Whaley, W. B. Smith (1866-1929)
William Burroughs Smith Whaley (May 24, 1866-April 17, 1929), generally referred to as W. B. Smith Whaley, was a major New South mill architect and engineer as well as a textile mill developer and officer during the period when southern textile mills were presenting mounting competition to New England ones. Based for many years in Columbia, S. C., and later in Boston, he is considered to be “South Carolina’s main proponent of textile production and innovator in mill design” (Edwards-Pitman, “Olympia Mill and Village”). Whaley’s known works in North Carolina are two large and prominent cotton mills in Charlotte, the business capital for the Carolinas—the Chadwick Manufacturing Company and the Hoskins Mill.
Whaley was born in Charleston, S. C., to William Baynard Whaley, a cotton broker, and Helen Smith Whaley. Young Whaley focused his education on preparing himself for the emerging industrial order. After studying engineering at the Bingham Military Institute in North Carolina, Whaley, like fellow South Carolinian Daniel A. Tompkins (1851-1914) and other ambitious southerners, headed north to obtain his training. He studied engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and at Cornell, where he received his degree in mechanical engineering in 1888 and was voted best design engineer. He then worked for a time in the office of Rhode Island mill designer and developer D. N. Thompson to gain practical expertise.
In 1892 Whaley visited Columbia, S. C., to explore the prospects for hydroelectric-powered mills there. Seeing the area’s promise for industrial development, in that same year, Whaley moved to Columbia and opened his own office as a cotton mill engineer, where he displayed not only his technical skills but his effective promotion of the state’s textile development.
In 1894 he formed a partnership with Gadsden E. Shand (1868-ca. 1948), a Columbia, S. C. architect and engineer. The firm, called W. B. Smith Whaley & Co., Architects and Engineers, was based in Columbia. In 1900, the Charlotte Observer of November 15 commented on new “Whaley Mills” in and near Columbia, “so called because promoted by Mr. W. B. Smith Whaley, a young mill architect who rivals even Mr. D. A. Tompkins in the success with which he has met.” The Greenville [S. C.] News of October 23, 1902 noted, “in the early days of mill building in the Piedmont the architects and engineers were nearly always Northern men. Then Messrs. Whaley and Shand opened their offices in Columbia,” and some years later another southern-born mill engineer, Joseph Emory Sirrine (1872-1947) opened his office in Greenville, S. C.
During the period 1892-1903, Whaley’s firm was involved in textile mills from Alabama to Massachusetts, including 16 in South Carolina; chief among them the magnificent Olympia Mills near Columbia, described in 1901 as “the largest single mill in the United States” (Manufacturers’ Record, January 1, 1901). The firm’s mill designs adhered to New England standards for construction and safety and placed special emphasis on high quality architecture and technological innovations: Whaley was an early promoter of electricity driven by steam power and embraced other new ideas. As early as 1900, he and Tompkins, identified as “two of the most experienced and widely known cotton mill builders in the south,” were featured on the program at the Southern Industrial Convention in New Orleans (Charlotte News, November 19, 1900).
In 1899 the Whaley firm opened a branch office in Boston, and architect George E. Lefaye was hired to head up the Columbia office. Like D. A. Tompkins, Whaley published on textile mill development and operations, including Modern Cotton Mill Engineering, by W. B. Smith Whaley and Company, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and Architects (1903). The book contains a brief history of the company plus descriptions and illustrations of the firm’s various mills, including a feature on the Chadwick Manufacturing Company in Charlotte and a reference to plans underway for the Hoskins Mill. For a copy of this volume, see http://localhistory.richlandlibrary.com/cdm/ref/collection/p16817coll11/id/649.
Whaley’s two North Carolina projects came toward the end of his partnership with Lefaye. The Columbia, S. C., newspaper, The State, gave considerable attention to Whaley’s role, but Charlotte newspapers focused less on Whaley than on the mills and their local investors and contractors. The Charlotte Observer of November 23, 1900 reported briefly on the organization of a new mill—soon named the Chadwick Manufacturing Company—for which W. B. Smith Whaley of Columbia was the engineer and furnished the plans; he had surveyed the property the day before and selected the site for the mill. Among the owners were E. A. Smith, president, and J. P. Wilson of Charlotte. Edward Arthur Smith (1862-1933) had come to Charlotte from Baltimore in the 1880s; with D. A. Tompkins and others he established a leading industrial supply firm and soon entered textile mill development. Smith and others organized the mill that was soon named Chadwick for a recently deceased friend of Smith’s. The August 12, 1901 Charlotte Observer declared that the Chadwick mill, built by Charlotte contractor J. A. Jones, had “the reputation of being the finest-built mill in the State.” Whaley’s Modern Cotton Mill Engineering of 1903 included a plan, elevation, and description of the Chadwick mill.
