Champion Compress & Warehouse Company Wharfs Wilmington NC
Wharves at Wilmington, NC – Champion Compress & Warehouse Co

On or about the year of 1879 the Champion Compress & Warehouse Company was incorporated in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina. An economic powerhouse, the company quickly attained a dominant role in the exportation of cotton crops grown and cultivated in the southern United States.

Sprunt Residence Champion Compress & Warehouse Company
One of the many oppulent homes owned by the Sprunt family

The corporation was owned and operated by the industrious Sprunt family, and ownership was passed progressively on generations of Sprunt family sons.

Over years, the family amassed great wealth in the ownership of the company.

As the company evolved, it established itself as a powerful force in the State of North Carolina.

The company and its properties acted as the final terminus for a large percentage of cotton grown in the Carolinas to be shipped elsewhere.

Champion Compress & Warehouse Company - Cotton Samplers Room
Quality Inspectors Evaluating Bales of Cotton

Its presence on Wilmington’s cityscape was quite dominant. The company’s facilities occupied one of only seven wharves in the city, and its frontage on the Cape Fear River extended 600 feet, with three slips and two monstrous piers. Each pier was about 100 feet wide, with the first being 350 feet long, and the other 425 feet.

1912 Champion Compress & Warehouse Company Post Card postcard Wilmington NC
Champion Compress & Warehouse Company Wharf, 1912
Champion Compress & Warehouse Company - An English Steamer loading a full cargo of cotton at the wharves. Wilmington NC
An English Steamer unloading a full cargo of cotton for processing at the wharves

As cotton was delivered by freight over the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads, bales were unloaded, compressed by one of three gigantic cotton compressors, and then stored until ready for shipment in three large warehouses.

Champion Compress & Warehouse Company Wilmington NC - Men with bales of cotton in front of a cotton compressor
Men with Bales of Cotton in Front of a Giant Cotton Compressor

Numismatic Specimen

Below is a Champion Compress & Warehouse Company cotton token. As bales of cotton were unloaded and processed, these tokens were issued to workers to account for the quantity of work performed.  Not dissimilar to picker checks, many of these tokens were holed purposely so workers could string them as they were earned.

The token to be approximately Very Fine Details in grade. It was photographed using axial lighting with glass angled at 45 degrees.

Champion Compress & Warehouse Company - Token - One Bale Receiving Gang 1910-1920

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. Wilmington Chamber of Commerce (N.C.), Wilmington, N.C.: W. L. De Rosset, 1902
  2. Ports of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1916, pgs. 203, 205
  3. New Hanover County Public Library Digital Archives
  4. The Library of Congress Digital Archives
Aaron Packard

1 Comment

  1. I’m trying to find information on a company of the same name from my hometown of Summit Mississippi. The compress was built in Philadelphia in 1876 and shipped to New Orleans where it overturned and killed an employee. It was abandoned and in 1895 in route to Chicago they decided to put it in the little town of summit. I found the ruins a few years ago and it’s pretty amazing but have been able to find very little information on the place. I’ve read it was the largest compressor in the world. I came across this while researching it. If you have any information you would like to share I would sure love to hear it. I have some pretty amazing pictures of the old ruins. The last documentation I can find of it is an old newspaper from 1958 where it was still in operation. It’s kind of hard to believe that much of it has fallen in that short of a period of time but I don’t know what happened.

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