By Peter Lee Glick


Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree of

Master of Arts

(In History)

The Graduate School University

of Maine Orono

August 1969

1984.186.639.0( ).B.



The town of Pittsfield, Maine, was dependent on the

wool industry for over ninety years. Much of its

prosperity and life was greatly affected by the conditions

of the mills. In fact it is safe to say that the woolen mills

made and almost broke Pittsfield. The town had always

relied on one industry, and when the last of the mills

closed, Pittsfield suffered until a new industry could be

brought in.

In this paper I will try to give an account of the

history of these mills. Many of the records and pay

books have long been destroyed. It was only by the use

of the Pittsfield Advertiser, the local newspaper, and by

the accounts of personal experiences of people who had

once worked in the mills and were kind enough to relate

these to me that this paper could be written. This paper

presents the life and near death of a small Maine town.


The Beginnings of an Industry

The town of Pittsfield lies in the southeastern part of

Somerset County, twenty miles north of Waterville and

thirty-five miles south of Bangor in the State of Maine.

The Maine Central Railroad passes through the

Southeastern part of the town, with a station at East

Pittsfield. From the shape of the town it appears to have

been what was left after all the towns surrounding it had

taken what land they wanted for their purposes.

The land was fertile and the farmers had for some

time given much attention to fruit growing,

consequently there were many fine apple orchards. Most

of the streams were small except the Sebasticook River,

beside which the principal industries of the town were


The town was formerly known as Plymouth Gore

and was part of the Kennebec Purchase. Its first settlers

arrived in 1794. On June 19, 1819, it was incorporated

under the name, of Warsaw. Five years later the name

was changed to Pittsfield in honor of William Pitts of

Boston, who was then a major proprietor of land in the

area. During the 19th century the small village grew and

prospered until in 1868 it had a sawmill for long and

short lumber, a grain-mill, and a large shingle-mill. An

excellent private school, Maine Central Institute, had Just

been built and the town supported three churches. The

population in 1868 was


approximately 1,800 persons and the taxable evaluation,


One of the leaders of the town was Going Hawthorn

who had moved to Pittsfield, from Gardiner, Maine, in

1832. In 1867 he purchased an old saw mill from Jesse

Conners, a local store owner. He improved the mill and

built a split-stone and cement dam across the

Sebasticook River. In 1868 he added one set of woolen

machinery to the mill and was able to persuade Robert

Dobson of Lawrence, Massachusetts to purchase the


Robert Dobson had been in the woolen business all

his life. He was born in Galashiels, Scotland, March 3,

1823. Both his father's and mother's families were

connected with woolen mills and Robert grew up among

the woolen mills of his native home. In 1885 Robert took

his family to America after having worked himself up to

the position of general manager for P.R. Sanderson of

Galashiels who operated the largest tweed mills in

Scotland. His first Job was with the Hodge Mills in

Cherryfield, Massachusetts, owned by the Olney

brothers (one of whom Was Richard Olney, Secretary of

State to President McKinley). From there he went to

Amesbury Corporation where he was employed for four

years. Because of his knowledge of yarns he accepted a

position to reorganize a company that planned to

manufacture yarns and

1George J. Varney, A Gazetteer of the State of Maine (Boston: B. B.

Russell, 1886) p. 448.



cashmere near Bridgeport, Connecticut. Due to an

argument among the stockholders, reorganization

became impossible and he was forced to accept a

position in Schaghitoke, New York. These mills were

known throughout the United States as the Model Mills

of America, and Dobson built his plants in Pittsfield

according to these plans. He afterwards had charge of

the shawl mills in Leeds, New York, owned by the Hunt-

Tilness Company3. To raise money to purchase

the mill from Going Hawthorn, Robert Dobson

associated himself with a local man, William Davis and

his elder son, William, to form the firm of Dobson, Davis

and Company. He added another set of machinery and

the mill went into operation on January 2, 1869.24

Expansion came rapidly for the Dobson, Davis

Company. In 1873 the capitalization of the company was

$85,000. The mill employed twenty-five men, thirty-two

women and three children under sixteen. The wages

paid for that year were $25,521.60. The average wage for

the men per week was $9.60; women, $7.50; and

children, $3.60. The mill operated during 1873 for 11 ½

months.5 Also during this year the plant was expanded

to four sets. In 1878 the building was extended

eastward and two more sets

3News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 16, 1896.

4News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. October 27, 1892.

5The Wealth and Industry of Maine for the year 1873 (Augusta: Sprague,

Owen and Nash, 1873) p. 203.


added. In 1880 another addition was constructed on the

west end of the mill with a brick foundation (the bricks

being manufactured in Pittsfield); a dye house was

erected and two more sets added bringing the grand

total to eight sets.6

In 1876 Mr. Davis decided to sell his interest in the

mill to Robert Dobson's son, Gordon, and his son-in-law,

Dennison Walker. The new firm was called Robert

Dobson and Company. The production of the mill was

valued at approximately $125,000 per year.7

The woolen industry was not only growing in

Pittsfield but in Hartland, Old Town, Sangerville,

Skowhegan, and other areas of Maine. Most of the

people that owned these mills were from Scotland, and

many of the owners had known each other from

childhood. It was to become a standard practice during

the late 1800's that if one mill got into trouble, the others

would try to help it out.8

Most of the workers in the mills were also brought

from Scotland. Their passage was paid for by the

companies and the workers paid the amount back after

they began work. In Pittsfield the mill owners now built

a series of small homes behind the Pioneer mill for the

workers. These homes consisted of two rooms on the

first floor plus a shed in the back for wood and storage.

Upstairs there was

6News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. October 27, 1892.


8Personal interview, Mrs. Joseph Buker, March 21, 1969.


a small sleeping room. Outdoor plumbing was the order

of the day. The town now became divided. The workers'

area became known as Little Scotland while the area

south and west of the mill became known as the

British side or sector.9

The workers were paid from thirty cents to a dollar a

day depending upon their skills. They went to work at

six in the morning and worked until six or seven at night

according to the business of the mill.

Every summer they were given two week vacations,

unpaid, while the mills were closed for repairs. There

were also several unscheduled shutdowns during the

year due to breakdown or slack periods. Many persons

started work in the mills at twelve or thirteen years of

age. They were apprentices or water boys who carried

water to the weavers and dyers who could not leave

their jobs.10

The workers were able to get by on their wages for

the price of goods at this time were reasonable. For

instance the price of flour was $4.50 per barrel while

clothing ranged from 75¢ for dresses, $2.00 for a pair of

shoes and men's topcoats for $3.00.11 Most meat and

vegetables were seasonal and many lived on deer, duck

and fish caught on weekends and vacations.

9Personal interview. Mr. William Wayness, February 24, 1969.


11News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 19, 1884.


In 1883 Dennison Walker disassociated himself from the

Dobson firm and decided to build his own mill across

the river from the Pioneer Mill. Subscriptions were taken

in the town at a minimum of twenty dollars to finance

the construction. A committee was formed consisting of

H.A. Pooler and R.A. Conant, and a notice placed in the

local paper advertising the fact of this stock


The subscription was met easily, and construction

began by July of 1884. The building was designed by one

Proctor of Waterville, and architectural work was

handled by Preston Hersey of Pittsfield, a man who was

to build most of the mills in town. 13

Building such a plant was difficult work and many

accidents took place.

Ira F. Towle placed his hand on a beam which

was being driven down with a sledge hammer just in time to

receive a blow with full force on his left hand smashing the little

finger badly, although the doctor has some hope of saving it.

Allie Noble fell from a staging to the ground, a distance of some

twelve feet. He was shaken up, but his injuries were not serious.

Cyrus Noble also fell and injured his spine and one leg so badly

that he is now home unable to leave. Henry Whitman had two

fingers of his left hand cut off in a buzz planer at the planing

mill. 14

Even Preston Hersey the foreman was not immune

from accident as he had the toes of his left foot severely

12News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 19, 1884.

13News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 24, 1884.

14News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 21, 1884.


jammed by dropping a large timber on them.15

Despite all the problems the new mill went up

rapidly, and the dedication for the mill was set for

October 3, 1884. The town planned a huge, evening of

celebration. Andrews Orchestra, a ten piece group from

Bangor, was hired to play at the Town Hall, and an

oyster and pastry supper was provided before the ball.

The orchestra was unable to play on the date so the

event was put off until the following week.16 As the

local newspaper described the gala; "A good time was

had by all."

The mill was christened the Maple Grove Woolen

Mill as the mill was surrounded by these trees. When it

went into production in December of 18-84 it had only

two sets of machinery and manufactured flannel.

Production was limited as the market was somewhat

depressed at time and expansion of the facilities was

still continuing.17 By April the mill was running full

time. It had four sets of cards and thirteen looms with a

capacity of thirteen more looms. The wool came largely

from the West with much of it coming from California. It

produced blue and, scarlet flannel of fine quality. The

mill was heated throughout by steam, no fires being

used except in the boiler room which was located in a

brick wing Joining the main structure.18

15News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 28, 1884.

16News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, September 18, 1884.

17News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 8, 1885.

18News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 23, 1885.


Fire seemed to be the great fear of the mill owners, as

they employed a night watchman to guard the property

after the employees had gone home. A force pump was

located in the wheel-house and had attachments for two

hoses that could be put into action with a few minutes

notice, and pipelines were laid to other available points

and attached hydrants. All fire fighting equipment was

located outside the mill to keep the chances of water

being cut off at a minimum. The many windows

afforded an opportunity to flood every floor. 19

The building was three stories high, each story being

one big room. Stairs and an elevator were located in a

tower on the side of the building. The cost of the

building and the share of the water rights was $20,000,

while the machinery was worth $15,000.20 Most of the

funds had been subscribed by the town.

The last main addition was added to the mill in

October, 1885, when a new fifty-five horse power engine

was added and an extension built to house it. The engine

was designed to be used only when the water was so

low that It could not turn the waterwheel that operated

the mill ordinarily. Nine new sets of cards were also

added. Most of the new additions were financed through

loans. 21

19News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 23, 1885.


21News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, October 29, 1885.


The Pioneer Mill also took precautions against fire at

about the same time by fitting the mill with automatic

sprinklers. A tower was also erected to hold water and

another steam pump added to take the place of the

original one in case of emergency. A hydrant was placed

above the mill in front of Robert Dobson's house to

protect the house from fire.22

In order to keep workers of his mill, Walker

embarked on a large building program of houses around

his mill. The majority of these were double tenements.

About six were erected along Detroit Avenue, a road

leading east from the village. The rents were low and the

better ones were rented to the overseers of the mill.23 As

Robert Dobson had done, Walker located his own

residence next to the mill. What made this house

different was it had one of the first indoor bathrooms in

the town. A huge tub was placed in the bathroom along

with other conveniences. Hot and cold water was

furnished from the boilers and pumps at the mill. Pipes

were laid under the ground to the house, and steam heat

was also supplied by the mill. 24

Wages had improved since 1873. The average wage

for a skilled male worker was $1.50 per day while the


22News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 8, 1885.

23News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 3,1886.

24News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 22, 1886.


made $1.20 per day. Women who made up a large part

of the Dobson Company earned $1.15 for skilled Jobs

and $1.05 per day for unskilled jobs. The value of the

Dobson plant had also risen from $85,000 in 1873 to

$125,000 in 1883.25

In 1886 the Pioneer Mill, because of water problems

during the past summer, added an engine room to the

west end of the mill. It housed a Putnam Automatic Cut

Off Engine which cost $2,500. The engine was huge with

a balance wheel eight feet in diameter, thirty-two inches

wide and weighing nearly six tons. It was capable of

running machinery in the mill, and the new boiler was

capable of furnishing steam for the engine and all other

machinery. It took nearly eight hundred tons of coal to

run the plant for the eight months of operation.26

Four new homes were also built by the Dobson

Company in "Scotland". The houses measured

twenty-four feet by twenty-six feet and had a shed in the

rear fourteen feet by fifteen feet. When the houses were

completed it brought the total of company-owned

tenements to seventeen.27

The products of the Pioneer Mill for the year 1886

were 507,560 yards of three quarter inch goods. It

required 450,000 pounds of clean wool to manufacture

this amount of

25Statistics of Industry and Finances of Maine for

the Year 1883 (Augusta; Sprague and Son, 10837 p. 164.

26News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 2,




goods.28 The amount of raw wool needed to provide

this amount of clean wool amounted to 800,000 pounds.

Most of this raw wool came from foreign countries.

Two events occurred in 1886 which show the

strength of big business at this time. The majority of

woolen mill owners met at Castle Harmony, a local

resort in Harmony, Maine, to form a permanent

organization known as the Maine Woolen

Manufacturers Association.29 At Dexter a group of

weavers struck for better pay and were immediately

fired. A black list was now passed around to all the mill

owners of the Association giving the names of the

"trouble makers" who had been fired from the mills.30

In the years to come the Association also rose to

challenge the tariff policies of the Federal Government,

and to keep the conditions of their employees where

they wanted them to remain.

On May 2, 1887, a freshet occurred on the

Sebasticook. Hard rain had fallen in the state during the

past few days the streams and rivers began to flood. The

mill yard at the Pioneer Mill flooded and the employees

of the mill requested to work Saturday to make up for

the time lost the previous Monday. Some of the weavers

refused and were dismissed.31

28News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 13, 1887.

29News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 10, 1886.

30News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 19, 1886.

31News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 19, 1887,


The Pioneer Mill now began to expand. A new

four-story addition, seventy-two feet by fifty-seven feet,

was built to accompany twelve "sets" of machinery. The

building was made of hard pinewood timbers, and

hardwood floors. A building was constructed to house a

new 125 horsepower boiler.32 A machine shop was

added, and power for this shop was furnished by an

endless belt which ran from the wheel of the old grist

mill included in the original mill. In the machine shop

was an iron planer, the first in Pittsfield.

In the summer the old picker house, a twenty feet by

thirty feet building, was demolished. Its demolition

nearly caused severe injuries to the men working on it.34

Robert Dobson also erected a bridge behind the mill,

across the Sebasticook River.35 This bridge connected

"Scotland" with the mill, and instead of having to walk a

half a mile to get to work the workers came across the


32News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 19, 1888.

33 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 19, 1888.

34News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 19, 1888. Mott Mersey,

Eben Waldron and two. others, after removing the wooden roof

covering the brick arches, were engaged in taking off the latter

sections from one end. All four were standing on one of the brick

arches. The sides of the building suddenly fell inward raising the

arch hard, then all coming down together, men, bricks and timbers.

