American Woolen Company


American Woolen Company

The American Woolen Company was established in 1899 under the leadership of William M. Wood and his father-in-law Frederick Ayer through the consolidation of eight financially troubled New England woolen mills. At the company's height in the 1920s, it owned and operated 60 woolen mills across New England. It is most known for its role in the Lawrence textile strike of 1912.

History

The American Woolen Company was the product of the era of trusts. Overproduction, competition and poor management had brought the New England textile industry to its knees by the 1890s. In particular, family trusts, the main shareholders of many of the mills, insisted on receiving high dividends instead of making necessary capital improvements. Frederick Ayer, successful Lowell merchant, purchased the Washington Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts and hired his son-in-law, William M. Wood to run it. Wood had already successfully turned around a bankrupt mill in Fall River. With Ayer's financial backing, Wood brought together various under-performing mills in the aim of reducing competition and increasing prices. He convinced investors to permit profits to be reinvested into new plants and machinery.

In 1901, the company purchased the failing Burlington Mills in Winooski, Vermont and restored their profitability. [ [http://www.burlingtonvt.org/arts-and-humanities/search.cgi?query=woolen Burlington Vt. area] ] These mills closed in 1954.

In 1905, the American Woolen Company built the largest mill in the world, the Wood Mill in Lawrence, followed by the neighboring Ayer Mill in 1909. The Ayer mill's 22 Foot diameter 4-sided clocktower is only a foot smaller than Big Ben and purportedly only second to it in size in the world (among chiming 4-sided clocktowers).

Following the 1912 Lawrence textile strike, the AWC was forced to increase wages. The company reached its apogee in the 1920s, when it controlled 20% of the nation's woolen production. However, its water-powered mills were unable to adapt to produce new fabrics in response to changing consumer demand, and non-unionized Southern mills were able to produce staple woolen products like blankets more cheaply. The two world wars were a boon to the AWC, keeping the company prosperous into 1945. Following the end of the Korean War, government contracts ended. Virtually bankrupt, the American Woolen Co. was purchased by Textron and incorporated into its Amerotron division in 1955.

References


*Roddy, Edward. Mills Mansions and Mergers: The Life of William M. Wood. North Andover, Massachusetts: Merrimack Valley Textile Museum, 1982.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • American and British English spelling differences — Spelling differences redirects here. For other uses, see Category:Language comparison. For guidelines on dialects and spelling in the English language version of Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style#National varieties of English. Differences… …   Wikipedia

  • New Mill and Depot Building, Hawthorne Woolen Mill — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. Historic district …   Wikipedia

  • Pendleton Woolen Mills — is an American apparel manufacturing company located in Portland, Oregon, United States. The company is internationally known for its high quality woolen garments and blankets.Company OriginsThe company’s beginnings were in 1889 not yet under the …   Wikipedia

  • Durant-Dort Carriage Company Office — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. National Historic Landmark …   Wikipedia

  • Amoskeag Manufacturing Company — The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company was a textile manufacturer which founded Manchester, New Hampshire. From modest beginnings in near wilderness, it grew throughout the 19th century into the largest cotton textile plant in the world. At its peak …   Wikipedia

  • Milliken & Company — Type Private Traded as N/A Industry Innovation, Research, Chemistry, Foor Covering, Performance Materials and Textiles …   Wikipedia

  • Deseret Manufacturing Company — The Deseret Manufacturing Company was an unsuccessful venture by the LDS Church in the 1850s to process sugar beets into refined sugar. A test factory was established in an area that is now known as Sugar House, Utah. Contents 1 Background 2… …   Wikipedia

  • Cleveland in the American Civil War — A photograph taken on Public Square of hundreds of Cleveland veterans from the American Civil War in 1865 Cleveland, Ohio, was an important Northern city during the American Civil War. It provided thousands of troops to the Union Army, as well as …   Wikipedia

  • Lawrence textile strike — The Lawrence Textile Strike was a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912 led by the Industrial Workers of the World. Prompted by one mill owner s decision to lower wages when a new law shortening the workweek went into… …   Wikipedia

  • William Madison Wood — William M. Wood (1858 February 2, 1926) was a textile mill owner of Lawrence, Massachusetts who was considered to be an expert in efficency. He made a good deal of his fortune through being hired by mill owners to turn around failing mills and… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.