Born in Jonesborough, Tennessee in 1857, Moses Herman Cone was the eldest of 13 children born to Jewish-German immigrants. He and his brother, Caesar, worked with their father in his dry goods business in Maryland and later moved to Greensboro, NC, and partnered with local businessmen to form Cone Brothers, Lowman, and Burger Clothing Manufacturers based in Baltimore. Cone realized from his sales and travels that blue-collar workers needed more durable clothes for working. He married Bertha Lindau in 1888, and they never had children.
In 1890 Moses and Ceasar formed the Cone Export & Commission Company in New York and developed what was called the “Plaid Trust”, a commission to control the production market on checks and plaids. In 1892, they moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and took in another forty mills, and completely controlled the market. US antitrust laws broke up the agreements the Cones had with the various mills to control the market.
Cone purchased a defunct steel mill in 1895 and developed it into a large cotton mill called Proximity Manufacturing Company that produced blue and brown denim. Competitors in the New England states were located much farther away from the cotton fields, giving Cone an advantage] He built additional mills throughout the Greensboro area and the South soon became one of the biggest denim fabric producers in the world, In the 1890s, Moses Cone came to be known as “The Denim King.”
The Cone brothers soon after built White Oak Cotton Mills, at the time the largest denim mill in the world and largest cotton mill in the South, even supplying denim to Levi Strauss and Company. Moses was also instrumental in the development of Appalachian State University, as a contributor to the construction.
In 1901, Cone built Flat Top Manor, a 20-room mansion in the grand Colonial Revival style nestled on a 3,500-acre estate on Flat Top Mountain in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. An avid conservationist, Moses Cone planted extensive white pine forests, hemlock hedges, and a 10,000 tree apple orchard, and built lakes stocked with bass and trout. In addition, there were prize-winning cattle and sheep and a constructed fence surrounding an extensive chestnut forest that was stocked with deer.
After their deaths, Moses and Bertha Cone donated their home, Flat Top Manor to the National Park Service Today Moses H Cone Memorial Park is open to the public, located at Milepost 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Flat Top Manor is home to the Parkway Craft Center, home to the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. The Craft Center is currently undergoing a renovation and is closed during 2021. In addition to the Parkway Craft Center, visitors enjoy twenty-five miles of carriage trails perfect for hiking, horseback riding, or cruising in a horse-drawn carriage. The Craftsman’s Trail is a 20-minute loop walk around the Manor which the Cones are said to have walked together every morning. The estate also contains a family cemetery and a carriage and apple barn.