- Amoskeag Manufacturing Company
The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company was a
textilemanufacturer which founded Manchester, New Hampshire. From modest beginnings in near wilderness, it grew throughout the 19th century into the largest cottontextile plant in the world. At its peak, Amoskeag was unrivaled both for the quality and quantity of its products. But with great size came an inability to adapt. In the early 20th century, the business failed in changing economic and social conditions.
In May 1807, Samuel Blodget completed at Derryfield a
canaland lock system beside the Merrimack River. His enterprise allowed boats traveling between Concord and Nashua to bypass Amoskeag Falls, opening the region to development. Blodget envisioned here "the Manchester of America," a water-powered textile center comparable to the Industrial RevolutionEnglish city he had recently visited. The name stuck, and in 1810 Derryfield was changed to Manchester. That same year, Benjamin Prichard and others incorporated the Amoskeag Cotton & Woolen Manufacturing Company. He and three brothers -- Ephraim, David and Robert Stevens -- had purchased land and water power rights the year before on the west bank of the Merrimack near Amoskeag Bridge, where they built a mill. From Samuel Slaterthey bought second-hand mill machinery, but it didn't work well. In 1811, new machinery was built to spin cotton into yarn, the currencywith which factory wages and dividends were paid. Weavingbecame a cottage industryfor local women, who earned between 2 and 7 cents per yard, depending on the type of fabric. A good weaver could average 10 to convert|12|yd|m|0 per day.
But the mill was unprofitable. Indeed, after September 1815, "little or nothing was done in it." In 1822, Olney Robinson of
Rhode Islandpurchased the company, using money and equipment borrowed from Samuel Slater and Larned Pitcher. Robinson proved incompetent, however, and the business passed to his creditors. Slater and Pitcher then sold three-fifths of the company in 1825 to Dr. Oliver Dean, Lyman Tiffany and Willard Sayles of Massachusetts. In April 1826, Dr. Dean moved to the site and oversaw construction of the new Bell Mill, which was named for the bell on its roof to summon workers. Also erected was the Island Mill, located on an island in the Merrimack. Boarding houses and stores were built, creating the factory village of Amoskeag. The three-mill complex prospered, becoming known for its excellent "sheetings, shirtings and tickings," especially the latter. Success attracted investors. With capital of 1 million dollars, the business was incorporated on July 1, 1831as the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. Offices were established in Boston, where the treasurer " de facto" ran the firm, with an agent (manager) in Manchester to oversee personnel and operation of the mills.
The Manchester of America
Engineers determined that the east bank of the Merrimack River was best for the extensive mills,
tiered canals and mill townthe company planned. Consequently, most of the land on the east side was purchased in 1835, where property holdings would eventually encompass convert|15000|acre|km2|0. It would also purchase all nearby water power rights to prevent competition. A foundryand machine shopwere established to make and maintain mill machinery. In 1838, Manchester was laid out and founded. In 1839, Stark Mill No. 1, an Amoskeag affiliate with 8,000 spindles, was completed, together with six blocks of boarding houses for employees. Throughout the company's history, its engineering department designed and built all mill facilities, whether for use by Amoskeag or others, giving the complex a unity of design. It had unity of color as well, the warm red brick made at the firm's brickyard upriver in Hooksett. Towers containing bells and stairwells added decorative flourishes to utilitarian factories. To take advantage of natural light, workshops were long but narrow, pierced with rows of windows. The Concord Railroad (later Boston & Maine Railroad) entered Manchester in 1842. Freight cars ran on spurs beside the mills to supply raw materials, particularly cotton from southern states, then carried away finished fabrics to markets around the country. One customer would be Levi Strauss, whose riveted blue jeanswere made with cloth from the Amoskeag Mills.
Incorporated in 1846, Manchester was intended to be a model of
utopianfactory-city planning, as Lowell, Massachusettshad been before it. William Amory, the cultured company treasurer, together with Ezekiel A. Straw, the first Amoskeag agent, influenced the style of Manchester's urban design. It had broad avenues and squares ("reserved for public promenades") graced by fine schools, churches, hospitals, fire stations and a library. Row houses (called corporations) were built and rented to workers with families after years on a waiting list. Italianate, Second Empireand Queen Anne stylemansions accommodated the company elite. Parks provided employees with fresh air, recreation and rest. Twenty acres were donated by Amoskeag Mills to create Valley Cemetery. The city's main thoroughfare, Elm Street, ran atop a ridge parallel to the mills below, but at a remove to lessen their clamor.