A few years later, the Charlotte People’s Paper of June 3, 1903, carried a short announcement that W. B. Smith Whaley and Company of Boston and Columbia were also the “engineers in charge” for the proposed Hoskins Cotton Mill in Charlotte, which was built by E. A. Smith and other investors near the Chadwick Mill; it was named for Smith’s mother.
Over the years, the Whaley firm encountered financial and labor problems and was often short of cash; as historian J. Tracy Power notes, Whaley was better at conceptualizing and innovating than in management. In 1903, amid financial troubles for the company, Whaley resigned as president of the firm and moved to Boston, while the Columbia office was reorganized as Shand and Lefaye, which was active chiefly in South Carolina. Whaley declared bankruptcy in 1904 (Charlotte News, Sept. 21, 1904; Bridgewater, N. J., Courier-News, Sept. 21, 1904), and thereafter continued to pursue innovations and improvements in textile mill engineering and development in New England, New York, Oklahoma, and China. He died in New Rochelle, N. Y., on April 17, 1929.
- Andrew Chandler, “Whaley, William Burroughs Smith,” South Carolina Enclycopedia, http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/whaley-william-burroughs-smith/.
- Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc. (Jennifer F. Martin, Nicholas G. Theos, and Sarah A. Woodard), “Olympia Mill and Village Historical and Architectural Inventory” (2002), http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/Olympia2002SM-2.pdf.
- Thomas W. Hanchett, “Chadwick-Hoskins,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Survey & Research Reports, http://www.cmhpf.org/educationneighhistchadwick.htm.
- William Huffman, “Hoskins Mill,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission Survey & Research Reports, http://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/surveys&rhoskins.htm.
- John E. Wells, interview with Isabel Whaley Sloan (daughter of W. B. Smith Whaley), Forest Acres, S. C., Aug. 14, 1983.
- Manufacturers’ Record, Jan. 17, 1901.
- New York Herald, Feb. 28, 1928.
- J. Tracy Power, “‘The Brightest of the Lot’: W. B. Smith Whaley and the Rise of the South Carolina Textile Industry, 1893-1903,” South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 93, No. 2 (Apr. 1992).
- The State, Dec. 14, 1897; Dec. 10, 1900; Nov. 23, 1903; Jan. 15, 1950.
- W. B. Smith Whaley and Company, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and Architects, Modern Cotton Mill Engineering (1903), http://localhistory.richlandlibrary.com/cdm/ref/collection/p16817coll11/id/649.
- John E. Wells and Robert E. Dalton, The South Carolina Architects, 1885-1935: A Biographical Dictionary (1992).
- “Whaley, William Burroughs Smith,” American Biography: A New Cyclopedia (1930), Vol. LXII.
- Dates:1901-1903Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:Hoskins Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:No longer standingType:IndustrialNote:The large 3-story mill featured an imposing tower. The principal products were yarns and sheeting. See "Whaley and His Works," The State (Columbia, S. C.), Dec. 12, 1900. See Modern Cotton Mill Engineering (1903) for a plan of the complex and an elevation drawing of the mill at http://localhistory.richlandlibrary.com/cdm/ref/collection/p16817coll11/id/649. It was stated that the mills had 12,288 spindles, 300 looms, and measured 222 by 78 feet. Large, arched windows filled the three stories, and the front tower had a strongly Italianate character. The mill was evidently named in honor of industrialist and civic leader H. S. Chadwick, the recently deceased friend of mill president E. A. Smith. The Chadwick and Hoskins mills were later combined into a single operation. The Chadwick mill was razed later in the 20th century.
- Dates:1903-1904 and laterLocation:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:201 S. Hoskins Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:AlteredType:IndustrialNote:The textile factory was built in several stages beginning in 1903, one in a series of mills that boosted Charlotte's role as a manufacturing center. J. A. Jones, who had recently completed the nearby Chadwick Mill, built at least the initial section of the Hoskins Mill (named for a mill organizer's mother's maiden name), which was built and opened in 1903-1904. In addition, local contractor E. H. Overcash was cited in the Charlotte News of July 6, 1903, as having taken the contract to build 80 "tenement houses" for the Hoskins Mill. In 1908, the Chadwick and Hoskins mills became part of the same company. The Chadwick Mill has been lost, but after operations ceased at the Hoskins Mill, its main building was repurposed for residential and other uses. See: William H. Huffman, Hoskins Mill National Register of Historic Places nomination (1988) (http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/MK1163.pdf). For Whaley's involvement in the project, see "Mr. Whaley's Work as a Mill Engineer," The State (Columbia, S. C.), Nov. 23, 1903. Whaley's Modern Cotton Mill Engineering (1903) included the Hoskins Mill in a list of works for which the firm was preparing plans.