have to pay more for Burson Fashion Hose due to a new tariff. They also claim to be the largest manufacturers exclusively Women's Cotton Stockings in the known world - American made.

The above advertisement would appear in a trade magazine in 1922 encouraging retailers to install a window display to further sales of Burson Fashion House so both could profit.

In 1948 the Kendall Company of Boston, Massachusetts purchased the Burson Knitting Company and would expand the product line and make surgical hosiery along with the existing product line. Kendall would move Burson Knitting Company out of Rockford in 1959. The building remained vacant for some time until it was acquired by the Tapco Company. They would brick up the original windows except the sixth floor of the building and utilized it for storage until the company moved to a larger location.

After sitting vacant for many years and deteriorating and after all attempts to find a developer to renovate the building failed, the City of Rockford purchased the Burson / Tapco Building in 2010 and on June 20, 2012 the city started demolition of the crumbling structure with plans to expand Davis Park. The building is now demolished and only a memory.

You can find more information on the life of William Worth Burson in Our People of Interest section of this website.

1910

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