Everything in the
company townseemed influenced by the benevolent paternalistic management -- including the moral and physical habits of the help. Women in particular were monitored both at work and home in accordance with the Lowell System. At first many came to Manchester from surrounding farms. But as the need for labor increased, immigrationwas promoted from Canada, particularly Quebec, where many were desperate after unscientific farming exhausted the soil. Other workers arrived from Greece, Germany, Swedenand Poland, with each nationality claiming a neighborhood in the city. The company, worried about labor movements within the company in the wake of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strikein Lawrence, Massachusetts, attempted to prevent unionizing activities and promoted the "Americanization" of the workforce through benevolence activities and the construction of Textile Field (now Gill Stadium) in 1913. Child laborwas not uncommon--in fact, Lewis Hinephotographed child laborers at Amoskeag in 1909--nor were injuries and fatalities in the mills. When tower bells rang at the end of the day's one shift, thousands of employees changed from work clothes and swarmed out the iron gates. Locomotivesand fire engines were built by the Amoskeag Locomotive Works. During the Civil War, Southern cotton became scarce, so the company's foundrymade over 27,000 muskets and 6,892 Lindner carbines. It would also make sewing machines and, of course, textile machinery. Following the rebellion, the country's rapid industrialization resumed, with Manchester becoming a textile center greater than its namesake. Company engineers built more factories, lining both sides of the Merrimack. Mill No. 11 was the world's largest cotton mill, convert|900|ft|m|-1 long, convert|103|ft|m|0 wide, and containing 4000 looms. Gingham, flannel, and ticking were company specialties, although numerous other fabrics in cotton and wool were produced. The noise from thousands of looms running simultaneously in the weave rooms was deafening, so workers had to communicate by shouting in each other's ears or lip reading. Amoskeag peaked by World War I, supplying the Federal government with materiel. It employed up to 17,000 workers in 74 textile departments, with 30 mills weaving convert|50|mi|km|0 of cloth per hour. Defense patronage brought workers an increase in pay combined with a reduction in hours, from 54 to 48 per week.
armistice, the national economy slipped into recession. In the early 1920s, orders for Amoskeag products slackened, and various mills stopped production for days, weeks or even months. Without steady work or pay, the employees' bond with their once paternalistic employer weakened. That bond had kept Manchester a "strikeless" city. Then Parker Straw, agent and grandson of Ezekiel A. Straw, posted a notice that as of February 13, 1922, all departments would receive a pay reduction of 20 percent, with running hours increased from 48 to 54 hours per week. The United Textile Workers of America persuaded millworkers to strike when the new arrangements were to take effect. They did, and the city's entire economy suffered. After 9 months, however, necessity forced employees to return to work with their demands unmet. Technically, Amoskeag won, but it would prove a pyrrhic victory.
The strike cost Amoskeag not only the loyalty of employees, but customers as well. And it occurred when new sources of
energy, including electricityand petroleum, were replacing water power. Cotton could be processed and woven where it grew, saving transportation costs to New England. With aging technology, it became increasingly difficult for Amoskeag to compete. Northern labor costs were higher than in the South, which had new factories, layouts, and automatic looms. The South did not have New Hampshire's inventory tax, which levied commoditysupplies at a business like coaland cotton. In an attempt to remain competitive, Amoskeag made the mistake of adding more mills and spindles to reduce the costs of making fabric, at a time when the textile industry had excess productive capacity.
In 1925, treasurer Frederic C. Dumaine made the fateful decision to split the firm in two. Profits from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company's years of plenty were placed in the newly created Amoskeag Company, a
holding company. Capital was thereby protected from fluctuation in the business cycle, but it was also denied the mills to modernize. Then came the Great Depression. One daily shift increased to three, with management again trying to increase hours and reduce pay -- particularly for women, the majority of its workforce. Violent strikes in 1933 and 1934 required the intervention of the New Hamphire State Militia. When the picketingended and work resumed, vengeful agitators sabotaged machines and products. The stricken business closed mill buildings one by one, laying off scores of employees when few jobs existed.