No one was seriously injured. Hersey had a long cut over his right

eye, and was otherwise scratched and bruised. The others escaped

with only slight scratches.

35News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 14,1889.


The Maple Grove Woolen Mill, still concerned about

fire, built a four-story tower to house a large water tank

and installed a gravity feed sprinkler system.36 The

Maple Grove Fire Company was organized with W. C.

Lucas as its first captain.37 A new office building was

erected on the east end of the mill while the old one was

turned into a cloth room.38

The Robert Dobson Company made its largest

expansion soon after (and, in my opinion, its greatest

mistake). For years Robert Dobson had dreamed of

building another mill in Pittsfield. It was decided to

build the new mill at the Douglas Dam site. Work on the

project started in December of 1891 with the stone blocks

being quarried for the foundation.39

The company could not afford to build the mill on

their own, so a subscription for construction was begun.

On Monday afternoon, March 7, 1892, a meeting was

held at the Masonic Hall anteroom to discuss the matter.

D. E. Vickery was chosen chairman and the great

Pittsfield attorney J. W. Manson elected secretary.

William Dobson, son of the founder and now proprietor

of the Pioneer Mill, explained the details. The firm

would take $20,000 of

36 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 16.


37News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 11,


38News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 10,


39News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 11,1891.


the stock, and Dobson had received assurances from

capitalists in Boston and other cities that they would

subscribe at least $40,000 more to the stocks. A

subscription committee was chosen consisting of Oramel

Murray, W. R. Hunnewel J. P. Connor, Emery Whitten,

F. D. Jenkins, William Dobson, D. M. Parks, C. E.

Vickery, H. C; Pooler and I. H. Lancey, all local business

and professional men. 40

It was proposed to (build a mill large enough to

accommodate eight "sets" of cards; to put in four "sets"

at first and later if business warranted to put in the other

four "sets". The Dobsons and their associates were to put

up $60,000, and the citizens of Pittsfield the remaining

$40,000. A corporation was organized with a capital

stock of $150,000. 41

At first the response to the subscription was slow, so

to prod the people into action the Dobson threatened to

withdraw the offer. This apparently frightened the

people for by April 14 the town had raised $25,000 and

planned to raise the rest the following week. The reason

for this sudden surge of community spirit was that other

towns such as Newport were interested in the mill, and

the thought of Pittsfield losing her prestige to a

surrounding town hurt more than the loss of money

from a Scotsman's pocketbook.

40News item In the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 10, 1892.

41News item In the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 10, 1892.


William Dobson now went to Augusta where he was able to

raise $11,000 in a few hours, and as the money began to roll in the

idea of a bigger mill began to grow. The idea of a twelve "set" mill

circulated through the town. The Pioneer Mill was a twelve "set"

mill and employed three hundred hands. As the idea grew more

people wanted to subscribe, but as the Advertiser stated, "our

citizens all had a good chance to invest, and, if any now desire to

join, and find it too late, they certainly cannot blame

the soliciting committee."42

After two weeks William Dobson returned to Pittsfield laving

raised the required amount of money. The subscriptions now totaled

$157,500. The large stockholders felt it best to start with $160,000 and

while many people wanted to buy more stock the subscription was

closed. The break-down in round figures of money raised was;

Pittsfield, $63,000; Boston, $23,000; Waterville, $3,000; Bath, $5,000;

Augusta, $20,000; and Bangor, $25,000.43

On the local scene the businessmen raised the following

amounts. Robert Dobson $20,00.0; A. P. McMaster $5,000; F. O.

Jenkins $3,000; J. F. Connor, J. C. Connor, F. H. Lancey, J. W.

Manson $2,000; G. H. Hunter, N. L. Perkins,

42News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 21, 1892.

43News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. May 12, 1892.


Dr. Drake, the Haskills, and Emman B. Longley $1,000.

Sixty-eight other people contributed lesser amounts.44

One hundred thousand dollars went into the

building of the mill while the extra amount was used in

the purchase of the Douglas Dam and the property of

the water power company. An electrical system was put

in the mill and other additions added as William Dobson

saw fit. One of these additions was a new street called

Waverly Avenue.45 The avenue was to run from North

Main Street to the new mill, a distance of a half mile. A

town meeting was held which voted $5,000 for a new

bridge to cross the Sebasticook from the west end of the

Park's estate to meet Waverly Avenue. It was used to

accommodate people coming from Hartland and other

western areas who had business at the mill, and would

save over two miles of travel.46

Events now moved rapidly. A large boarding house,

was built at once near the site of the mill and numerous

other buildings began to go up to accommodate the

workers. The new mill was to add at least a thousand

people to the population of the town, an increase of

almost 50 percent.47

On June 20, 1892, a meeting was held at the law

office of J. W. Manson. At this time the stockholders

44Sanger M. Cook, Pittsfield on the Sebasticook (Bangor:

Furbush-Roberts Printing Co., Inc., 1966) p. 75.

45News item In the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 5, 1892.

46News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 5, 1912.



ratified the increase in capital stock to $160,000 and

accepted the resignation of officers. The number of

officers was then increased from three to seven. Robert

Dobson was elected President, Gardiner Cushman of

Boston, Edward Blake of Banger, Oscar Holway of

Augusta, and Robert Dobson, William Dobson, J. F.

Connor, and F. O. Jenkins, Directors. J. W. Manson was

elected Secretary-Treasurer.48 The Board of Directors

consisted of those men who had invested the largest

amount of money in the new operation.

Ground was broken for the construction of the mill

Tuesday, July 2, 1892, at 7:30 in the morning. Robert

Dobson threw out the first shovelful of dirt at the

north-east corner in the presence of a large crowd of

workmen and others. He then made a short address to

the onlookers. He said that this additional industry was

to be a great factor in the future of the town, and he

hoped the products of the Waverly Mill would become

as well known throughout the world as were the

celebrated Waverly novels from which the mill derived

its name.49

The mill was 298 feet long, 60 feet wide and three

stories high. A wing sixty feet by seventy feet ran south

from the western end of the main building, and another,

wing, sixty feet by sixty feet, east from the southern end

of the west wing - forming a roomy court. The wings

were only two

48News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. June 23, 1892

49News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. July 4, 1892.


stories in height. The wheel house and other buildings

were additional and also of brick.50

Some idea of the major undertaking of such a project

may be seen in the amount of materials used; 1,800,000

bricks, 600,000 feet of lumber and a large amount of

granite in the foundation. It would require 350,000 feet

of four-inch spruce and 65,000 feet of one-inch

hardwood for floors, and upwards of 150,000 feet of

hard pine.51

W. H. Snow of Lockwood, Green, and Company was

the supervising engineer; Preston Hersey in charge of

the construction. M. C. Poster of the firm M. C. Poster

and Son had the contract and was ground

superintendent. The excavation for the eastern end of

the mill was quite extensive. The crew was gradually

enlarged, "and things will hum for the next few

months", said the local newspaper in the commentary on

the building.52

The contract provided that the roof of the new

building had to be on not later than the first of

December and the buildings completed by February.

The mill was located on what had been for years

known as the Pecker Farm on the east side of the river,

and the farm house was already opened as a boarding

house for the

50News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 4, 1892,




men. "No pleasanter, lighter, or healthier location for

a large factory and its surroundings can be found

anywhere. High and live is the site and it seems by

nature to have been designed for the purpose to which it

is now being put. A park is to be laid out and

perpetually dedicated to the public." Unfortunately the

future park never took shape, but the location of the

factory did live up to its expectations.

Robert Dobson now began to build two

two-dwelling houses with two more planned for the


The foundation was started in July and a spur track

from the Sebasticook and Moosehead Railroad was put

in to handle the six hundred freight cars that were

needed to haul the materials for construction.54 By

August the work on the foundation was nearly

completed and two steam and a hand derrick were in

use to build the foundation and chimney, which was

some twelve feet high by this time.55

The building fever now spread to the residents of

Pittsfield. The Towle brothers completed two new

homes on Waverly Avenue and began a third one for

Justin Jackson.

53News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 4, 1892.

54News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 28, 1892.

55News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 18, 1892.


Further down the street a Mr. Basford from Detroit,

Maine, began a house, and across the street Jason Pinnell

was ready to build one for a Mr. Tibbetts as soon as the

foundation was prepared.

On September 29 the chimney was ready and the

society editor of the paper handled it this way.

Mrs. Wilbert Quinn went to the top of the tall chimney at

the Waverly Mill, 100 feet high, and triumphantly laid the first

brick. Mrs. Quinn showed herself to be a lady of nerves as she

displayed no trace of uneasiness under circumstances that

would appall most women, not to say a few men. Contractor

Poster at once presented her a check for ten dollars as a

memento of the occasion.57

The walls of the new mill began to rise, and as the

cold weather of fall set in the crew began to take more

than coffee and tea to stay warm. One Saturday night a

large amount of spirits was consumed and over forty

men on Foster's crew failed to report for work Monday

morning.58 The local chapter of the W.C.T.U. rose to the

occasion and for the next few months the evils of "devil

rum" were the subject of church sermons and pot-bellied

stove discussions in the Pittsfield area.

By December the walls were up, floor beams in place

the smaller buildings almost completed.59 As December

progressed the roof was tarred and the boiler put into


57News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. September 29, 1892.

58News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. October 20, 1892.

59News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 8, 1892.


First steam was raised in the boilers by January and the

water wheels set into place.60 By February the contracts

for the shafting, lighting and piping were let and it

looked as if the completion date for the new mill would

be met.

The mill was completed by April and the end result

was slightly different than had been originally planned.

The main mill was 298 feet and eight inches long and

sixty feet wide. On the west side of the tower was the

"picker building fifty by forty feet, three stories high.

South of the picker house was the dye house, fifty by

seventy-four feet and two stories high. Running easterly

from the picker house to the chimney was the boiler and

heating house. The chimney was eleven feet square at

the base and one hundred feet high. The wheel house

was thirty by forty feet and rested upon solid ledge. It

contained two Hercules water wheels. 61

The mill and all connecting buildings were built

brick with stone trimmings. All buildings with the

exception of the tower were covered with flat roofs

coated with tar and gravel. The tower was seventy-nine

feet high and contained a 10,000 gallon tank to supply

the automatic sprinklers. There were also two wooden

tanks of 1,500 gallons each, one to supply the sinks and

the other for wool and cloth scouring purposes. The

tower also contained

60News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 18, 1893.

61News item In the Pittsfield Advertiser. April 11, 1893.


a spiral staircase connecting the floors and provided a

fireproof stairway. There was another fireproof stairway

at the northeast corner of the mill. Automatic sliding fire

doors were provided on all inner doors to prevent the

spread of fire from room to room.

The floors were covered with four-inch spruce plank

covered with maple flooring. A part of the first floor,

where the wet finishing was done, was laid in concrete.

About 200 feet of the easterly end of the first floor was to

be used for finishing purposes; next on the same floor

was the machine shop 20 by 46 feet, and that part

between the machine shop and picker house was used

for storage of wool. The dye house floor was laid with

slits in the floor for the water to drip through.

Underneath was concrete. A shaft tunnel, 13 by 48 feet, 7

feet high, covered with bush arches, ran from the wheel

house under the dye house to the sheave pit.

The second floor was devoted to weaving and the

third to carding and spinning.

The mill was heated by a Sturtevant steam hot blast

apparatus. It consisted of brick subterranean flues

connecting with upright flues similar to chimneys.

Through these the hot air was forced into the rooms by a

rapidly revolving fan seven feet in circumference.

The shafting was put in by Jones & Laughlins, Ltd.,

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Mather Company,

Boston, put in the electric lighting plant. The automatic



steam piping, and all the water piping was supplied by

the General Fire Extinguisher Company of Providence,

Rhode Island. The fire pump service consisted of one

Hercules power pump and one steam underwriters

pump furnished by the Dean Steam Pump Company of

Holyoke, Massachusetts; two Hercules water wheels,

furnished by Holyoke Machine Company, Worcester;

boilers by the Portland Company, Portland, Maine.

The textile machinery was furnished by the

following; cards and machinery for dressing and

spooling by Cleveland machine Works, Worcester,

Massachusetts, mules by Johnson and Bassett,

Worcester, Massachusetts; extractor by W. H. Rolhurst

& Sons, Troy, New York; for pulling and scouring by J.

Hunter Machine Company, North Adams,

Massachusetts; cloth dryer, by Kenyon Brothers,

Raritan, New Jersey; gigs, brushes and shears, by Parks

and Wooson, Springfield, Vermont; cloth press by Miller

Press and Machine Company, Woonsocket, Rhode


The wool pickers were located on the second floor of

the picker house and the stock was conveyed by the

Sturtevant system of blowers to the third ready for the

cards. The same system also conveyed the colored wool

from the extractors to the wool dryer. All in all this

mill must have been constructed in as modern and safe a

fashion as any of its time.

The mill was to commence production in June and

manufacture fancy cassimires [a smooth, twilled wool

fabric] and Scotch cheviot [a heavy, rough-napped plain

or twill fabric of coarse wool or worsted]. The


mill started with four sets of cards and thirty looms. The

cards and spinning had to be run extra time to keep up

with the looms. Employment began with eighty hands

and the owners expected to increase this to two hundred

when ten more sets of cards were introduced into the

mill. According to the builders of the mill "it was one of

the most modern in the world."62

In conjunction with the opening of the mill the town

held a grand two-day celebration. The first night a group

of young ladies were secured from Old Town by

William Dobson to give a program of "amateur

minstrelsy" supplemented by readings of three talented

Pittsfield ladies.63 The account of a local historian

deserves quotation.

The concert and ball the following evening was a magnificent

affair one of the finest ever to be put on in Pittsfield. Special trains

brought guests from all parts of the state. Businessmen from Boston

and representatives from nearly every woolen mill in Maine were

present. Even though there was a snow storm of considerable

proportions early in the evening, it did not dampen the enthusiasm

of the crowd that made their way to the mill by private teams or by

D. E. Fiske's five barges. The interior of the mill was bathed in a

flood of electric light. The floor was in charge of T. G. Lancey, with

H. F. Libby and E. M. Shaw as assistants. At 8:30 Pullen's Orchestra

mounted the platform in the center of the immense room and played

five concert numbers. Dancing began at 9:30 and 130 couples

appeared for the grand march led by S. R. Haines and Miss Hattie

Dobson. The order of dances consisted of eighteen numbers. 64

62News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. April 11, 1893.


64Cook, op. cit., p. 76-78.


A supper was served at twelve to over six hundred people.

