Moses H. Cone

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Moses Herman Cone
Moses+Ceasar Cone.jpg
Moses Herman Cone (sitting) and his brother Ceasar Cone
Born(1857-06-29)June 29, 1857
DiedDecember 8, 1908(1908-12-08) (aged 51)
Cause of deathPulmonary edema
EducationJonesboro High School
Spouse(s)Bertha Lindau

Moses Herman Cone (June 29, 1857 – December 8, 1908) was an American textile entrepreneur, conservationist, and philanthropist of the Gilded Age who was active in the southern United States. He began his career in sales and became an innovator who offered finished clothing, which was unusual in an era when textiles were normally sold as unfinished cloth.

Cone manufactured unusual textile fabrics and founded a company that became a leading manufacturer of denim. His company was a major supplier to Levi Strauss and Company for nearly a century.[1][2]

Mr. Cone and his wife had no children and donated substantial property upon their deaths. Their home Flat Top Manor has become a North Carolina tourist attraction that receives 250,000 visitors a year. It forms part of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, which is run by the National Park Service. Their donations founded the Moses Cone Health System, a private not-for-profit health care system based in Greensboro, North Carolina and its principal facility The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital.

Early life[edit]

Moses Herman Cone was born in 1857 in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He was the eldest of thirteen children of Jewish-German immigrants. His parents, Herman Kahn and Helen Guggenheimer, emigrated from Germany to America in the 1840s. Moses' father changed his last name from Kahn to "Cone" almost immediately upon arrival in the United States to become more American.[3]

Moses' father Herman had a dry goods and grocery business in Jonesborough along with his brother-in-law Jacob Adler, the husband of his sister Sophia. While running the business Herman and Jacob would alternately make week-long peddling trips selling their wares. On one of these trips Herman met Helen Guggenheimer near Lynchburg, Virginia. They married in 1856 and Moses was born in 1857. Two years later came their next child named Ceaser with whom Moses enjoyed a close relationship all his life.[4]

The family lived in Jonesborough until 1870 and had an additional five children there. Between 1857 and 1870 Moses' father became fairly well-to-do through his business affairs and real estate ventures. The family then moved to Baltimore, Maryland. There Moses' father and relatives started a wholesale grocery business called Guggenheimer, Cone, & Company, Wholesale Grocers.[5] Then in 1873 Jacob Adler also moved to Baltimore and went in partnership with Herman selling groceries. They formed a new firm that was called Cone & Adler. They ran the business successfully and in 1878 dissolved it.[6] This same year Moses' parents had their last child.

Adult life[edit]

Moses and Ceasar, now as young adults, immediately formed a new firm with their father: H. Cone & Sons. Moses and his brother Ceasar were "drummers" (traveling salesmen) for their father's dry goods firm. They sold their wares from Maryland to Alabama.[6]

In the 1880s the Cones then moved to Eutaw Place in Baltimore, on the same street as the Lindau family. In 1884, Moses began to court Bertha Lindau, the eldest daughter. Moses and Bertha in all likelihood met at a community social club called the "Sociables."[citation needed] Moses' and Bertha's courtship would last four years, during which time Bertha was also wooed by others, including Moses' own brother Ceasar.[7]

Moses and Bertha were both from German Jewish descendants and had much in common. In addition, they both were firstborn children from large families. They married on February 15, 1888,[7] and would have no children themselves.[8]


Early years with textiles[edit]

Moses and Ceasar dealt much with textile mill owners in their travels as salesmen. They not only sold normal dry goods, but introduced into their wares ready-made clothing as well as certain fabrics like denim. This gave them experience then in textile products and the textile industry. The Cone brothers soon invested in Southern textile mills which generally had over a 20% return on average.[9] One of these companies the Cones invested into was C. E. Graham Manufacturing Company of Asheville, North Carolina, an up-and-coming newly formed textile mill. Moses became its president in 1882. The company's original builder Charles Edward Graham continued with its on-site management while Moses pursued other investments and ventures.[10]

In 1880 Moses moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. Soon thereafter he joined Simon Lowman and Charles Burger to form Cone Brothers, Lowman, and Burger Clothing Manufacturers based in Baltimore. Moses discovered the need for durable clothing for the blue-collar people of the High Country and fulfilled this need with denim and plain, fabric-based clothing.

