Blue Bell

  • 1904: The overalls factory where C.C. Hudson works in Greensboro closes. He and others buy several of the sewing machines, lease space over a grocery store on South Elm Street and open Hudson Overall Co.
  • 1916: Jellico Clothing Manufacturing Co. Of Jellico, Tenn. is founded by R.W. Baker with total of 35 sewing machines. Name changes to Big Ben Manufacturing in 1919.
  • 1919: Hudson Overall Co. moves to larger quarters and changes its name to Blue Bell Overall Co.
  • 1923: Baker and Hudson meet and by 1925, start discussing a merger of their two companies.
  • 1926: Blue Bell and Big Ben Manufacturing Co. merge. The name of the merged company remains Blue Bell and the headquarters remains in Greensboro.
  • 1936: One of the biggest mergers in the apparel industry takes place when Blue Bell buys Suerior Corp of Abington, Ill. Blue Bell introduces Super Big Ben Overalls featuring 100 percent Sanforized fabric, which reduces shrinking to less than 1 percent, setting a new standard for the industry.
  • 1943: Blue Bell acquires the Casey Jones work clothes company and the rights to a rarely used brand called Wrangler.
  • 1946: Blue Bell introduces “informative labeling,” which allows consumers to compare quality features.
  • 1947: Blue Bell introduces Wrangler Western jeans
  • April 1958: H.L. Coble Construction Co. will build a $640,000, three-story office building for Blue Bell on Church Street, to house the company’s executive offices, regional sales, accounting, pattern development and printing department.
  • 1961: Blue Bell opens a plant in Belgium; Wranglers are introduced to Europe.
  • 1966: Newsweek magazine features a Wrangler-clad girl on the cover. Manufacturing operations begin in Puerto Rico.
  • 1967: Company diversifies into boots with the acquisition of the J.W. Carter Shoe Co. of Nashville, Tenn.
  • 1970: Two new Wrangler divisions were formed, Lady Wrangler and Mr. Wrangler.
  • 1974: The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association endorses Wranglers.
  • 1975: The Wrangler Kids division is started and the Mr. Wrangler division splits into sportswear and jeanswear. and later reorganized into menswear and boyswear.
  • 1980: “Urban Cowboy,” a movie starring John Travolta, makes jeans a fashion statement, giving the product a tremendous sales boost.
  • 1980: Acquires Jantzen Inc., a sportswear manufacturer.
  • 1981: Allegheny Ludlum Industries makes offer to buy Blue Bell.
  • 1983: Bass brothers, Texas oil magnates, collect 22.4 percent of stock.
  • 1983: Purchases Bishop Block, Greensboro’s oldest shopping center, at Elm and Lindsay
  • May 1984: leveraged buyout talks – price hits record high of $50/per share
  • Nov 1984: Shareholders approve multi-million dollar plan to go private
  • 1985 Willie Nelson becomes Wrangler’s official spokesman and goodwill ambassador. The company calls him “a legend in jeans.”
  • Sep 1985: A pair of jeans signed by 15,600 Blue Bell employees from 81 plants in 15 states -175 yards of fabric weighing 165 pounds - are sent to President Reagan to protest his trade policies.
  • Aug 1985: Blue Bell moves its world headquarters from One Southern Life Center to its original headquarters building on Church Court. Wrangler Youthwear merges into the remaining Wrangler divisions, Menswear and Womenswear.
  • 1986: Blue Bell sold to VF Corp. for $813 million, affecting 300 jobs.
  • 1987:The 620 Corp. purchased the Blue Bell manufacturing plant. 620 is a group of investors, including Winn Batten, Betty Cone and Dick Rhyne of Greensboro.
  • 1988: After renovations the Old Greensborough Gateway Center's 100,000 square feet of space was leased to about 75 small businesses and individuals.
  • Nov. 2016: Andy Zimmerman owner of AZ Development bought the old Blue Bell building on South Elm.
Also See VF Corp.

Source: News & Record archive
Compiled by Diane Lamb, News & Record researcher

More pages