The corps of eighty waiters was led by D. M. Parks.65

A shifting of the office building and the erection of a new

one now took place at the Robert Dobson Company. The old

office building at the Pioneer Mill was moved up to Waverly

Mill to be used as a superintendent's office.66 Robert now built

himself a new building of Queen Anne architecture. It

measured forty by forty and was built by Preston Hersey.67

The other problem that arose was that the whistles on the two

mills sounded alike so a new one was placed on the Pioneer

Mill. "Now the Waverly Mill has its own distinctive toot."68

65Cook, op. cit. p. 76-78.

66News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 20, 1893.

67News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 16, 1892.

68News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 23, 1893.


Depression and Doldrums

While a bright future seemed to be the prospect for

his town, fate had other ideas. Less than a month after

the opening of the Waverly Mill it was shut down

entirely and the Dobson Company gave notice to the

employees that they planned to shut down one-half of

the Pioneer Mill after August 18. The other half of the

mill was to be run shorter tours until the situation

improved. Dobson answered the people of Pittsfield's

questions by saying that he "firmly believes that relief is

to come speedily and it is evident to all that a

conservative course now on the part of the mills is better

for the entire community than running full time, which

under the circumstances might result in large loss to the

proprietors and perhaps a permanent shut down. The

pinch does not arise from lack of orders, but scarcity of

money throughout the country.69 The mills of course

were caught up in the Panic of 1893.

Dennison Walker did not seem affected by this

money shortage. His mill continued to run full-time and

he and his wife left for a trip to California. Upon his

return to the east he stopped off in Westerly, Rhode

Island, and made an oral agreement to purchase a nine

"set" mill.70 This purchase looked good at first but later

proved to be his undoing.

69 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 17,1893.

70News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 8, 1892.


By January of 1894 the woolen industry in Pittsfield was

languishing. Most of the machinery in the mills lay idle

and the Robert Dobson Company now announced a

reduction in wages effective February 1. The reason the

Company gave was that the other manufacturers

throughout the country had also reduced their wages

and had placed goods upon the market on the basis of

such reduction. They had to do likewise in order to

compete. They assured the town that they would

continue to employ all their old hands.71

The town found itself in serious financial difficulties.

Many were unemployed, and in order to keep hands

that would be needed at the mills in case of a sudden

upswing in production local stores were forced to issue

credit slips. In turn they had to buy their merchandise

from the wholesalers on credit and they slowly slipped

into deep trouble. To further compound the problem the

Dobson Company now demanded that the Waverly

Woolen Company be given a ten-year tax exemption.

The town fathers fought this measure to the

Superior Court in Skowhegan for the Waverly Mill was

one of the main sources of revenue for the town. The

powerful Maine Woolen Manufacturers Association

backed up the Dobson Company, and due to their

powerful lobby the Dobson Company won the suit.72

At the Maple Grove Mill the weavers went on strike

claiming that their wages before the cut down should be


71News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 18,1894.

72News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, September 21, 1893.


Dennison Walker explained that this was impossible

due to a shortage of orders. The weavers mulled the

problem over during the weekend and then returned to

work Monday morning.73

Throughout the remainder of 1894 the depression

continued. At the annual meeting .of the stockholders of

the Waverly Woolen Company in February of 1895 the

company announced that it had managed to stay in the

black and the directors felt that prospects for the coming

year looked good.74 The depression unfortunately did

not let up and many of the mill hands now left town to

seek jobs. Local merchants were left holding credit slips,

foremost of the workers' had nothing that could be

foreclosed upon in order to receive payment.

At the stockholders meeting of 1896 the company

again issued a favorable report concerning the future of

the Waverly Mill and voted that the Dobsons should if

they saw fit increase the machinery of the mill to full

capacity, Apparently they did not see fit to do so.

Dennison Walker was now in serious trouble. He

had made only partial payment on his mill in Westerly,

Rhode Island, and due to the national depression that

was occurring his creditors demanded full payment. His

Maple Grove Mill

73News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 18, 1894.

74News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 21, 1895.

75News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. February 20, 1896.


was assigned to his brother Joseph Walker, and the mill

in Westerly was leased to another group. The income

was used to defray the interest costs on the balance.76

People in the town now became quite alarmed for if

this mill closed, approximately one third of the labor

force would be out of work. Two weeks later Walker's

creditors met in Boston and the local editor reported that

"the meeting was a most amicable one in every respect,

and all were disposed to extend every courtesy and

accommodation at this time."77 Walker was loaded with

an impossible debt that finally forced him to sell the

mill. Courtesy and accommodation could not save him.

The second tragedy to strike was the death of Robert

Dobson in April. Dobson who had not been feeling well

for the past few months went to Hot Springs, Virginia,

for the cure. On his way home he died of Bright's


The remainder of 1896 was quiet. The mill's

production was cut back even more during the summer.

For a mill to get orders samples had to be sent to the

buyer for his approval. Samples were made and sent to

the buyers in New York City for approval for fall

production. These samples were rejected and with lack

of orders the Pioneer

76News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 16, 1896.

77News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. April 30, 1896.

78News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 16, 1896; he

was buried in the Pittsfield Cemetery where his grave

stone remains one of the more prominent in the



Mill was forced to cut back. By October, the Pioneer

went on an eight-hour shift and twenty-five looms were

stopped, cutting the capacity of the mill by two-thirds.79

As the country began to come out of the depression

in 1897 large quantities of raw wool began to arrive in

Pittsfield. In the first two weeks of January, twenty-five

car loads were received with more on the way.80 Word

spread through the nearby towns that the mills were

hiring and people began to filter back to Pittsfield. "Little

Scotland" which had been somewhat vacated during the

past three years began to fill up as more people were

brought from Scotland to continue work on the mills.

This immigration differed greatly from the trend of

workers in the rest of the state. Most of the other mills

had French-Canadian workers.81 The reason for

Pittsfield's differences was that Robert Dobson made

several visits to his homeland to recruit cousins and

other distant relations to come and work in his mills.

Over the years immigration had snowballed and many

families came to work in Pittsfield and other nearby

mills. The adjustment was made more easily knowing

one had friends in the area.

79News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, October 11, 1896.

80News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 28, 1897.

81Arthur Harrison Cole, The American Wool Manufacture

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926) p. 115.


In February the Joint Committee of Labor from the

State Legislature arrived to inspect the mills. Led by the

Honorable A. H. Burse of Pittsfield, a member of the

Committee, the members were led on a tour by William

and Gordon Dobson. They dined at the Lancey House

and returned to Augusta on the afternoon train. Before

departure they expressed themselves as very much

pleased with the appearance of the thriftiness among the

labor population in town.

In August an unfortunate accident occurred at the

Waverly Mill. A pair of work horses owned by Charles

O. Burns were at work on a scraper excavating earth

near the flume on the west end of the mill. The work

involved the horses being driven near the edge of the

wall. In hauling out, the scraper caught on a rock

throwing the near horse off its feet into the flume,

dragging the other horse on top of her. The water in the

flume was eighteen to twenty feet deep. The horses

thrashed around desperately entangling themselves in

the harnessing. One of them drowned before the water

could be drawn off. A derrick was rigged and the

horses hoisted out. The live horse lay in the sling very

quietly while he was swung over the wall "'til he made

things lively by starting a 2:40 gate" suspended in mid

air. His struggles broke the chain and he came down on

top of the wall, he would have gone over the wall had

not the crowd rushed

82News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 19, 1897.


in and pulled him back. One workman had his left hand

quite badly injured by being caught in the ropes of the


The last two years of the nineteenth century proved

to be very poor for both the Dobson interests and the

Maple Grove Mill. Gordon Dobson began to take more

trips to Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., in

search of new business, but little was found. In the early

summer of 1898 the mills were on short time again and

continued this way on and off until July. The Pioneer

Mill shut down completely with the Maple Grove and

Waverly soon following.84 Most operators began to give

up hope. The industry had now reached its low point

and when and if production would begin again was

unknown. In August a few orders came in but not

enough to get the mills rolling.85 To keep some hands

employed the Dobson Company erected a building on

the island between the bridges connecting the Pioneer

Mill to North Main Street. The building was two stories

and occupied by Hersey and Delano who were to run a

machine shop. It was hoped that a foundry would be

added later.86

With little money coming in the town now decided

to raise the taxes of the Dobson Company. Gordon and


83News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 19, 1897.

84News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 9, 1898.

85News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 28, 1898.

86News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 17, 1898.


Dobson sued for an abatement before the County

Commissioners, saying that the appraisal of the mills

were more than they could possibly be sold for.87 An

abatement was granted.

The Maple Grove Mill was finally closed in 1899.

Dennison Walker, hard hit by the depression and

heavily in debt due to his purchases of the Westerly

Mills, was forced to go through bankruptcy. His mill in

Pittsfield was sold to Fred Smith. Smith had started as a

bookkeeper for the Robert Dobson Company in 1892

and stayed with them as paymaster until 1900. He

bought Walker's Mill in partnership with Ernest

Maxfield and T.B. Knowles,88 and it now became known

as the Riverside Mill. Walker quietly moved his family

from Pittsfield to New Hampshire where he managed a

five-set mill. Later he went bankrupt and retired to a

farm in Massachusetts. While at the farm, he went blind

in his late seventies and died in poverty at the age of


In retrospect it was unfortunate that Walker could

not have been able to hang on for one more year. 1900

brought with it new prosperity. The Riverside Mill

began to boom with orders that required the mill to

operate day and night so that the mill could make a May

1 deadline.

A new self-regulating engine plant was introduced. The

87News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 22, 1898.

88News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 29, 1918.


plant operated all twenty-four looms day and night and

employed one hundred men. The mill adopted a policy

to hire none that were not of local origin. Apparently

they had some trouble with "bum weavers."

Four of these wandering workers began work for the

mill and a few evenings later a messenger arrived at

Smith's house with a note that the looms had been shut

down, and the workers felt that the rates being paid

were not fair. The other owners were now notified and

they hurried to the mill. A short conference was held

with the workers and they were informed that the rates

would not be changed and it was for them to decide if

they wanted to continue working. The four "bum

weavers" were notified to don their coats and get out,

the other help returned to their jobs, "and harmony

prevailed." 89

These "bum weavers" were independent agents and

had no union connection whatsoever. Unionism at this

time was almost nonexistent. A small group in

Lawrence, Massachusetts and Woonsocket, Rhode

Island had united into a special and distinct "trade"

union and were admitted into the United Textile

Workers, but this is as far as unions went in this time

period. The reasons for little unionism was the short

stay of many workers and their replacement by recent

arrivals from abroad.90

89News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 1, 1900.

90Arthur Harrison Cole, The American Wool Manufacturer

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926), p. 124.


The company also informed the town that they planned

to expand the mill and when offered a tax abatement,

until they were financially capable, they issued this

statement, "No, we do not ask for an abatement of our

taxes, the most we ask for is a nominal value placed

upon our plant until we shall have got firmly

established then we will be willing to pay our

proportionate part of the tax whatever that may be."91

One assumes the Dobsons simply observed this

exchange politely.

The Pioneer Mill also began to introduce advanced

machinery. A new system of conveying wool from the

picker house to the mill was added and a system of

blowers was installed.92

Not only did production improve but the treatment

toward the worker changed. Saturday was payday at

the mills and the workers instead of picking up a check

at the end of the day got paid in cash during the

afternoon. As assistant from the bookkeeper's office

would go to each room with a large tray. On the tray

were piles of money. Each worker had his own pile and

it was given to him.

The Pioneer Mill which employed the most men had

a payroll of $3,900 during the peak season. The men

were paid bi-monthly. The Riverside Mill paid $2,500

for two weeks' work or about $25 per person.93 The

highest paid

91News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 1, 1900.

92News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 5, 1900.

93 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 20, 1902.


persons working in the mill were the overseers of the

various parts of the mill. They earned three dollars a

day or thirty-six dollars for every two weeks.

This money went far for some because prices were

still reasonable in relation to these salaries. Clothing

was somewhat inexpensive. Ladies' cloaks ranged from

$2.98 to $8.00; night robes, 98¢; flannel, 3 ¾ cents per

yard; and dress goods were 23¢ per yard. Large size

linen towels were 19¢. Suits for the men ran from $3.00

to $8.00. Food was also about the same. A barrel of flour

cost $4.00; a pound of tea, 45¢; a dozen cans of peas, 60¢.

Beef ran 12¢ per pound, while other meats were

available from the Pittsfield Produce Market. Pork was

6 ½ cents per pound, fowls 8 to 12¢ per pound, English

herring scaled and packaged 20¢ per box. Salt was 20

cents for a fourteen pound bag.94

Paternalism on the part of the owners ran high. For

the bosses of the mills, the Dobson family made sure

that they had the best of rents. Dr. T. N. Drake's house

was purchased, papered, painted, and bathrooms added

and let to James Dodd, superintendent of the weave

room at the Pioneer Mill.95 Contractor Bowman had the

work of remodeling the large double tenement on Park

Street. The

94News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 20,


95item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 25, 1903.


cellar was extended full length and a new cement

bottom put in. New chimneys were built and rooms on

both floors converted to bathrooms. Other conveniences

were added to make them the best tenements in town.

The upper tenement was occupied by Mr. Bedwell, the

boss finisher at the Pioneer Mill and the lower floor

occupied by Mr. Cathcart, boss dresser at the same

mill. Luxury decreased 96 as one went down the labor

scale. The several cottage houses located in "little

Scotland" occupied by the mill operatives were shingled

and received a new coat of paint. In the past they had

been painted the color of the Pioneer Mill but the new

shade was a slate color.97

The mills also sponsored baseball teams. The games

were well attended on Sunday afternoon and the

spectators sometimes let their enthusiasm get the best of

them. Over the years the umpires supplied by the home

team had life and limb threatened for some of their calls.

It was generally their own townspeople who did the

threatening. If a team got beaten too badly or did not

like the officiating they did not show up for the next

game. The local papers then wrote editorials on the poor

sportsmanship of that team, or if it was the local team

why it was a good idea not to show up.

96 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 13, 1903.

97News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 21, 1907.


The owners also looked after their own.

