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May Family Papers

Identifier: Mss.Coll.056

Scope and Contents

Collection contains both personal and business records related to the May Family of Burlington, North Carolina. In particular, many personal records relate to William Henry May and his wife, "Wattie" Sharpe May, such as correspondence between the pair throughout their marriage. It contains family history records such as genealogical information, personal narratives, and photo books. The collection also includes May family legal records such as deeds, estate records, pension records, military records, and others. Business records contained in the collection relate to the family's textile companies.


  • Creation: 1779-2004

Biographical / Historical

The May Family collection was created by several members of the May family across several generations. The Mays became prominent in Burlington, NC for their textile mills, particularly Hosiery mills.

Family History and Genealogy
Barbara Catherine Clapp (1844-1927) was born on January 19, 1844 to Emanuel Hezakiah Clapp and Elizabeth Ann Trollinger. She married James Monroe Patterson on October 18, 1866, though he passed away two years later on October 28, 1868. She married Henry P. May (1837-1905) on February 19, 1874 in Alamance County, North Carolina. They raised four children: William Henry May, Jr. (1875-1954); Daniel Burton May (1878-1927); Benjamin Victor May (1880-1945); and Emanuel May (1882-1942). Henry P. Myy worked primarily as a farmer, but also did work as a builder and contractor.

William Henry (W.H.) May married Emma Watkins "Wattie" Sharpe (1883-1935) on August 8, 1906. The two raised two sons, William Henry May, Jr. and John "Jack" Sharpe May (1911-1988). After W.H. May attended Elon College, he became a traveling salesman before he became assistant manager at Daisy Hosiery Mill (est. 1896) in 1906. William, along with brother Benjamin May, went on to take over the Daisy Hosiery Mill, renaming it the May Hosiery Mills.

Daniel Burton May married Isla Jane Stratford (1880-1958), and the two raised sons William Stratford May (1916-2002) and Henry Stratford May (1920-2000).

Benjamin Victor May married Louise O'Neal Simpson (1901-1992), and the two raised daughter Barbara Watkins May (1929-2012). Benjamin May attended Whitsett Academy, and by 1900 worked as a farm laborer. He soon went on to partner with brother William H. May to establish May Hosiery Mills.

Emanuel May married Ethel Garvin (1893-1939), and the two raised Emanual May, Jr. (1912-1975) and Dortha "Dorothy" Ben May (b. 1914).

May Business and Textile History
William and Benjamin May commissioned the construction of the May Hosiery Mill in the early 20th century at 612 S. Main Street in Burlington, and incorporated the firm of May Hosiery Mills in 1922. The firm initially started as a brokerage firm, and the brothers arranged sales between manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. In 1901, the brothers established National Dye Works before 1921, adjacent to the May Hosiery Mill in the 400 block of East Main Street in Burlington. By 1929, they consolidated the companies under the name May Hosiery Mills.

By the 1940s, the mill expanded to manufacture rayon and nylon stockings, and operations were housed in the knitting plant and the finishing plant. In 1941, the May brothers merged their company with other textile concerns, and became the May, McEwen, Kaiser Company. By 1945, Sanborn Maps indicate that the company had expanded into nine buildings. In 1947, the corporation merged with Burlington Mills Corporation. The company closed in the 1980s, and remaining factory buildings were purchased by LabCorp in 2009. The smokestack from May Hosiery is still visible in downtown Burlington.


7 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection contains both personal and professional records related to the May family, who owned and operated textile mills in Burlington, NC during the 20th century. Papers include personal correspondence, genealogical information, family photographs, legal records (such as deeds, estate records, military and pension records, and others), and business records and ephemeral related to the May textile business (including the May Hosiery Company).


Collection is arranged according to type of record (personal correspondence, legal records, etc.), then in chronological order. There are no series.

Physical Location

The collection is located in the Carol Grotnes Belk Library Archives and Special Collections at Elon University. Please contact the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian for further details about the location.

Immediate Source of Acquisition


Processing Information

Collection processed by Libby Coyner, April 2018.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Belk Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

100 Campus Drive
2550 Campus Box
Elon North Carolina 27244 USA