Stuart Warren Cramer (1868-1940), though perhaps unexceptional as a textile executive, contributed significantly to the cotton mill industry through his engineering and invention skills. Born in Thomasville to a furniture manufacturer, young Cramer was educated at the United States Naval Academy. For two years he worked for D. A. Tompkins in Charlotte. In 1895 he established his own business and, over the next ten years, designed and equipped over 150 (or roughly one-third of all) cotton mills in the South.
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Cramer turned his profits back into his own mills, especially those in the community that came to bear his name, Cramerton. Hailed in the trade press as a “model community,” the mill village southeast of Gastonia had been known as Mayesworth for its founder J. H. Mayes. In 1915 Cramer acquired controlling interest of the company and in 1922 the name was changed. Cramer wrote the four-volume Useful Information for Cotton Manufacturers (1904-1909). He helped organize and served as president of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association (ACMA). An active Republican, he collaborated with James B. Duke in establishing Duke Power Company. Cramer, who kept homes in Cramerton and Charlotte, died in 1940 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte.
Most significant about Stuart W. Cramer is the role he played in the development of air conditioning. The holder of over sixty patents, Cramer pioneered humidity control and ventilating equipment for cotton mills and installed scores of such systems at plants across the South. In a paper read before an ACMA convention on May 16-17, 1906, Cramer coined the term “air conditioning.” Credit for the invention of air conditioning does not belong to one person. Yet, even the biographer of W. H. Carrier attributes to Cramer eleven technological advances and “outstanding work which later had a large part in the air conditioning industry.”
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 455—sketch by Thomas S. Morgan
Howard E. Covington Jr. and Marion A. Ellis, eds., The North Carolina Century: Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000 (2002)
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, VII, 82-87—sketch by John Charles McNeill
Robert A. Ragan, “Gaston County Textile Leaders” (1975)
Textile World, February 3, 1923, and February 2, 1924
Charlotte Observer, July 4, 1940
Margaret Ingels, Willis Haviland Carrier: Father of Air Conditioning (1952)
Raymond Arsenault, “The End of the Long Hot Summer: The Air Conditioner and Southern Culture,” Journal of Southern History (November 1984): 597-628
Stuart W. Cramer (image from Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County)