A small riot in the weave room of the

Pioneer Woolen Mill caused considerable excitement Friday

and in the general matter of discussion among the

employees of the mills. Two of the young weavers got into

a wordy argument which ended in a rough and tumble

fight. In the excitement a number of friends of the

combatants got into a mixup and for a short time, the event

made things lively and interesting for the numerous hands

employed in the room. Some of the principals in the fight

are minus front teeth and several eyes are dressed in deep

mourning as a result of the blows which were struck. Most

of those who were directly concerned in the trouble were

rounded up in the mill office and severely reprimanded for

the disturbance while the two weavers who started the

trouble were taken before Judge Drake to answer the charge

of disturbing the peace and affray. Both partners promised

to let the matter drop where it stood and not attempt to

settle the difficulty more fully, and on the promise of good

behavior in the future, the judge let them off with a

reprimand and cost which were settled.98

Had they not been employed by the mill they would

have been shipped off to the county jail.

During this period the Robert Dobson Company had

mild corporate shakeup. At the annual meeting of the

Waverly Woolen Company A. P. MacMasters was

elected President; Gordon Dobson, Treasurer; J. W.

Hanson, Clerk. Directors were A. P. MacMasters,

William Dobson, James Connor, Melvin Halloway, E. H.

Blake, G. S. Cushman and S. R. Haines. A two and a

half per cent semi-annual dividend was declared.99

98News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 20, 1902.

99News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 20, 1902.


Of special note was the election of Samuel R. Haines as

director. Haines had worked for the Dobson family for

some years when he married Mae Dobson, daughter of

William Dobson. He was later promoted to

superintendent of the Waverly Mill on merit not

marriage. Haines soon became one of the king pins of

the Dobson Company and later went on to be an

executive with the American Woolen Company.99

Hainess marriage to Mae Dobson was one of the

social events of the year. The wedding was held in the

Dobson home with all the social elite of Pittsfield

attending. After the wedding the couple made their

way to their new home next to the Waverly Mill that

had been built for them by her father, William. There a

large reception took place. The next morning Samuel

Haines reported to work at 7:00 A.M. as if nothing had

ever happened. Marriage did not interfere with work

when you married into the Dobson family.100

99News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 20, 1902.

100News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 6, 1895.


The Early 1900's

The early 1900's saw the last great expansion of the local

mills under private ownership. Soon they were to be

taken over by outside interests, but before this happened

the Dobson Company made their last improvements to

keep up with the modern woolen industry.

The mills had been concerned in the past with lack of

water. However with the general improvement in steam

engines these mills began to put in these engines and

change from water power. The Riverside Mill had a

foundation for an eighty horsepower engine,101 while the

Pioneer planned to double its horsepower capacity and

use the old engine as an auxiliary.102 Samuel Haines

went to New York City and purchased a 125 horsepower

boiler to supply auxiliary power in case the water ebbed

or they had trouble with the main engine.103

The Pioneer Mill did most of the expansion during

the 1900's. By December of 1903 a new steam plant had

been built and two new boilers were in place. Miss Mary

Dobson was given the honor or starting them. The

reason for building the new plants was a great increase

of business and the need for more power to be used

independently or in conjunction

101News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 11, 1900.

102News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 19, 1903.

103News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, October 29, 1903.


with the water wheels. The building and equipment

were placed under the direction of Chief Mechanic

Nathaniel B. Rummal. Rummal made his own plans

and blueprints and selected all the equipment.104

The power house was built of brick 120' by 50' with a

wing on the south side 20' by 40' to be used as repair

shop. The building was covered with a flat gravel roof.

The foundation of the chimney was 18 feet square, built

of trimmed granite. The base was ten feet square and

built in cylindrical form of radial chimney brick

imported from Germany. The boiler room was 40' by 50'

and had ample space for six 125 horsepower boilers, The

fuel for the boilers was fed by a Jones Underfeed

Automatic Feeder. The coal was forced into the boilers

through a trench, with an air blaster to make sure that

all the gases were consumed making the furnace

absolutely smokeless. The stokers were all automatic

and the engineer had complete control of the steam

pressure at all times. By using the stokers the fireman

was free to make sure the iron coal bin was kept full.

The boilers were connected by a flange-bend pipe with a

fourteen inch steam main eighty feet long extending into

the engine room. The steam main was set upon

substantial brackets with roll blocks to allow expansion

and contraction without any unnecessary strain or


104News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 3, 1903.


on the pipe which may cause a leak or break. This idea

was devised by Rummal, and was the first to be used in

New England in this class of piping.105

The engine room was 30' by 46'. The engine was a 50

horsepower moderate speed Harris Coiles Form Valve

Engine, eighteen by twenty-two feet and was

manufactured to order by the Harris Coiles Engine

Works of Providence, Rhode Island. It was capable of

developing 300 horsepower. The power was transmitted

to the main shaft of the mill by six wire belts running

over a fourteen foot drive wheel weighing eight tons.

The belt pockets in which the big wire belts ran were

heavily trussed and braced to prevent any undue strain

on the frame work of the mill. An automatic shutoff was

placed near the main shaft in case of accident. The

engine had sufficient power to run the entire mill or

could be used in conjunction with the water wheels.

Underneath the engine room was a 700 horsepower

water heater which heated the water for the boilers feed

to 180 degrees. In this room there was a large Knowles

Steam Pump capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water

per minute. The pump was connected with the town

water system and was ready for use in the case of

emergency to supply plenty of pressure. Another large

steam pump was placed in the same room for tank

service and boiler feed.

105News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 3, 1 903.



At the end of the steam main was an automatic pressure

reducing valve which could be set to cut the steam

pressure from 150 PSI to whatever pressure was needed

as it continued to the other parts of the mill.107

It is to the credit of the chief mechanic that so many

modern innovations could be added by local talent. The

Dobsons selected excellent personnel to keep the mills


As it happened the mills did not have difficulty with

too little, but rather too much water. In April of 1901 a

freshet raced down the Sebasticook towards Pittsfield,

when it reached the upper dam of the Waverly Mill the

waters backed up causing the bridge at Palmyra to be

buffeted by blocks of ice and pushed off its foundation

and down the river. The town of Palmyra sued the

Waverly Mill owners for $1,751.51.108 The case reached

the State Supreme Court in 1905. The court decided that

the mill was not at fault. It said that there had been other

freshets during the ten year period that the dam had

been built. Some of them had been unusually high and

water had never passed over the bridge. In this case

water also had not passed over the bridge and it was the

ice that had taken it out. Therefore the defendant was

not at fault.109 The decision was a feather

107News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 3, 1903.

108Maine Reports No. 99; Cases Argued and Determined the

Supreme Judicial Court in Maine, 1905 (Portland; Wm W. Roberts,

1905) p. 99.

109Ibid., pgs. 136-138.


in Attorney J. W. Manson's cap and boosted his

reputation throughout the state. He also had much to

gain from the decision for he was a director of the mill.

William Dobson died on January 15, 1905, which left

Gordon as the last of the original Dobsons that had

started the mills.110 He now rose to prominence

throughout New England and on March 4, 1909, was

elected the first president of the newly formed Maine

Woolen Manufacturers Association. The Association

was made up of most of the woolen mill owners in the

state. The primary function of the new group was not to

keep an eye on local conditions, but to watch what was

happening in Washington, D.C. The Association had

strong connections with the Carded Woolen

Manufacturers Association that was formed that year to

look out for their interests when the Payne Aldrich tariff

came up for passage.112

The battle over the tariff on wool had been going on

since the end of the Civil War. The types of wool

imported into this country varied greatly upon the

quantity of grease and dirt contained in the fiber. A

ratio was worked out that four pounds of raw wool

equaled one pound of clean wool. This so called

"shrinkage" of raw wool

110News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 19, 1905.

111News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 11, 1909.

112Arthur Harrison Cole, The American Wool Manufacturer

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 192b) p. 23.


varied greatly among the different types of wool fleeces

imported. It ranged from twenty to seventy-five per

cent in extreme cases. The ratio selected for tariff

purposes was based on the maximum degree in the real

manufacturing purposes.113 The intent of this ratio was

to place the American manufacturer in a position to use

any type of imported or domestic wool and still let him

be a competitor on equal terms with foreign

manufacturers. This ratio was fine as long as the mills

were carded type mills. When the worsted process was

introduced the ratio took on a completely different

meaning and had drastic effects on the competition

between the carded and worsted mills.

The shrinkage rate of raw wool needed for worsted

material was much less than that of carded wool. If both

types of mills imported four thousand pounds of raw

wool the worsted manufacturer could get three

thousand pounds of clean wool while the carded mill

could get only one thousand pounds. Yet both these

men paid exactly the same duty on the raw wool.

Using the same amount of imported wool but

figuring the amount of duty paid per pound of finished

wool the worsted manufacturer paid only fourteen and

three fourths cents per pound, while the carded

manufacturer had to pay forty-four cents per pound.

113Arthur Harrison Cole, The American Wool Manufacturer

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926) p. 23.


Another problem was the carded mills, making a

better quality of wool such as cashmere, could only use

certain types of wool so when one reduced the eleven

cents pound duty to an ad valorum equivalent the duty

on worsted wool ran down as low as twenty-two per

cent while the ad valorum equivalent of the same duty

on wools for the carded mills ran as high as seven

hundred and thirty-three per cent.

The solution, it would seem, would be for the carded

manufacturers to use more domestic wool. However,

wool products from the western states were of a poor

grade and quite unacceptable to the mill owners.114

Gordon Dobson went to Washington, D.C. to appeal

to the members of the Senate for a lower tariff or to

equalize the differences between the carded and worsted

mills. His appeals went unanswered for he now clashed

with the largest controller of the woolen industry in the

United States, the American Woolen Company. William

Wood, President, had long held back on an opinion of

the Payne tariff. The bill, as read, favored the worsted

industry and since American Woolen owned mostly

worsted mills they were not willing to advocate change.

Wood made a statement denigrating the tariff as a factor

and Gordon Dobson sent a stinging open letter to


114News item in the Boston Herald, March 18, 1909.

115See Appendix A.


Apparently this letter impressed the other carded

manufacturers for Dobson was elected first

Vice-President of the National Carded Wool


By July the first phase of the fight over the tariff

ended and the carded manufacturers had lost their case,

Congress claimed that the carded manufacturers had not

stated their needs therefore Congress had no idea on

how to change the tariff. Dobson now became very

indignant and hastily published a copy of a letter sent to

Senator Hale.117

It is interesting to note that Senator Aldrich was

from Rhode Island where the main source of income at

that time was wool manufacturing. Checking the lists of

mills owned by American Woolen Company in that

state all eight mills were worsted mills.118

The fight to get the tariff modified continued for the

next two years. The same arguments of shrinkage were

used over and over again. The directors of the Carded

Woolen Manufacturers Association issued an appeal to

all Senators and Representatives to prevent a specific

duty from being placed on wool. Rather than pay a high

tax upon wool grease and dirt they would rather pay a

premium upon wools of lighter shrinkage. The Ways

and Means Committee paid heed and levied a fixed

duty of five cents a pound on

116News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 27, 1909.

117See Appendix B.

118American Woolen Company Mills (Boston: Livermore

Knight, 1921) pgs. 81-82.


wool.119 The pressure on the Carded Owners now

became very intense and it is probably for this reason

that Gordon Dobson later decided to sell out to the

American Woolen Company.

While Gordon Dobson was off fighting the tariff

wars the local mills continued along at full production.

There was a general slow down throughout the country

in 1907, but it apparently did not affect Pittsfield.120

The thing that did affect the mills were strikes. The

first took place, at the Riverside Mill (the old Walker

Mill). On Tuesday, August 6, some of the weavers

became unhappy with the system of fining weavers for

imperfect work and the discharge of one of the

employees.121 The matter was quickly settled and the

weavers returned to work. Two days later the weavers

went out on strike again and Smith was forced to close

down the mill. All the workers were paid off and sent

on their way. The mill had been running on overtime

and apparently the workers missed the

extra pay for they were back the next week under the

same terms as before.122

A month later the spinners at the Pioneer and

Waverly Mills went out on strike over the wage scale.

Instead of firing the workers as had been done in the

past a workers committee met with the mill owners and


120News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 28, 1907.

121Twenty-first Annual Report of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor

Statistics for the State of Maine (Augusta: Kennebec Journal Press,

1907) p. 117.

122News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 8, 1907.


for a satisfactory wage scale. The matter was settled and

work resumed the following Monday.123 Obviously the

profits and production overruled the previous discharge


The mills continued at a strong pace for the next

seven years and prosperity in the town continued.

In 1913 William McGilvery, a superintendent at the

Waverly Mill became associated with D. E. Cummings

of Old Town, and they set up the first shoddy mill in the

state at Pittsfield. A shoddy mill takes woolen remnants

from other mills and makes them into woolen cloth to be

used for the manufacturing of cheap woolen goods.124

The mill they bought was the old Bryant Saw Mill

that had gone bankrupt. It was continued as a lumber

mill until McGilvery and Cummings bought the place

and sold the lumbering equipment and shipped it out of

state. The mill was located on the Sebasticook River next

to Hunnewell Avenue near the railroad tracks. It had a

spur line running from the mill to the main tracks.125

From its purchase the mill was equipped with the

latest equipment. The size of the mill was about 40,000

square feet and it was equipped with an automatic

sprinkler system, electric lights, and the machinery was

run by electricity throughout.

123News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, September 19, 1907.

124The term "shoddy" dates from the Civil War and manufacturers

who attempted to cheat the government on uniform cloth.

125News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 19, 1914.


Between thirty-five and forty people including

several women were employed at the mill. The weekly

payroll was about $1,200 to $1,500.

The capacity of the mill to process wool was 50,000

pounds of wool per week and most of the finished

product was sold in Maine.

The owners were fortunate to have L. P. Menard in

charge of the carbonizing department, the most

important part of the mill. Menard had been with the

John T. Slack Company of Springfield, Vermont, the

largest shoddy mill in New England. The other

departments were headed by Charles Boston; boss

carder, F. Leslie Dinsmore, machinist; and F. J. Pooler, in

charge of the picker room.126

The business partnership was a bit unusual.

McGilvery had been associated with the Robert Dobson

Company for fourteen years and had married the other

daughter of William Dobson. His business partner was

from Old Town, served as President, but did not take an

active part in the running of the mill. The corporation

was capitalized at $30,000.127 While Dobson money

may have built the mill, it was not part of the Dobson


The Riverside Mill which had been idle the first few

months of 1913 now reorganized itself into the Smith

126News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 19, 1914.



Textile Company. A certificate of organization with a

capital stock of $100,000 was filed with the Register of

Deeds Office in Skowhegan. The Company had

produced woolen goods but with this reorganization

they expanded into the production of cotton textiles

along with the woolen production. The local directors

were Fred R. Smith, Elmer D. Smith, Esther Smith, Lou

Hutchinson and George H. Morse. Fred Smith continued

as President.128

128News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 17, 1913.


