James Coats (1774-1857), originally a ‘cork’ or manufacturer in tambouring trade, formed a partnership with James Whyte to produce ‘Canton Crepe’.
For several years the firm held the monopoly of this trade in Paisley. With his success, he built himself a town house at Back Row, Ferguslie. He then , as a silent partner, funded the firm of Ross & Duncan at George Street, who had mastered the techniques of twisting silk yarn. On dissolving this partnership, James Coats built his first small mill at ferguslie in 1826. In 1830, after perfecting his thread, he retired.
His sons, James and Peter, founded the firm of J & P Coats.
Soon, their brother, Thomas, joined the company. This family combination was ideal for a business undertaking. James had been a shawlmaker, Peter was an accountant, and Thomas an engineer.
The mill buildings at Ferguslie were largely increased in the 1840’s. By this time, trade with America accounted for three-quarters of the firms output, as another brother, Andrew, had built-up a marketing empire there. To counter the policy of home-trade protection, made by the Americans, the firm opened up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island between 1870 and 1883. Further mils were opened up in Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Spain. In 1890, the company had a capital of nearly £6,000,000! it had, from small beginnings, become one of the largest undertaking of its kind in the world.
In 1896, it absorbed the Clark Empire.
Besides the Clarks and Coats, other threadmakers, such as the Kerrs and Carliles, had existed in the town, but, through time, were either absorbed by other companies or had failed in business.