New Documentary Explores the Life and Legacy of Charles A. Cannon
The concept of “live, work, play” was alive and well in the city of Kannapolis – about 100 years ahead of its time.
A new documentary, “Charles A. Cannon: A Mind for Business, a Heart for People,” takes an in-depth look at an important piece of U.S. industrialist history and how Cannon’s leadership and philanthropy continue today.
The film, which premiered Oct. 15 at the historic Gem Theatre to a crowd of 800-plus, aims to put the contributions of the visionary business and community into historical context. Viewers are transported back in time to the mill floor, the board room and the linen closets of American families during Cannon’s years as the largest home textile producer in the world.
All areas of life were once centered on Cannon Mills, and the entire town was built to support the mill’s labor force. Cannon envisioned the town in the image of Colonial Williamsburg. There were places for people to live, work, and go to school and church – all within a few square miles. In a short time, Kannapolis was on the map and Cannon Mills went from small-town employer to a giant of the textile industry.
Astute to market changes, Cannon’s marketing innovations for the textile business are still applicable today: national consumer advertising, trademark labels on every sheet and towel, pastel colors, using sex appeal in advertising, clear packaging and sets of products.
In the film, it is noted that Cannon created at least one new job every day during his 50 years of leadership. He was never mired in the past; rather, he was aware of the present and always looking toward the future. This forward-thinking approach to business is still evident in today’s Kannapolis.
Cannon Memorial YMCA
The first building in Kannapolis was Cannon Mills; the second was the YMCA in 1908. At that time, the Cannon Y was the biggest in the country and boasted a bowling alley, movie theater, library and swimming pools. It served as the primary recreation for the town and was considered the heart of the community.
Cabarrus County Hospital
In 1937, Cannon was instrumental in the opening of Cabarrus County Hospital, now Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast. The 457-bed, nonprofit hospital employs more than 4,200 people and provides services through an extensive inpatient and outpatient network, including Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital, Mariam Cannon Hayes Women's Center and Batte Cancer Center, part of Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute.
Cannon Charitable Interests
Cannon’s impact on the community was not limited by his death. In 1943, he established a foundation to ensure efforts to sustain the values he believed in went well beyond his lifetime. Cannon Charitable Interests includes a foundation and three separate charitable trusts that provide funding in the areas of health care, higher education, human services and community.
North Carolina Research Campus
Cannon Mills may be long gone, but in its place is the North Carolina Research Campus, a 350-acre research center that is “transforming science at the intersection of human health, nutrition and agriculture” through research and development, disease prevention and treatment, education for scientists and medical professionals, and economic development.
Watch the Documentary
Wingate University is offering a free screening the film at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 at the McGee Theatre inside Wingate's Batte Center. The film can also be streamed anytime on the Charles Cannon film website.