American Woolen Takes Over

The era of the local mills in Pittsfield came to an end

of 1914. The Robert Dobson Companies were absorbed

by the American Woolen Company. What caused the

sale of the Robert Dobson Company is hard to say. Some

feel that Gordon Dobson felt he would do better if he

sold it. The tariff was no doubt hurting the business and

the pressure being exerted by the American Woolen

Company was very strong. I, myself, believe that

Gordon was worn out by his tremendous fight over the

tariff. Reading his letters that were sent in defense of the

carded mills one sees a complete dedication and even a

trace of paranoia. With his ideals now shattered and

without the aid of his departed father and brother he

just gave in to the pressures of the modern day world

that had broken forth so violently on his once peaceful


Very quietly an announcement was made in the local

paper that the Pioneer Mill had been conveyed to Henry

P. Binney of Canton, Massachusetts, agent for the

American Woolen Company. Samuel Haines was

renamed the manager of the mills while F. W. Briggs,

grandson of Robert Dobson, was renamed

superintendent of the Pioneer Mill, and Ernest Maxfield,

superintendent of the Waverly Mill.129

129News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 19, 1914.


The transition of ownership proceeded in an orderly

fashion. The workers remained on the job and the

transfer of personnel was almost non-existent. Yet from

personal insight into the articles then written in the local

paper and in interviews with persons connected with

the mills an air of sadness existed in the town. The old

personal touch of local ownership, and the close

relationship, between the workers and owners was

dying rapidly. The mills now were beginning to become

just a cog in the massive and impersonal wheels of the

American Woolen Company. The Company which

Gordon Dobson had fought so hard against now owned

what was once his and his family's.

Gordon Dobson passed away May 21, 1915. He was

sixty years old. In his lifetime he had been President of

the Robert Dobson Company, Treasurer of the Waverly

Woolen Company, Director of the First National Bank of

Pittsfield, Newport Woolen Company, Sebasticook

Power Company, Trustee of the Pittsfield Union Hall,

Vice-President of the National Association of Carded

Woolen Manufacturers, and President of the Maine

Woolen Manufacturers Association.130 Samuel R. Haines

also left Pittsfield for Boston where he was promoted to

assistant manager of the American Woolen Company.131

George E. Mayo was appointed agent of the Pioneer Mill

to fill Haines's place.132

130News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 27, 1915, Obituary.

131News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 10, 1915.

132News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 13, 1915.


With the advent of World War I the mills now went

into full-time production and the town of Pittsfield went

to war.

Perhaps the largest order for the mill during the war

came from the Russian Army. The Russian government

had signed a contract with the American Woolen

Company for 5,000,000 yards of heavy woolen cloth to

supply overcoats for one and one quarter million

Russian soldiers. The contract was the largest single

order or purchase ever made of any one particular style

and quality of cloth in this area. 133

The order was expected to take six months to

complete with 85,000 operatives using 1,800 weaving

machines and looms134 consuming 13,000,000 pounds of

clean wool stock. The cloth would then be sent to the

Russian factories to be made into uniforms. These

shipments of material would take place in January,

February, and March and would be sent directly to

Vladivostock and Archangel.135

In a speech given at the contract signing, Mr. Wood,

President of American Woolen said the following.

These overcoats are to serve the Russian soldiers both as

a uniform and as a blanket. As may be known the Russian

Army does not furnish

133News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 4, 1915.

134The contract had been signed in Washington at the Russian

Consulate by Colonel Nicoli Golyevski, military attache, and

Lieutenant Mikhail Alexeew, a Russian fabric expert. William Wood

signed for the American Woolen Company. The total amount of the

contract was $7,350,000.

135News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 4, 1915.


its soldiers with a blanket as a part of the general equipment.

Instead the long overcoats are made with hoods which the

soldier draws over his head for protection when asleep on the


Wood also pointed out in his speech that an order as

large as this came to the United States because of the

wartime conditions. Normally because of the higher

wages paid to American workers the Russians would

have given the contracts to European firms who paid

lower wages and would have been able to underbid the

United States manufacturer.137

Wood's concern with post-war protection was

brought up when he suggested that it might be a good

idea for a protective tariff to be enacted to keep out

cheap European goods when its industry revived. He

felt that the Payne Aldrich tariff was too low in this

respect.1 3 8

On December 14, 1915, a meeting of the stockholders

of the Waverly Woolen Company met to dissolve that

corporation and sell it to the American Woolen


During that same year the Linn Woolen Mill failed

and the Pittsfield Bank was forced to foreclose its

mortgage. The mill had been built with Dobson money

and had been closely linked with the Dobson enterprise.

Since it was the main

136News item in the Pittsfield. Advertiser, November 4, 1915.



139News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 2, 1915.

140News item In the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 4, 1915.


industry of Hartland (a town located next to Pittsfield),

an attempt was made to raise the $146,000 needed to

keep it going.141 The attempt failed and the American

Woolen Company bought it at auction for $95,000. Leon

Haines (brother of Samuel R. Haines) was kept on as


The Smith Woolen Company had been idle for the

past year and the American Woolen Company had

decided it would be a good idea to control the entire

production of wool in Pittsfield. They purchased this

mill as well.143

This was the final phase of acquisition for the

American Woolen Mills. They now had control of

sixteen mills in Maine and fifty-six mills in New

England thereby making them the largest manufacturer

of woolen and worsted fabrics in the world.144

A readjustment of wages for the workers took place

after the purchase of the new mills in Pittsfield. Under

the new schedule the workers with the lowest wages

received the greatest pay raise. The schedule read: all

employees earning less than $7.50 per week received a

2% per hour raise; $7.51 to $8.26, 1 ¾% per hour raise;

$8.27 to

141 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 17, 1916.

142News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 4, 1916.

143News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 8, 1917.

144American Woolen Company Mills, (Boston: Livermore and

Knight, 1921) Preface.


$9.50, a 1 ½% per hour raise; $9.51 to $10.90, a ¾¢ per

hour raise and above $10.91 a straight 5% raise. Piece

workers also got a 5% raise.145

As the United States entered the First World War,

Pittsfield and her industry became quite involved.

Patriotism soared and the town became war-minded.

The American Woolen Company announced that it was

placing what vacant land it held in the hands of the

Food and Provision Committee of the local Public Safety

Board. The land would be tilled by the mill workers and

their families for additional food.146

The war not only worked hardships on the people

but also in the mills. In February of 1918 the Pioneer

and Waverly Mills were forced to shut down due to a

lack of coal. Clarence E. Bodfish, agent for the Waverly

Mill, went to Boston to see what could be done. He was

able to get an emergency supply shipped to Pittsfield

and after a two-week layoff the mills resumed


The workers of the mills readily dug down in to their

wallets to help the boys who had left the mills to join in

the fighting and the organizations that aided the

soldiers. The subscription to the Liberty Loan was

tremendous for the

145News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 6, 1916.

146News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 19, 1917.

147News item In the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 21, 1918.


workers, In total they subscribed $24,250. The

breakdown according to mills was:

Waverly $11,000

Sebasticook (Riverside Mill) $2,300

Pioneer $10,000

Pittsfield Yarn $950148

Two local boys, who were at Camp Devens and

about ready to leave for France received a gift package

from the Sebasticook Mills. It contained ten boxes of

tobacco, ten packages of Camel cigarettes, six packages

Durham tobacco, seven packages chewing gum, two

boxes of Nabiscos, four boxes of candy, two suckers, one

soap cupid and seven packages of cigarette paper.149

As the war closed the American Woolen Company

hired Otto Nelson of Bangor to build four

bungalow-type houses on North Main Street for the

employees at the Waverly Mill.150 Other benefits were

also introduced into the mills. A group insurance plan

was issued by the Travelers Insurance Company for the

workers, free sick and accident benefits were introduced,

and a Homestead Association was set up whereby

workers were able to obtain loans for new or used


148News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 16, 1918.

l49News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, September 26, 1918.

150News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 5, 1918.

151News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 14, 1919.


The result of these innovations was probably

brought about by the strike of 1919. The workers were

discontented with their wages and their working

conditions. They left the Pioneer Mill on Monday, May

12, 1919. On Wednesday, Horace A. Reviere of

Manchester, New Hampshire, a union organizer

affiliated with the American Federation of Labor

arrived in town and a mass meeting was held that night

at the Union Hall. Conferences with the mill

management were held on Thursday. The settlement

reached consisted of a raise in wages and a guarantee to

the employees that a certain scale of payment per week

would be made even if the mill had to be shut down for

repairs or for other reasons. The workers were satisfied

and returned to the mill the following Monday.152

While wages and benefits went up orders for the

mills decreased. The war had caused a heavy

overproduction of wool material and had created a false

prosperity. The mills continued production for the next

two years but a raging [sic, perhaps flagging, i.e.,

dwindling] market caused the following notice to be

published in the local paper:

There is no fact more firmly established in the public mind

than the long continued and consistent friendliness to labor

in general, and to the labor of his own mills in particular of

Mr. William W. Wood, President of the American Woolen

Company. In season and out for many years past he has

fought for liberal wages to his employees and has often

announced his intention of continuing to do so in time to


152News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 15, 1919.


But at the present Mr. Wood is between the 'devil and the

deep blue sea' as an old saying goes. On one hand he does not

want to reduce earnings of his employees and on the other he is

confronted by the fact that unless he does so the mills will have

to stand idle to a less or greater extent. That he has a duty

towards the stockholders as well as to his employees is

self-evident. At a meeting of the representatives of the company

held in Lawrence, Massachusetts, recently, he stated the

situation as follows.

I am advised by our selling agent that we cannot hope for

any substantial business from the clothing manufacturer until

they learn that not only have the raw material markets been

liquidated, but all other items going to make up the cost of cloth

which of course include labor, [sic, are going up]. Today orders

are not obtainable.

Commodities have receded in prices yet notwithstanding

all this there have been something wanting to invite confidence

to start-the public buying.

We stated to you that we should be among the last to

reduce. We have kept our word. But economically reduction

seems inevitable for we are confronted with the serious question

of competition. We cannot hope to secure orders for our mills

against both foreign and domestic competition if they pay

wages lower than ours.

It is necessary that we should put on the market the very

best goods at the lowest possible price to meet all competition,

in order to secure the necessary work that you all may be

constantly employed, or nearly that as possible. And it must be

obvious to you that this cannot be done by paying higher wages

than our competitors.153

153News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 20, 1921.


The effects were also felt on the McGilvery Mill for it

had to close for lack of orders. All mills reopened in the

spring of 1921.154

As business picked up and the "Roaring Twenties"

commenced, the great age of advertising took command

over the American Woolen Company. Not one to be left

behind advertisements began to appear under President

Wood's name such as the following:

From the backs of sheep to the backs of men the story of

wool and how it is converted into one of life's greatest

necessities by the American Woolen Company reads like a

romance. The transportation of raw wool thousands of miles to

the mills, the operation of fifty-nine modern mills, where

intricate textile machines scour, card and spin and weave with

dexterity surpassing that of human hands the activity of 35,000

skilled workers and finally the distribution of more than 30,000

weaves and patterns of woolen and worsted fabrics the world

over all are the achievements of shoulder to shoulder

co-operation and fair play.

Fairness to employees and fairness to the public both

weave value with every thread on the looms of this company.155

In May of 1923 the spring runoffs were faster than usual causing

major flooding at the Pioneer Mill and McGilvery-Cummings plant.

The flood waters were so swift that it was impossible for the

workers to get at the office the Sunday the flood started. Some

wearing hip boots were able to reach

154News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 17,

1921; News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 10, 1921.

155News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 7, 1923.


the Pioneer Mill to get the stock and other materials to

upper floors for safety. Several families living in

"Scotland" behind the mills were forced to flee from their

homes early Monday morning as the waters rose higher.

Efforts to return to the mill Monday were hampered as

large amounts of cord wood cut into stove lengths came

floating down the river. Several cases of carbonizer and

acid were also floating about the area. McGilvery's plant

was completely crippled by the waters entering the first


Several transfers took place that year. Albert

Spaulding, the agent for the Waverly Mill was

transferred to another American Woolen Mill in

Manchester, New Hampshire. Leon Haines came back

from Hartland to take Spaulding's place, a position once

held by his half-brother, Samuel.157

Business continued at a rapid pace throughout

the twenties. The auditor for the American Woolen

Company reported a very bright future for the mills in

1925, for instance.158 Unfortunately this prophesy did not

work out.

156News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 3, 1923.

l57News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 26, 1923.

158News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, September 17, 1925.


The Depression

In 1929 the bottom dropped out of the stock

market and with it went the woolen business. Since the

mills were the main industry of the town the following

depression caused the near death of Pittsfield. It took

the town almost thirty years to recover from the effects

and even today the town still remembers the devastating

effects of the depression.

In 1929 the Waverly Mill was closed for lack of

work. It never reopened as a woolen mill, but was sold

some twelve years later to a shoe company. When the

Waverly closed one third of the townspeople became

unemployed. In this same year William McGilvery was

forced into retirement and the McGilvery-Cummings

Mill was now run by his wife. It continued operation as

a shoddy mill, and was sold in 1932 to Lancey Milliken.

Milliken had been the chief salesman for the mill.159

The only mill in operation for the American

Woolen Company was the Pioneer Mill. The first thing

the company did was to ask the town for a tax relief on

its property. The townsfolk met and voted not to reduce

the taxes. After much talk a special town meeting was

called in June to reconsider the vote. The American

Woolen Company told the people that if they could not

reduce the taxes they would be

159Personal Interview, Mrs. Joseph Buker, March 21, 1969.


forced to close the Pioneer and the remaining 160 employees

would be out of work. Since the mill was the chief industry

the voters had no choice. In a heavy turnout and by a vote of

5 to 1 the tax relief was given.160

With so many out of work emotions ran high. People

searched for a scapegoat and too often it was the wrong

person. One such person was the boss of the weave room. In a

parting letter to the Advertiser he made clear the feelings of

the town and the pressure upon him.

I hope that the people of Pittsfield do not credit me

with the present depression that exists throughout the whole

nation. The town of course is hit hard because of lack of

industries. Other towns that have different kinds of industry are

not feeling the depression so bad because there is something else

to do besides depending wholly upon a woolen mill like our

town. I have worked at the American Woolen Company ever

since they organized and have seen depression before in other

towns. It seems to me that the people in the town of Pittsfield

take hard times more to heart than in other towns. It seems that

the town's people can and do appreciate the good times like good

people should do, but when hard times strike it seems that the

people are [too] willing and ready to blame someone for the


There are 166 weavers in the town divided as they were

40 in the Waverly, 40 in the Sebasticook and 86 in the Pioneer.