Christmas Eve, 1935, the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company abruptly closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. A damaging floodthe following year ended any chance of revival. Per order of the presiding judge, the vast complex was liquidated. By 1937, half the buildings were occupied by other businesses under the aegisof Amoskeag Industries, established in 1936 by local businessmen. Today, the renovated old mills are home to offices, restaurants, softwarecompanies, branches of local colleges, art studios and the Millyard Museum.
Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1911
(Data recorded on panoramic postcard reproduced above)
* Number of looms -- 24,200
* Number of spindles -- 662,000
* Length of cotton & worsted cloth woven per annum -- convert|237000000|yd|m|-6
* Number of bags woven per annum -- 1,500,000
* Number of turbine water wheels -- 30
* Power furnished by wheels -- Convert|16290|hp|kW|0|abbr=on
* Number of boilers -- 185
* Rated horsepower of boilers -- 27,750
* Number of steam engines -- 12
* Power furnished by engines -- Convert|15100|hp|kW|-1|abbr=on
* Number of steam turbines -- 5
* Power furnished by turbines -- Convert|26678|hp|kW|0|abbr=on
* Number of alternating current generators -- 14
* Power developed by generators -- Convert|41175|hp|kW|0|abbr=on
* Number of electric motors -- 583
* Power of motors -- Convert|27702|hp|kW|0|abbr=on
* Oil consumed per annum -- 75,000 US gal
* Floor space in buildings -- convert|5844340|sqft|m2|0|abbr=on
* Floor space in buildings -- convert|137|acre|km2|1
(Table showing amount of wages paid per year at end of 10 year periods)
* 1831 -- $36,298
* 1840 -- $74,239
* 1850 -- $487,005
* 1860 -- $633,680
* 1870 -- $1,107,428
* 1880 -- $1,604,322
* 1890 -- $2,435,481
* 1900 -- $2,772,611
* 1910 -- $6,176,353
* 1911 -- $6,370,089
Total amount paid in wages from 1831 to 1911: $114,753,340
* Tamara K. Hareven, "Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory-City," University Press of New England, Hanover, NH 1978
* Alan R. Sweezy, "The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company," "Quarterly Journal of Economics;" Vol. 52, No. 3 (May, 1938)
* [http://www.usgennet.org/usa/nh/county/hillsborough/manchester/book/chap23.html History of Manufacturing at Amoskeag Falls]
* [http://www.manchesterhistoric.org/mill.htm Millyard Museum]
* [http://www.library.hbs.edu/hc/wes/collections/labor/textiles/content/1001956068.html Amoskeag Manufacturing Company Collection] at the Harvard Business School. [http://lms01.harvard.edu/F/C39NHG8UEX41UBGCGUVLXTFKYYCLRE4G2XRQNYDR9E9R86SLIE-53538?func=find-c&CCL_TERM=%28sys%3D000603059%29&adjacent=1 Catalog entry] and actual links to images of the collection.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Amoskeag Manufacturing Company — L Amoskeag Manufacturing Company était une immense manufacture textile située à Manchester dans le New Hampshire aux États Unis. Créée en 1831 et fermée en 1935, elle était le plus grand centre de production de toiles en coton et de denim du… … Wikipédia en Français
Amoskeag Falls — The Amoskeag Falls are a set of waterfalls located in Manchester, New Hampshire on the Merrimack River. History Amoskeag derives from the Pennacook word Namoskeag, which roughly translates as good fishing place.” Here, the Merrimack River drops… … Wikipedia
Manchester, New Hampshire — This article is about the city in New Hampshire. For other uses, see Manchester (disambiguation). Manchester, New Hampshire City View of downto … Wikipedia
Gill Stadium — is a sporting stadium located in Manchester, New Hampshire. It is believed to be the oldest stadium constructed of concrete and steel in New England outside of the Boston area. The venue, which mainly hosts amateur baseball and football contests … Wikipedia
Ezekiel A. Straw — Ezekiel Albert Straw (December 30, 1819 ndash;October 23, 1882), was an engineer, businessman, and politician from Manchester, New Hampshire. He was born in Salisbury, but moved with his family to Lowell, Massachusetts, where his father, James B … Wikipedia
District A — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. Historic district … Wikipedia
District B — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. Historic district … Wikipedia
District D — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. Historic district … Wikipedia
District C — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. Historic district … Wikipedia
District E — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. Historic district … Wikipedia