The Inventor

Joseph Parks Primm

Joseph was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 12 September 1882, the second child and eldest son of James Alexander Primm (1856-1934) and Martha Ann Virginia Deaton (1860-1932). He’s my paternal grandmother’s eldest brother. The family lived in the area of Charlotte known as Seversville and also had a farm out in the country. He had eight siblings: Margaret Jane (1880-1969), Ada Estelle (1884-1965), Arthur Leroy (1886-1970), William Frederick (1889-1935), Oliver E. (1893-1894), Myrtle Odessa (1897-1959, my grandmother), Arnold H. (1898-1915), and Ralph W. (1899-1901). After two years of high school (at about age 16), Joseph dropped out of school to work as a machine repairer. And with all those siblings, the family probably needed the extra income.

By the time he was 20 years old, Joseph had moved to Kernersville, North Carolina. There he met and married Emma J. Volger (1881-1912) on 30 November 1902. The couple moved to Charlotte where their first son, Ralph Eugene was born on 4 March 1904 (d. 1979). Son James Adkins was born in Charlotte on 14 November 1907 (d. 1955). Son Parks Kerner was born on 5 April 1910 (d. 1987) in Rome, Georgia, where Joseph had moved his family to become the superintendent at Rome Hosiery Mills. Alas, Emma lived only two more years, leaving Joseph to raise his three sons alone.

Velma and Joseph Parks Primm with Claire, Billy and Daniel.

In 1919 Joseph married Velma Maxwell, a stenographer at the mill where he worked. He took his bride and his three sons to Charlotte to live, but returned to Rome by October 1920 for the birth of his daughter Claire (d. 1999). He and Velma had two more children: William Berry (1922-2015) and Daniel D. (1923-2009).

The Cam Box and Knitting Machine

“Velma!”
“What is it, dear?”
“Where are my garters?”
“I put clean ones in your drawer two days ago, dear.”
“Well, I had to throw away one pair because they were stretched out of shape.”
“I don’t know, dear. You could wear your dress socks.”
“But I’ve got to be on the floor today and need my work socks for my work shoes.”
“Well, dear, can’t you just make yourself some socks at the plant?”
“It’s not that simple; the machine won’t work if the yarns aren’t the same size”
“Think about it, dear. I’ll get you some more garters at the store today.”

This is how I imagine a conversation went back in the early 1920s between Joseph Parks Primm and his wife Velma. Joseph was the supervisor at the hosiery mill in Rome, Georgia. And he took his wife’s advice and did think about making himself some work socks that would stay up without garters. (Dress socks already came with elastic at the top, but the heavier work socks were still held up with garters.) Along with Henry R. Berry and John M. Berry, Joseph invented an attachment for the cam box part of the sock-knitting machine that allowed two different sized yarns (or regular yarn and elasticized yarn) to come together and knit a sock with elastic around the top. Good-bye garters! The invention was patented in 1925. You can view the original patent document here.

He and the Berrys didn’t stop there. They invented an attachment for the knitting machine that would convert it from a single-feed machine to a two-feed striping machine, which allowed the machine to knit with two different colors, creating a pattern in the socks. This patent was granted in 1926. You can view the original patent document here.

If you’re wearing patterned socks with elastic in the top, you can thank Uncle Joseph!

Later Life

Joseph worked as superintendent in the Rome Hosiery Mills for the rest of his life. All six of his children lived in Rome their entire lives. He didn’t live long enough to know his grandchildren; Joseph died of a heart attack at home on 22 August 1945. He’s buried in Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, Georgia.

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The Revolutionary War Veteran

Though I have more than one ancestor who fought in the War for Independence, I’ve selected my 5th great-grandfather to fulfill this week’s prompt: Independence.

Tillotson O’Brien

The fourth child and second son of Laurence (1720-1812) and Frances (1725-?) O’Brien, Tillotson was born in May 1760 in what is now Richmond County, North Carolina. At the time of his birth it was Anson County, but around 1779 his father and several other nearby residents petitioned the state for a new county to make it easier to conduct business. Laurence and Frances had immigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to Queen Anne County, Maryland before 1740. Around 1750 he moved his family to North Carolina where Tillotson was born. There are two known siblings for Tillotson: Dennis O’Brien (1740-1800) and Lucretia O’Brien (abt. 1750-?). Two other names have popped up, Nancy and David, but I can’t find anything to confirm their existence. Continue reading

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The Black Sheep

Everyone has a black sheep in their family (some may have more than one). There are probably varying degrees of black sheepness (a child who decided to drop out of school and avoid the family business is probably lower on the scale than the long-lost cousin in jail for murder), but whatever has put the family member on the outs with everyone else, the black sheep make for very interesting research. This is a good thing for genealogists. You don’t get to choose your ancestors; I might not have chosen this one. And now, introducing my family’s favorite “black sheep”: Continue reading

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My Grandmother

Since I’m named after my grandmother, this seemed like the time to write about her (this week’s prompt is “same name”). Besides my name, I got my coloring from my grandmother, and my crocheting ability. (If there’s anything else, someone tell me, because I can’t see it!) Almost everyone who knew my grandmother called her Miss Annie, even some of her grandchildren. Our family called her MaMa (even accent on both syllables), but with all the genealogy work I’ve been doing, I’ve gotten in the habit of calling her Miss Annie, too. Continue reading

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My Uncles

It’s Father’s Day this weekend. My parents didn’t have any sisters, and, since I’ve already written about my father, I wanted to honor my uncles who became dads. (Daddy’s eldest brother died before he had a chance to have children.) Continue reading

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She Married Well

With a prompt of “Going to the Chapel” this is the perfect time to write about Lou, my first cousin three times removed. This is my maternal grandfather’s side of the family. Continue reading

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The War Hero

Andrew Hamilton Rohleder III

Ensign Rohleder in his dress whites.

Andy was always an enigma to me. The picture of the handsome young man in uniform on top of the bookcase at my grandparents’ house was always visible but never really spoken of. When asked about Andy, the answer was always, “He died in the war.” Continue reading

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