The Waverly Mill has been closed for some time, also the

Sebasticook. At the Pioneer Mill looms have been doubled up so

that the weavers run two looms, throwing out of employment

about 40 more weavers making a total of 120 weavers out of

work and only 40 at work. Is it humanly possible for any boss

weaver, may he be who he may, to give employment to the 120

that are lingering around town waiting for the boss to leave so

that they may all get a job at the Pioneer?

l60News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 11, 1931


If any of you venerable gentlemen who think that

you can overcome the difficulty, you will please apply to

the management of the Pioneer Mill, and I am sure the job

will be given to you. I much rather think that if each and

every one of us would put our concentrated effort into our

own business and let the other fellow run his we would all

be much better off.

Upon leaving June 12, the help of the Pioneer

weave room presented me with a handsome traveling bag

and a beautiful fountain pen. I was surely surprised when

bringing my books completed to the Pioneer office that

night when the paymaster handed me a small box. Upon

examination found that the overseers of the mill had

presented me with a twenty dollar gold piece. I want to

thank the people of the weave room and the overseers who

so generously contributed for these gifts.

Mr. F. Ramm 161

Not only were the workers suffering but the

town now ran into serious financial difficulty. The tax

base of the town was completely wiped out in 1933,

when American Woolen decided to sell all property not

connected with [the] manufacturing end of the business.

Over the years the mills had built homes for the owners

and workers. When American Woolen bought the mills,

these homes also went with the sale.

The American Woolen now transferred all its

property to a subsidiary with instruction to liquidate as

soon as possible. In Pittsfield the company owned

twenty-two cottages, five two-family homes, two

four-family, homes and sixteen automobile garages.162

An auction of this property was held. Samuel T.

Freeman & Co. were the auctioneers. The terms were 75


l6lNews item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 18, 1932.

162 News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 24, 1931.


cent down and a 6 per cent mortgage.163 The cottages

brought an average of $75 while the beautiful homes of

the former owners went for $900 to $1,500.164 Today

these homes would sell for $20,000 and could not be

built for under $50,000. With the tremendous drop in tax

valuations the town almost went bankrupt.

The Pioneer Mill was forced to close down for a

period of time due to lack of orders. By May of 1933

however it reopened with nearly every department in

operation as the National Recovery Administration

created a short boom. The company also announced a 12

½ per cent raise in wages. Milliken's mill was also

running at capacity with forty men employed and they

too raised the workers' wages 12 ½ per cent.165 Much of

this was due to the N.R.A. codes that were being put

into application in national industries.

Life in these early years of the depression were

not the easiest. Joe Buker, the chief salesman for the

Milliken Company, was forced to take a fifty per cent

pay cut. He now earned $25 a week. Out of this he gave

his wife $10 a week for shopping and bill paying.

Because of the high price of coal the Bukers purchased

pulp wood for fuel that a local dealer was unable to sell.

The cost was five

163News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, November 24, 1932.

164Personal Interview, Mrs. Seymore Birch; March 16, 1969.

165News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 25, 1935.


dollars a cord for debarked hard wood. The winter of

1932 was very cold and Mrs. Buker remembers stoking

the furnace late at night as the -40 degree temperatures

surrounded her home.166

A great shift in ownership of the mills now took

place. In the early thirties the American Woolen

Company underwent a strike in Massachusetts. The old

mechanics and machinists were notified to get the

Waverly Mill ready for reopening to be used in strike

breaking. The Central Maine power Company ran in

new lines and truck loads of machinery were sent up

from Massachusetts. The old looms were torn out and

automatic looms put in. New machinery was also

placed in the other departments and it looked as if

things would soon be humming. Machinery from the

striking mill also began to arrive, and it was made

known that if the strike was not settled by the night the

last truck left for Maine from the striking mill, it would

be closed. The strike was settled one half hour before

the truck left, the new machinery was pulled out of the

Waverly Mill, one reinstalled in the Pioneer and the rest

sold to the other mills in the area.167

The Old Yarn Mill owned by the American Woolen

Company was sold to Carl Weymouth of Newport,

given a new coat of paint and was run as a wool

pullery.168 The

166Personal Interview, Mrs. Joseph Buker, March 21, 1969.

167Personal Interview, Morice Morgan, March 19, 1969

168News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, June 7, 1934.


storehouse of the yarn mill was purchased by Frank M.

Fairbanks and turned into a saw mill to produce short

and long lumber.169

On December 6 the Sebasticook and Waverly Mills

were put up for auction to the highest bidder. All the

machinery was removed and what could not be used by

the American Woolen Company was sold or scrapped.

Willard Cummings of Newport bought the Waverly Mill

for $9,200.170 He turned it into a storehouse for the next

few years. Cummings was remembered in Pittsfield as

having gone into partnership with McGilvery. His

interests were bought out a few years later and he went

on to found and operate Guilford Industries which are

still in operation.

The Sebasticook Mill was purchased by Clyde

Martin for $3,500. A small piece of property near the

Waverly Mill was sold to the town for $100.171 A year

later Lancey Milliken bought the Sebasticook Mill for his

shoddy plant, tore down his old factory and moved into

the new mill.172

The Pioneer Mill began a series of improvements in

1935. It installed its own generating, plant and only used

Central Maine power in case of emergencies.173 The old

169News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 12, 1934.

170News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 13,



172News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 4, 1934

173News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, October 1, 1936.


flume that had been built in Robert Dobson's days was

taken out and replaced. It took two shifts of men and

several trucks to cart away the rocks and earth and

replace it with clean fill. The job lasted four months and

a call went out to all able-bodied men who wanted to

work to show up at the site. The mill itself was working

at full capacity with employment at over 300.174

The mills now entered the war years of the forties

going full steam. While no records are available for

production it seems that the mills were concerned with

the making of cloth for uniforms and blankets. Since

many men left for the war a large number of women

were employed. Many of the employees of the mill left

every day covered with blue from the dye house where

thousand of yards of material were dyed for the Navy.175

The Waverly Mill still remained closed and many

local people thought the factory could be used in the

war effort. Clyde E. Martin proposed a plan whereby

the town would purchase the mill and sell it to another

corporation. Others thought that perhaps the federal

government could find an industry. Senator Brewster

and Representative Margaret Chase Smith were notified

of the Waverly's availability and they in turn notified the

Office of Production management.

174News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, October 11936.

l75Personal interview, Mr. Robert Smith; April 2, 1969.

176News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 1, 1941.


Little was done by the federal government. Periodic

reports were offered concerning potential activities for

the mill, out nothing ever turned up.

One night in August a group of men remained after

a Kiwanis meeting to discuss the Waverly Mill and what

could be done with it. J. R. Cianchette, one of the leading

contractors of the state, suggested that this group of

men, Earle Friend, W. W. Lehr, Sr., H. L. Goodrich and

Sanger M. Cook, all prominent local men, purchase the

mill from Cummings if the price were right and attempt

to locate a tenant.177 The mill was sold to this group for

$10,000 and they in turn sold the water rights to the

town for $10,000.178 Cianchette now set about to fix the

roof, repair the floors and get the mill in shape to sell. In

September of 1943 a contract was signed by Pinchos

Medwed of Bangor to purchase the mill for a shoe plant.

Medwed did not move to the location until 1945,

however, and then he started a training program for the

workers. By 1948 he employed some three hundred

people in this shop.179

Tragedy struck the town in February of 1945. E.

Earle Hodgkins had set up a small mill in one of the old

American Woolen buildings which produced rayon and

other synthetics, apparently a workman was smoking

near one of the bins and the

177Cook, op. cit., p. 132.

178Personal Interview, Mr. Sanger Cook, April 1, 1969.

l79cook, op. cit., p. 132.


rayon ignited. Three women were burned to death in the

raging inferno that followed. Loss to the plant was

estimated at from $60,000 to $100,000.180

After the fire Hodgkins set up a new mill on Central

Street. He took into partnership Perley Wright who had

started his own mill on Park Street. The name of , the

new company was the Pittsfield Hand Knitting

Company. The partnership lasted until 1947 when Mr.

Wright bought out Hodgkins's interest. The mill, still in

operation today [closed September 2003], is known as

the Pittsfield Woolen Yarns Co., Inc. It is run by

Wright's three sons: Clifford, President and Treasurer;

Neil, Vice-President; and Carl, Clerk.181 It is the last

remaining woolen mill in Pittsfield.

The unions became powerful in the Pioneer Mill in

the wartime period. A new wage contract was

negotiated which gave 4¢ differential payments to the

second shift and 7¢ for the third shift. The workers were

to get a two-week paid vacation, 60¢ per hour minimum,

group insurance and wage brackets for specific jobs.182

The mill continued to boom on full time and a call for

more workers, 60 men and women, went out to take

care of the post-war orders.183

In 1948 more benefits were given the workers. They


l80News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, February 8, 1945; an

employee was later held on manslaughter charges but they were

dismissed for lack of evidence.

181Cook, op. cit., p. 133.

182News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, July 19, 1945.

l83News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, September 27, 1945.


a fifteen cent per hour increase, six paid holidays, a

union shop and a five hundred dollar insurance

policy.184 Post-war inflation created this rapidly

changing situation.

In 1950 the Riverside Mill was sold for the last time.

A corporation known as Pittsfield Industries was formed

consisting of J. R. Cianchette, Roy U. Sinclair,

and Joseph S. Buker. Buker was manager of the

Riverside Mill and one day Lancey Milliken decided he

wanted to sell the mill, some say due to union

problems.185 The mill was sold to Pittsfield Industries for

$25,000 and each partner put up $1,400 for working

capital.186 Buker continued as manager of the new

company and head of the mill. After a few years Lewis

Rosenthal of Waterville who owned several mills around

the state bought out both J. R. Cianchette and Roy

Sinclair's interest in the mill. Buker continued as

manager and part owner of the mill until his retirement

in 1963.187 The mill continues to operate today as a

shoddy and knitting mill [destroyed by fire around 1999].

In 1952 in a speech given before a wool convention

the President of American Woolen said that the outlook

for the company was very grim. Competition from the


184News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, January 29, 1948.

185Privileged Information.

186personal interview, Mrs. Joseph Buker, March 21, 1969.



industries was strong and many of the mills had not yet

converted to produce these new goods.188

In 1953 due to this competition the American

Woolen Company petitioned the Massachusetts State

Labor Board for a 20% pay cut for their employees. This

petition was denied and wage negotiations were to open

the first part of 1954. The employment of the Pioneer

Mill had already been cut from 335 to 225 employees.189

American Woolen did not take that long to decide

what to do. The Pioneer Mill was closed down

September 19, 1953 with a notice that the property

would be for sale to anyone who wanted it.190

The reasons for the closure were many. The unions,

top-heavy management, lack of progress within the

industry, high taxes within the town, lack of orders,

outdated equipment, one could go on forever. The one

thing however that was a fact was a chief industry had

closed with nothing to replace it. The Kiwanis Club of

Pittsfield took it upon itself to search for a new industry.

The Legal Affairs committee was asked to form a

corporation with the authority to seek funds for the

purpose of finding and financing a new industry if


188News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser,. January 24,

News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, May 21, 1953.

190News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, August 27,

191Cook, op. cit., p. 137; The Legal Affairs Committee of Lloyd

Stitham, John Furbush, and Harry Coolidge.


On February 1st 1954 Clair L. Cianchette who had joined

the legal staff of J. R. Cianchette and Sons, prepared the

necessary papers for such a corporation and the Pittsfield

Development Association was born. The directors were J .R.

Cianchette, Chairman, H.R. Coolidge, George A. Moore, L. A.

Dysart, John McMann, Robert Hubbard, and Clair L. Cianchette.

An Industrial Committee was appointed with S. M. Cook and

W. W. Lehr, Jr., Co-Chairmen; and R. U. Sinclair, Donald

Fendler, and Harry H. Friend.

The first act of the new corporation was to sell stock to the

amount of $50,000. A committee was chosen to head up the

drive consisting of Roy U. Sinclair, Chairman, Roosevelt T. Susi,

Ford Grant, Harry Anderson, and Harry Friend. In January of

1954 Chairman Sinclair announced that $53,570 had been

subscribed by 477 persons.192

The local business and professional men knew

clearly the impact of the textile business in their town.

The officers of American Woolen who were aware of

the activities of the town now began to work out the

details of a new streamlined plant to be put in the

Pioneer Mill as a pilot project. The mill was to have 60

new looms. This news was confirmed by Ex-Governor

Joseph B. Ely of Massachusetts, General Counsel for

American Woolen.193

Five months passed, but no more activity took place

concerning the new mill. W. Bartlett Cram of the Maine

Development Commission continued to meet with the

Development Committee of Kiwanis and assured them

that the outlook was still bright, but that an internal

problem was beginning to develop within American


192Cook, op. cit., pgs. 137-138.




The problem was that Textron, a rival firm, wanted

to get hold of the $26 million dollar American Woolen

Company. The directors of Textron kept giving

assurances that they would give great consideration to

the New England mills but as rumor had it they were

interested in moving the mills south to a cheaper labor

market. 195

The end of the fight came the day before Christmas

when J. R. Cianchette (who was involved in a legal suit

in Aroostook over an airbase) was contacted by

Governor Ely to meet him in Boston as soon as possible.

Ely had learned that Textron would probably win its

proxy fight and wanted to make sure that the agreement

to build a new plant would be signed before Textron

gained control. Cianchette flew to Pittsfield aboard his

private plane, picked up Lawyer Harry Coolidge and

flew on to Boston to sign the agreement.196

The final contracts were signed on December 30,

1954 calling for a complete modern one-story building to

be constructed on the side of the Pioneer Mill and to

employ 200 persons after it is in operation. The new mill

was to cost $300,000, be 45,000 square feet, and with no

windows and fully air conditioned.197

195Personal Interview, S.M. Cook, February 28, 1969. I96Ibid.

197News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, December 30, 1954.


Textron won the proxy fight in a very bitter battle

that ended up in representatives of both sides scouring

the countryside to find shareholders willing to give

proxies.198 The equipment from the mills was moved

south and the mills closed for good.