Cone Export & Commission Company[edit]

In 1890 Moses and Ceasar were contemplating even grander ventures and formed the Cone Export & Commission Company in New York City along with Anderson Price and Jay C. Guggenheimer as the other major stockholders. They developed what was called the "Plaid Trust" which was a commission clearing house to stabilize the production market on checks and plaids. They were a marketer of Southern cloth mill-goods to South America in competition with Great Britain. Initially the par value of the capital stock of their new company was fifty dollars per share. There were 20,000 shares of the company, so the value of this new firm was placed at one million dollars. Eventually they took in another forty mills over time to capture control of this market, but their ambitious goal was never fully achieved.

In 1895 Moses purchased a defunct steel mill and developed it into a large cotton mill called Proximity that produced blue and brown denim. He built additional mills throughout the Greensboro area and the deep South and soon became one of the biggest producers of the denim fabric in the world.,[11] becoming known as "The Denim King" in the late nineteenth century.[12] At the turn of the twentieth century he began supplying denim to Levi Strauss and Company, a relationship that the Greensboro firm retains to this day.[13]

Cone Mills Corporation was the world leader in the manufacturing of denim and largest supplier in the world.[14] Moses was instrumental in the development of Watauga Academy, now known as Appalachian State University. In 1899, Moses donated $500 to the founders; it was the largest single donation received for the school's construction.[15]


Moses died at age 51 in 1908 of pulmonary edema at Johns Hopkins Hospital.[16] The grave of Moses Cone is on the Cone Estate property approximately a mile by trail from the manor.

Widow and sisters[edit]

His childless wife Bertha lived an additional 39 years and donated the Flat Top Mansion property to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital. A few years later the hospital conveyed the property to the National Park System with the proviso that it be known as the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.[17]

The Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta, were two of Moses' younger sisters. They befriended Picasso and Matisse while living amongst the School of Paris in its prime in Europe. The Cone Collection is one of the greatest in the world for these artists.[18]


  • Inventory of the Cone Mills Corporation Records (1858–1997) and history at the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway brochure (GPO 2006 -320-369/00480) of "North Carolina / Virginia" by the National Park Service (NPS) of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
  • Rhododendron, Appalachian State Teachers College, 1933
  • Noblitt, Philip T., A Mansion in the Mountains: The Story of Moses and Bertha Cone and their Blowing Rock Manor, Parkway Publishers 1996, ISBN 1-887905-02-2


  1. ^ Moses H. Cone Memorial Park & Flat Top Manor (Milepost 294.1)
  2. ^ Historic Blue Ridge sites - Moses Cone Manor Archived 2007-12-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Noblitt, p. 4
  4. ^ Noblitt, p. 5
  5. ^ Noblitt, p. 7
  6. ^ a b Noblitt, p. 8
  7. ^ a b Wedge, Lucius. "Moses Herman Cone." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified February 24, 2015.
  8. ^ Noblitt, p. 9
  9. ^ Noblitt, p. 10
  10. ^ Noblitt, p. 11
  11. ^ Noblitt, p. 16
  12. ^ Noblitt, pp. 20-24
  13. ^ The Mast Store Jean-ome Project Archived 2008-01-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Inventory of the Cone Mills Corporation Records, 1858–1997
  15. ^ Rhododendron, p. 18
  16. ^ "Moses H. Cone Dead". Washington Post. December 9, 1908. Wealthy Greensboro Merchant Succumbs at Johns Hopkins.
  17. ^ Moses H. Cone Memorial Park history information
  18. ^ Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art

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