These books contain samples from several Massachusetts textile mills operating in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.
Many of the textile samples feature labels from the Otis Company of Ware, Massachusetts. The Otis Company was founded by James W. Otis in 1839 and quickly became a major producer of textiles, including checks, denims, and cotton underwear. The company operated three mills, including one in Palmer (Three Rivers), Massachusetts. It is possible that the samples with "PALMER. YARDS." labels were manufactured at the company's Palmer mill. At the height of the Otis Company's operations, it had a workforce of over 1,300 people.
Several of the samples have labels from Cordis Mills in Millbury, Massachusetts, an early producer of the cotton cloth known as ticking. A few samples feature labels from Swift River Tickings, which the American Textile History Museum of Lowell, Massachusetts, identifies as a subsidiary of Cordis Mills.
Three of the four sample books contain labels from the firms of J.S. & E. Wright & Co. or Wright, Bliss, and Fabyan, textile selling agents based in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1870, the commission house of J.S. & E. Wright & Co. consisted of John H. Wright, Ebenezer Wright, C.N. Bliss, and George F. Fabyan. The firm not only represented the Otis Company and Cordis Mills, but also the Columbian Manufacturing Company of Mason Village, New Hampshire, and the Thorndike Company and Boston Duck Company of Palmer, Massachusetts. By 1881, the firm had become Wright, Bliss, and Fabyan, and opened branch houses in New York City and Philadelphia. Following Ebenezer Wright's death that year, the firm changed its name to Bliss, Fabyan, & Co. By 1901, George F. Fabyan was not only a textile selling agent, but also the president of Cordis Mills and the treasurer of the Otis Company.
Otis Company Records (MS 310). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The Boston Directory, Embracing the City Record, General Directory of the Citizens, and a Business Directory. Boston: Sampson, Davenport, & Co., 1870.
Chase, Arthur. History of Ware, Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1911.
Ware, Massachusetts website, "A Brief History" (accessed November 13, 2017) http://www.townofware.com/visitors/about_ware/a_brief_history.php
"Life Goes to a Party: To laugh off depression in a New England town that shows its spunk and its girls' legs." LIFE, May 23, 1938.
Massachusetts Historical Commission "Reconnaissance Survey Town Report: Millbury," 1984. (accessed November 15, 2017) https://www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcpdf/townreports/Cent-Mass/mlb.pdf
Textile World's Official Directory of the Textile Mills of the United States, 1901. Boston: Guild & Lord: 1901.
American Textile History Museum, The Chace Catalogue (accessed November 15, 2017) http://chace.athm.org/main.php
Information derived from the collection.
This collection contains four sample books of denims, tickings, and furniture checks manufactured by Massachusetts textile mills. The sample books were created by textile selling agents J.S. & E. Wright & Co. and Wright, Bliss, and Fabyan between 1866 and 1882.
Volume 1 features a three-quarter binding with brown cloth over boards and black leather on the cover corners and spine. While an inscription inside the front cover and several stickers throughout read "1866," a sticker on the first textile sample reads "Trial Samples May 1878." The book contains twenty samples of denims and tickings sewn into the spine. Several denim samples feature large printed labels reading "Otis Company/Ware/Blue Denims/Warranted Indigo." as well as a labels addressed "To Buyers" from J.S. & E. Wright & Co. noting that the goods are entirely free from sizing and dressing. Other printed labels read "MEXICAN TWILLS" and "SILK FANCIES." A piece of canvas with an indigo print of an elephant reads "OTIS COMPANY STANDARD DRILLING." Two ticking samples include labels referring to "PALMER. YARDS." or "PALMER EXTRA HEAVY COTTONADES."
Volume 2 also features a three-quarter binding with brown cloth over boards and black leather on the cover corners and spine. An inscription inside the front cover reads "January 1874." The book contains ten samples of denims and tickings sewn into the spine. Several of these samples also include large printed labels reading "Otis Company/Ware/Blue Denims/Warranted Indigo." as well as a labels addressed "To Buyers" from J.S. & E. Wright & Co. Other printed labels include "SOFT FINISH," "PALMER. YARDS.," and "CORDIS MILLS IMPROVED TICKINGS." The fifth sample features a label on yellow paper that reads "BOSTON STEAM MILLS MEDAL DENIM" with an engraving of the Old State House in Boston as well as a label reading "Hustelling aller Nationem./Carlisle Fabrikations Gesellschaft."
Volume 3 features a three-quarter binding with brown cloth over boards and tan leather on the cover corners and spine. An inscription inside the front cover reads "January 1881." The book contains twenty-nine samples of tickings, apron checks, and furniture checks. All but the first two textile samples are sewn into the spine of the book. Although the book is dated January 1881, the second textile sample has a sticker dated "Sept. 28/82." The samples in this book feature large labels reading "CORDIS MILLS," "SWIFT RIVER TICKINGS," "PALMER. YARDS.," "OTIS COMPANY/WARE, MASS./WARRANTED INDIGO," "OTIS COMPANY APRON CHECKS," and "FURNITURE CHECKS." Several stickers seem to give the samples' measurements from selvedge to selvedge.
Volume 4 also features a three-quarter binding with brown cloth over boards and tan leather on the cover corners and spine. An inscription inside the front cover reads "Jany 1881." The book contains eight denim samples sewn into the spine of the book. Most of the samples in this book feature a label reading "OTIS COMPANY/WARE./BLUE DENIMS/WARRANTED INDIGO." as well as labels from Wright, Bliss, and Fabyan noting that "OTIS DENIMS HAVE BEEN FOR FORTY YEARS STANDARD GOODS IN THE MARKETS OF THE WORLD." The final sample features a label on yellow paper that reads "BOSTON STEAM MILLS MEDAL DENIM" with an engraving of the Old State House in Boston as well as a label reading "Hustelling aller Nationem./Carlisle Fabrikations Gesellschaft."