The contract they had signed with J. R. Cianchette

was binding but Textron refused to open any new mill

in Pittsfield. Instead they agreed to help build a plant

for future industry. All properties of the mill and its

water rights were sold for $16,000 and it was agreed to

lend the Pittsfield Development Association enough

money to build a 48,000 square foot building for

manufacturing purposes, and assist in finding a


The Industrial Committee now contacted Mr. Cram

who uncovered a lead that the Edwards Company, a

door bell firm of Norwalk, Connecticut, was looking for

a new location. J. R. Cianchette again used his private

plane to pick up the directors of the company in order to

show them the town. To further impress these people

the Industrial Committee informed the Edwards People

that they ought to submit their plans for a new plant

and that Pittsfield would build it. The company took up

the offer and the Edwards Company now

198personal Interview,.N. Young, April 5, 1969.

199cook, op. cit., p. 140; News item in the Waterville

Sentinel, October 25, 1955.


occupies much of the property where part of the Pioneer

Mill once stood.200

During the summer of 1956 much of the Pioneer Mill

was torn down. The beams taken from the mill were

over thirty feet long, hand hewn and pegged. Bulldozers

were called in to smash the walls in and rip the floors

apart. However they could not do it. It was as if the mill

refused to die. Finally a huge crew of men had to be

employed to take the place down by hand.201

Today much of the three main mills still remain

[except that the Riverside Mill has burned down] part of

the landscape of Pittsfield as a remainder of an era gone

by. The houses of the owners, once stately and

dominant, serve as boarding houses or offices. A few

are owned by people who have preserved their charm.

The days of wool are over in Pittsfield. What was once a

one-industry town has kept pace with the future and

diversified. The personal feelings of owner-worker

relationships have given way to the impersonalness of

the sixties. Pittsfield was made a town by wool and

nearly destroyed by its benefactor.

200Personal Interview, S. M. Cook, February 28, 1969.

201Personal Interview, N. Young, April 5, 1969.



Reading through the Census of Manufacturers from

1905 to 1954 I find a steady decline in the Production of

wool and worsted goods in the United States and in the

state of Maine. By 1931 the Census of Manufacturers

devotes only a few pages to wool and worsted

manufacturing because much of it was replaced by

synthetic fabrics.

From 1880 to 1905 there was a steady decrease in the

number of woolen mills in the United States, while the

number of worsted mills was on the increase.

Year Number of Woolen Mills Number of Worsted Millsl

1880 1,990 76

1890 1,311 143

1900 1,035 186

1905 792 226

Maine ranked as the third largest producer of

woolen goods with assets of $14,990,211.2 The number of

woolen mills had decreased by ten from 1900 to 1905

while the number of worsted mills had increased by


The worsted industry in Maine also had the greatest

increase in overall growth in the state. Employment rose

1United States Bureau of the Census, Special Reports of the Census

Office, Manufacturers, 1905, Vol. 1, Washington: Government

Printing Office, p. 20.

2lbid, Vol.1, p. 462. 3ibid, Vol. I, p. 374.

3lbid, Vol.1, p. 462. 3ibid, Vol. I, p. 374.


89.3 per cent while wages rose 108.9 per cent and the

value of the product rose 102.9 per cent.4

From 1909 to 1921 there was a further decrease in the

number of woolen mills in the United States, from 587

mills in 1909 to 493 mills in 1921. The only increase

during this period was a short boom which occured

during World War I. The number of worsted mills also

dropped from 324 to 321 during this same period.5

The state of Maine had dropped to sixth place in

national production, while the number of woolen mills

had decreased to fifty-seven.6

By 1931 the number of woolen mills in the United

States had dropped to 381. The state of Maine dropped

to thirty-six mills in operation, but recaptured her third

place position in production.7

The depression caused a further drop to 323 mills

in 1935, but by 1937 the woolen industry was operating

some 332 mills throughout the country.8

4United States Bureau of the Census, Special Reports of the Census

Office, Manufacturers, 1905, Vol.11, Washington: Government

Printing Office, p. 374.

5United States Bureau of the Census, Biennial Census of

Manufacturers, 1921, Washington: Government Printing Office,

1924, p. 289.

6Ibid, p. 291

7United States Bureau of the Census, Biennial Census of

Manufacturers, 1931, Washington: Government Printing Office,

1935, p. 362.

8United States Bureau of the Census, Biennial Census of

Manufacturers, 1937, Part 1, Washington: Government Printing

Office, 1939, p. 440.


After World War I the number of woolen and

worsted mills in the country stood at only 495, five more

than in 1935.9

In Maine the combined total of woolen and worsted

plants was forty-six but it still was the largest employer

in the state.10

With the close of the American Woolen mills in

Pittsfield in 1954 the number of woolen and worsted

mills had descended to thirty-eight,11 while on the

national level the number of mills reached a new low of


Trying to compare the production and capitalization

figures over the years would not have been a good

indicator as a result of the many depressions and other

economic factors involved. Also many of the mills, both

worsted and wool, were incorporating new machinery

which did not decrease the number of employees, but

did raise the value of the plant.

Comparing the Pittsfield mills and the state of Maine

mills, and national growth and decline, I find a great

similarity as to progress and retardation. During the

early years of the Dobson mills, production was up as it

was everywhere. American Woolen enjoyed the boom of

World Wars but

9 United States Bureau of the Census, Census of Manufacturers, 1947,

Vol I, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1949, p. 171.

l0Ibid., Vol. Ill, pp. 264-266.

11United 'States Bureau of the Census, Census of Manufacturers,

1954, Vol III. Washington: Government Tinting Office,1954, p.


l2lbid., Vol. I, Part 1, p. 22A-3.


suffered greatly in the depression of 1930 through 1937

and also after the war years. While many mills closed

during these years it was the foresight and improvement

of the mills in Pittsfield that let them last so long.




American Woolen Company Mills. Boston: Livermore and

Knight, 1921.

Cole, Arthur Harrison. The American Wool Manufacturers. Vol.

II. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.

Cook, Sanger M. Pittsfield on the Sebasticook. Bangor:

Furbush-Roberts Printing Co., Inc.,1966.

Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. Boston B.

B. Russell, 1886.


Maine Reports No. 99; Cases Argued and Determined in the

Supreme Court in Maine, 1905. Portland: William M. Roberts,


Statistics of Industry and Finance for Maine for the Year 1883.

Augusta: Sprague and Son, 1883.

The Wealth and Industry of Maine for the Year 1873. Augusta:

Sprague, Owen and Nash, 1873.

Twenty-first Annual Reports of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor

Statistics for the State of Maine. Augusta: Kennebec Journal

Press, 1907.

United States Bureau of the Census, Biennial Census of

Manufacturers, 1921. Washington: Government Printing

Office, 1924.

United States Bureau of the Census, Biennial Census of

Manufacturers, 1931. Washington: Government Printing

Office, 1935.

United States Bureau of the Census, Biennial Census of

Manufacturers, 1937, Part 1. Washington: Government

Printing Office, 1939.

United States Bureau of the Census, Census of Manufacturers,

1947. Vol. II and III. Washington: Government Printing Office



United States Bureau of the Census, Census of

Manufacturers, 1954. Vol. II, Part 1 and Vol. III.

Washington: Government Printing Office, 1954.

United States Bureau of the Census, Special Reports of the

Census Office, Manufacturers, 1905.Vol. 1. Washington:

Government Printing Office, 1908.


Boston Herald, March 18, 1909.

Pittsfield Advertiser, June, 1884 - December, 1954.

Waterville Sentinel, October 25, 1955.


Appendix A

Replied to Wood

Gordon Dobson sends open letter to head of

American Woolen Co.:

Gordon Dobson of Pittsfield, President of the Maine

Woolen Manufacturers' Association, has sent the

following open letter to William M. Wood, President of

the American Woolen Company, in reply to a statement

by Mr. Wood regarding the regulation of the wool tariff

in the Payne Bill, published recently.

"I want to call attention to the opinions you have

expressed, and ask you some questions in regard to


"Why do you want to study the Payne wool and

woolen schedule before venturing a conclusive opinion?

With the exception of the duty on tops it is practically

the same as the Dingley Tariff, under which you have

formed the largest wool manufacturing corporation in

the world, and which you state was the most evenly

balanced bill ever enacted in the history of the woolen

goods trade.

"You say that 'unless a greater duty than six cents (in

addition to 33 cents) prevails upon the tops, industry

will not flourish in this country.'

"Is it not a fact that the Payne Tariff on worsted

tops is excessive, that it grants a large amount of

concealed protection? For example, the Payne Bill

provides that the duty on tops shall be the same as (sic)



upon scoured wool, of which they are made, and six

cents per pound in addition. Do you not know that this

Payne top schedule is so framed, if not for the deliberate

purpose, certainly with the result of giving the worsted

top mills excessive protection and a monopoly of the

American market?

"To begin with, tops are made not from scoured

wool, such as, if imported, would bear a duty of 33 cents

a pound. The raw material for tops is imported in the

grease, and none of it is subject to a duty equal to 33

cents per scoured pound. The difference between the

Payne compensatory rate of 33 cents and the actual duty

you pay on the wool goes to swell the Payne protective

rate of six cents. You import practically no wool

shrinking over 55 per cent. (sic) and yet every point

below 66 2/3 per cent. means concealed protection for

the top maker.

"The enormity of the Payne duty on tops is seen by

reducing it to an ad valorem equivalent. Cross bred 40s

tops are selling in Bradford, England, at about 24 cents a

pound, the Payne duty is 39 cents a pound, or 162 per

cent. of the cost at Bradford, and yet you talk about the

top industry not flourishing under that rate on a product

that is little more than scoured wool. Why is it that the

one criticism that appeals to you is that a rate of 162 per

cent. is too low on worsted tops? Is it not because you

and your representative, Mr. Whitman, are largely in the

worsted business?


"You say it would be a happy thing to arrange the

schedule to satisfy the Maine manufacturers if it would

not do an injustice to the wool grower who is entitled to

protection because he works hard in the lonely

occupation in the wild mountains of the northwest. His

life is dreary and hard and he feels that he is entitled to

protection. Do you think it would be an injustice to the

wool grower if the duty on light shrinking wool which

you use were raised?

"That is just what the Maine woolen manufacturers

advocate. The wool grower is now suffering from an

injustice by reason of the specific tariff on light shrinking

wool, by which you and the other worsted spinners are

able to import about 90,000,000 pounds of wool every

year at a comparatively low duty per scoured pound.

The carded woolen manufacturers ask for no reduction

in the tariff on wool. They ask if wool is to be imported

into the United States that they (the carded woolen

manufacturers) shall have equal privileges with the

worsted spinners in buying it. To bring about that

square deal without reducing the protection to the wool

grower it will be necessary to deprive you and the other

worsted spinners of the special privileges you now

possess under the law.

"Now, is not your expressed sympathy for the wool

grower a pretense? Do you not oppose an equalization

of the duty on wool because it would deprive you of an



advantage and place you on even terms with us, the

carded woolen manufacturers? Have not you, the

worsted spinners, deluded the wool growers into

thinking of an equalization of rates on wool would

injure them ,(sic), when in fact it would benefit them?.

And are you not keeping up this deception for fear you

will be deprived of the special privilege of importing

light shrinking, worsted wools at the low 11 cent rate?

Now, tell me without evasion, is that not the truth?

"You say the American Woolen Company has more

looms on woolens than all the woolen manufacturers of

Maine combined. Compared to the gigantic

combination of which you are the head; the Maine

industry may look small but as was said of Dartmouth

College 'there are those among us who love it.'

Moreover it is not only the woolen industry of Maine

that is involved, although I speak officially only for that

section. The welfare of the carded woolen industry of

the entire country is at stake and in 1905 that industry

give employment to 75,000 persons and yielded

$32,000,000 in wages, as compared to 71,000 employees

and a payroll of $20,000,000 in the worsted industry.

"You say, 'certainly, if it (the tariff) would affect their

looms (on woolens) it would affect ours.' Are not your

carded woolen mills affected? Is not a large part of your

carded woolen machinery idle? Is not half the carded

woolen machinery of New England idle along with



And are not the profit (sic) you make on your worsted

products larger than what you would be likely to gain

by having the depression in your carded woolen mills

checked by a fair tariff on both woolens and worsted? Is

not this the reason why you favor the Payne bill?

"And at this point let me ask you, is it not a fact that

under the tariff law of 1883 the worsted industry was

burdened by an unfair construction of the schedule and

did not the National Association of Wool Manufacturers

made strenuous efforts for seven years to correct that

inequality? Why is it that this association is so

indifferent to inequalities which now oppress the carded

woolen manufacturers?

"You talk about wool for woolen mills being a drug

on the market and sold in such begging quantities that it

could be piled up as high as Bunker Hill monument in

height. As for the Atlantic Ocean, how fine are you

spinning the yarn to reach across it? Now, Mr. Wood,

drop such comparison and let us get down to solid

business facts. Tell us what wool has been a drug on the

market. I have been buying wool continuously and

have not found it going a-begging.

"You say the carded woolen business would have

been bad anyway because woolen goods are not

fashionable. Now answer this question. How long do

you think worsted goods would be fashionable if

conditions were reversed and the worsted mills were

deprived of raw material by prohibitory duties of 400

per cent., and 600 per cent., while the carded


woolen mills could import their raw material with a

duty of 25 per cent, to 40 per cent.?

"You say there are always people looking around for

some excuse for non-success in their business. That is

so, and the carded woolen manufacturers believe that

they have found the reason in the tariff that deprives

them of raw material while giving it to you at a low rate.

"And we want some better proof than your

argument to convince us to the contrary, especially

when, in the same breath you admit there is an

inconsistency in the tariff. Why do you not try to remove

the inconsistency? Is it not because you are now

profiting by it and are willing to have others despoiled

providing you can hold on to the advantage the law

gives you?

"You say the American Woolen Co., has been

regarded as a trust. Isn't it a trust, and isn't a trust

supported by special privileges, under the law? Of

course, you have all the facts in your possession, but

enough is generally known to warrant the belief that

you are a trust. Take your worsted 'combs' for example.

You have about 325 now in operation, and it is reported

that the new Ayer Mill, which will be the largest

worsted mill in the world, is to have about 125 more

combs. That makes 450, or practically one-third of the

total in all the worsted mills of the country.

"Your 'combs' will soon be able to consume about

60,000,000 pounds of wool, scoured weight, a year. That



one-half of all the wool combing and clothing grown in

the United States, and considerably more than all the

combing wool grown in the country. Doesn't that look

like the beginning of a trust?

"When we consider that your company, using more

combing wool than is grown in the entire country, is

able to import what more you need at a low rate of duty,

while you[r] carded woolen competitors are prohibited

by the tariff from importing any wool whatever, doesn't

the American Woolen Co. look like a trust nursed by the

Government at the expense of the people of the United


"You say that 'the American Woolen Co. has had

nothing whatever to do with influencing the present

tariff; that you have studiously kept away from the

House Committee, and that, although you were invited

to send a representative, you declined to do so, because

you were willing to leave it to the other woolen

manufacturers of the country, believing

they were competent to take care of the situation and

whatever would be to their advantage would certainly

be to ours.' Such self-effacement by a company like

yours is very touching; but give me direct answers to a

few simple questions.

"Have you not recently disregarded former

estrangement and worked hand and glove on this tariff

revision with William Whitman, President of the

Arlington Mills, and of the National Association of Wool

Manufacturers? Have you not practically delegated him

to act in your behalf at Washington


and elsewhere in connection with tariff revision? How

does it happen that the only witnesses who appeared

before the Ways and Means Committee from the

National Association of Wool Manufacturers were

William Whitman and Charles H. Harding, two worsted

spinners, neither of whom is interested in carded woolen


"Hasn't there been some arrangement by which the

carded woolen manufacturers deprived of raw material

were also to be denied a hearing at Washington,

although a number of them are members? Why do you

think that undue attention has been to the top schedule

by the controversy between Mr. Bennet and Mr.

Whitman? Is it possible to give too much attention to

tariff schedules? Are you in favor of the Dingley top

schedule under which the duty on tops was greater than

on the finished cloth made from them? and if you are

not, why talk about the question having been raised in

such an unfortunate way? Don't you know that it would

not have been raised at all if it had not been for the

controversy on Dec. 2 which you deplored? why not

apply the same scrutiny on every line of schedule K?

The carded woolen manufacturers are willing, are you?

"The carded woolen manufacturers ask only for

justice. They ask for no advantage over you in the

purchase of raw material or otherwise. They concede

the right of the wool grower to ample protection and

they ask for no excessive tariff on their finished products

by which they might be in a position to extort an

excessive profit from the pockets of


the consumer. Now, are you of the same mind? And

are you willing to subject your case to the public? If so,

will you place before Congress a statement of the

combing tests of the worsted wool used by the American

Woolen Co. during the past year so that Congress and

the public may know how much you gain by the specific

duty on light shrinking wools? Will you advise William

Whitman, Charles H. Harding and users of mohair and

coarse combing wools who may be members of the

N.A.W.M. to submit like statements of the wool they

have used?

"I repeat, the carded woolen manufacturers want

only a square deal. They ask only that they may be able

to obtain their raw materials on even terms with our

friends, the worsted manufacturers. The Payne bill is

entitled 'a bill to provide revenue, equalize duties and

encourage the industries of the United States'. This is a

clear statement of what a tariff bill should be. If this

principle is carried out the carded wool industry is ready

to abide by it.

"They have appealed to the Ways and Means

Committee for it in vain. If the House of

Representatives denies it to them they will appeal to the

President of the United States, who has proclaimed his

belief in the theory of cost differences as the true

principle of protection, who has announced his devotion

to the square deal, who, since his election, has declared

the tariff revision must be honest and thorough, and

intimated that a veto awaits a dishonest bill.


"If he fails to give us the justice he can if he will, then

the carded wool manufacturers will carry their case to

the court that makes and unmakes Presidents, Senates

and Houses of Representatives, the American people,

confident that they sooner or later will strip from the

tariff law the special privileges that are now giving the

worsted spinners such great advantages at the expense

of the wool growers, the carded woolen manufacturers,

and the consumers of the country.


President of the Maine

Woolen Manufacturers'


1News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, April 8, 1909.


Appendix B

Dobson Protests

Denies statement that woolen men lost by own fault.

Gordon Dobson, president of the Maine Woolen

Manufacturers' Association, protests that, contrary to

dispatches from Washington, the carded woolen

interests of Maine and other states did not lose their

fight in Congress because they had failed to state their

needs, and cites the following letter to prove his cause:

Letter to Senator Hale

"Hon. Eugene Hale,

"Washington, D.C.

"Sir: We have your letter of the 13th inst. in which

you ask us to strike out from a copy of Schedule K. of

the Dingley tariff what we do not wish to appear and

write in what we want to appear to make it as we would

like to have it read when enacted into law. In complying

as far as possible with your request we will at the same

time state why we cannot do all that you ask.

"We are manufacturers of wool goods by the carded

woolen process. Schedule K covers all products of wool

whether in the raw state, partly manufactured or

finished and by whatever process. To comply with your

request it would be necessary for us to recommend

classifications, tariff rates and methods of assessment,

not only for the


goods we manufacture, but also for those we do not

make and for the raw material we have to buy for our


"Let us begin with the raw material. We have

already stated to the Committee on finance our

objections to the present specific duties on grease wool,

which are levied on grease and dirt as well as on wool,

and to the prohibitory duties on by-products. They shut

us out from the supply of foreign wool and by-products

suited for our industry and give the users of light

shrinking combing wools access to the foreign markets

at a very low rate of duty. By this arrangement the wool

grower is deprived of the protection contemplated

under the law, the worsted spinning industry enjoys

special favors of great value, the carded wool industry is

strangled, while the ultimate consumer is deprived of an

adequate supply of wool goods.

"The complete remedy for these inequalities under

the present law is an ad valorem tariff on wool, which

automatically adjusts itself to all conditions by which a

tariff should be regulated. We recommend this

complete solution to Congress. It would be manifestly

improper for us to do more than suggest to you a

particular rate of duty on wool. First, because we are not

familiar with the business or cost of producing wool in

this country or abroad; and second, because we are

buyers and users of wool and, therefore, financially

interested in obtaining a supply of this material at as low

a cost as possible. In revising Schedule K the first thing

is to fix the tariff rate on wool, which


is the basis of the entire schedule of duties. This rate

should be fair to the wool grower and the consumer of

wool goods, and should bear uniformly on all branches

of the wool manufacturing industry. The rate on wool

must be fixed before it is possible for anyone to frame a

system of duties on wool goods. For your guidance on

fixing the tariff rate on wool we want to submit the

following statement showing the quantity and value of

the wool of classes 1 and 2 imported during the five

years ending June, 1907, together with the amount of

specific duty collected and the ad valorem equivalent of

that duty.

"Quantity, 426,036,605 pounds.

Value $93,667,059.

"Duty collected, $47,559,548.

"This statement shows that if the duty collected on

the wool imports for these five years had been of ad

valorem equivalent it would have been 50.8 per cent.

This measures the protection the wool grower has been

receiving under the Dingley tariff on ad valorem basis.

The importations have been confined to grease wools on

which the shrinkage did not exceed 55 per cent., running

as low as 15 per cent., the average shrinkage being about

40 per cent. An ad valorem tariff on wool will remove

completely the inequalities by which the carded woolen

Industry is burdened and the worsted industry favored.

"We also desire to call your attention to the fact that

if the complete remedy for the inequalities in the wool


tariff is not applied by the adoption of ad valorem

duties, a partial remedy is available by levying a specific

duty on the scoured weight. We ask that, whatever

duty is levied on wool, it be applied without the

arbitrary distinctions that now exist between unwashed,

washed, sorted and scoured wools, and that the division

into class 1 and 2 be abolished. The cost of washing,

sorting and scouring is trifling and the ad valorem or

specific rate on the scoured weight can be made to cover

such cost.

"Either of the methods above suggested would raise

the tariff rate on light shrinking wools to a point at

which all wools, including those heavy shrinking grades

now excluded by duties rising as high as 800 per cent.,

would be admitted at the same tariff tax, and thus the

wool grower would obtain better protection than at


"As a suggestion to you in revising the Dingley tariff

on wool, its by-products and wool goods, we

respectfully call attention to the following abstract from

the political platform of 1908, which stated the principle

that should guide you in the tariff revision in which you

are now engaged:

"'In all farm legislation the true principle of

protection is best maintained by the imposition of such

duties as will equal the difference between the cost of

production at home and abroad, together with a

reasonable profit to American industries.'


"Rates of duty on wool and its by-products that bear

equally on all branches of wool manufacturing and are

satisfactory to both the wool grower and the American

consumer of wool goods will be satisfactory to us. A

tariff on the manufacturers of wool based on the

principal stated in the above extract will also be

satisfactory to us. When the rates of duty on wool and

its by-products are determined it will be possible to

complete the revision of Schedule K.

"We want, however, to call your attention again to

the fact the Schedule K covers a wide range of fabrics

other than carded woolen goods, and that the proper

way to complete the revision is for you to enlist the

co-operation of all branches of the wool manufacturing

industry wool growing, carded woolen, worsted,

knitting, carpet and felt under conditions that will

make it impossible for anyone to obtain an unfair

advantage, or for the domestic industry to be deprived

of adequate protection.

"We do not claim to be less selfish or less anxious to

do business under favorable conditions than are those

who may be engaged in wool growing or the other

branches of wool manufacturing that we have named.

What we want to make clear to you is that we, burdened

by the inequalities of the present tariff and conscious of

the powerful popular sentiment in favor of the

transaction of public business with justice to all whether

rich or poor, producer or consumer desire to obtain a

thorough and honest revision of Schedule K,


under which every interest from the wool grower to the

ultimate consumer will have fair p[l]ay (sic) and the

policy of adequate protection to American industry will

be maintained. If your committee will bring about such

conditions for the revision of Schedule K we are

confident that, after the rates of duty on wool and

by-products have been determined, you can, with the

co-operation of all interests affected, complete easily and

quickly the revision of Schedule K, as applied to

manufacture of wool.

"In conclusion we want to state our belief that any

other course by which the existing inequalities in the

Dingle tariff are continued, will result in a continuance

of the agitation for a thorough revision of the tariff and

thus keep the country in a state of uncertainty and

suspense. We appeal to you as friends of protection to

improve the opportunity you now possess and

discharge the duty that rests upon you to revise

Schedule K of the Dingley "tariff so that it will be fair to

all and an enduring monument to the wisdom of the 6lst


"Yours very truly,

"Gordon Dobson."1

1News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser. July 1,1909.


Appendix C

Discusses Wool Schedule K

Gordon Dobson of Pittsfield, vice-president of the

Carded Woolen Manufacturers' Association sends the

Daily Trade Record the following letter regarding one of

the points raised in the recent address of Joseph R.

Grundy before the Wool Growers' Convention at

Portland, Oregon.

"Editor Daily Trade Record:

"Sir The address of Joseph R. Grundy, published

over a month after it was delivered at Portland, Oregon,

is so transparently fallacious that it will deceive few who

read it, but I desire to call attention to one of the

statements in it because they (sic) are repetitions of

arguments that for forty years have been brought into

service whenever Schedule K has been attacked. Mr.

Grundy says:

"'It does not require three pounds of all kinds of

wool in its natural condition to make one pound of

scoured wool, yet wools are abundantly produced in the

world, which, in scouring require three pounds to make

one pound of scoured product, and protection for these

insures the full measure of protection to growers of

wools of less shrinkage when levied in this rate.'

"The worsted spinner imports no wool that requires

much more than three pounds for one pound of worsted

cloth. Large quantities of worsted wool are imported

that yield one pound of cloth from two and a half

pounds of wool.


"The carded woolen manufacturers, on the other

hand finds (sic) that not only four pounds, but

frequently five or six pounds of the wool he requires is

needed for one pound of cloth. Under such conditions a

specific duty of eleven cents a pound on grease wool

operates powerfully to favor the worsted spinner and

put the carded woolen manufacturers out of business.

This is always the inevitable result of a specific duty on


"But for the sake of illustration let us suppose that

such discrimination under the wool duty was not alone

fatal to the carded wool industry. Then the

compensatory duty would be equally effective in

putting the carded woolen mill out of business because

the law grants a uniform rate of 44 cents a pound. The

carded woolen manufacturer requires a compensatory

duty as high as 55 or 66 cents if he imports the heavy

wools, while the worsted manufacturer requires but 33

cents at the most, and only 24 3/4 cents on a very large

part of the wool he imports. In other words, the

compensatory duty is too low for the heavy goods

required for the carded woolen goods and is too high for

the light shrinking wool used for worsted cloth. And

yet, under these outrageously unequal conditions,

Joseph R. Grundy, a worsted spinner, comes forward

and says his industry requires the 44 cent compensatory

duty on goods, not because the heavy wools are

imported, but because they are produced in the world.

It would be unfair to charge Mr. Grundy with having

originated this absurdity for the purpose of bringing the



ranks of the wool growers at Portland into line with the

worsted spinners. He did not originate it. It is heavy

with age, and many years ago was stated in the Senate

Chamber by Senator Aldrich of Rhode Island, in order to

defend this schedule framed by the worsted spinners

and for the worsted spinners.

"Mr. Grundy seeks to convey the wholly

unwarranted impression that the carded woolen

manufacturers who now seek relief are advocates of free

wool. The fact is that the worsted industry was brought

into existence in this country by free wool. In 1866

worsted spinners petitioned for free wool, and when

they failed to get it they framed the washed wool joker,

now 45 years old, by which the washed wool then

needed was admitted at 12 cents a pound, while washed

wool for carded woolen goods was excluded from the

country by a duty of 22 cents a pound. Why did not Mr.

Grundy explain these facts to the wool growers at


"Yours truly,

"Gordon Dobson


Carded Woolen

Mfgrs. Assoc."1

1News item in the Pittsfield Advertiser, March 16, 1911.


Peter L. Gulick was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 29,

1941. He was educated at Blair Academy and received

his baccalaureate degree from Hobart College in 1963.

Upon graduation he has taught American History at

Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Maine, for the past

six years. In 1966 he was appointed Dean of Students.

Mr. Gulick is married to the former Ruth Rickie Phillips

of Scarsdale, New York, and they have three children.



by Peter Lee Gulick

An Abstract of the Thesis Presented in Partial

Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master

of Arts (in History). August 1969

A history of the woolen industry in Pittsfield was

written because it was once the main industry of the

town and caused Pittsfield to become the central

economic force in its area.

This thesis traces the development of the Industry

from its small mill day, its expansion under the Dobson

family, and its becoming a part of the giant American

Woolen Company.

Also included in the history were the effects of the

mill on the town of Pittsfield and the people the mill

helped to support.

With all the few available statistics, a study of wages

and mill earnings is made; as well as a resume of the

complete change from paternalistic industry to

impersonal industry under the American Woolen

Company. The final few pages contain the death of the

American Woolen Company, and the end of an era in


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