During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Bancrofts manufactured textile products in family-owned and -operated factories and mills in many locations that included Canada, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania. Their legacies were as entrepreneurs and industrialists.
In 1822 the Bancrofts, who were devout Quakers, emigrated from England to the United States. They came to Delaware because of its association with the Society of Friends. John Bancroft (1771-1852) and his sons John (1802- 1882) and Samuel (1804-1891) began a woolen mill in Wilmington, Delaware. After he apprenticed at his uncle John Bright's cotton mill in Rochdale, England, Joseph (1803- 1874), who was the third son, came to Delaware in 1824. The Bancrofts moved their family-owned business to Delaware County, Pennsylvania, in 1827.
In 1831 the family established John Bancroft & Son on Ridley Creek in Providence, Nether Providence Township, Pennsylvania. (Providence became Nether Providence, Rose Valley, Media, and Upper Providence. Media became a separate entity in 1850.) At this site, which originally was a snuff mill dating from the early 1790s, they built woolen mills, where they used several thousand spindles and about thirty blanket looms to produce their textiles. In 1842 an economic downturn forced the Bancrofts to sell their business. Samuel Bancroft repurchased the mills in 1854 and reclaimed his family's business. At that time the site was named the Todmorden Mills, and in the 1870s it was one of the largest woolen mills in the United States.
Also in 1831 Joseph Bancroft founded a cotton mill at Rockford, Delaware, on the Brandywine River. Daily operations were based on the British methods of spinning and weaving. Bancroft's sons William Poole Bancroft (1835-1928) and Samuel Bancroft, Jr. (1840-1915) became partners in the Rockford factory, which became Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In 1889 the business was incorporated, and was known thereafter as Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company. In 1908 the officers of this cotton goods and dyeing company were Samuel Bancroft, Jr., president; William P. Bancroft, vice president; John Bancroft, secretary and superintendent; Henry B. Thompson, treasurer; and Joseph Bancroft, assistant treasurer.
Elzea, Rowland. The Correspondence Between Samuel Bancroft, Jr. and Charles Fairfax Murray, 1902-1916. Wilmington, Del.: Delaware Art Museum, 1980.
Bancroft, Joseph and Sons. (1813- 1969). Family Records. Retrieved May 31, 2001, from the Hagley Museum and Library online catalog: http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/catalog.html
Harris, J. Mervin. (n.d.) Nether Providence Through the Years. Retrieved May 29, 2001, from Nether Providence Historical Society's Web site: http://www.delcohistory.org/nphs
Reed, H. Clay. Delaware, A History of the First State. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1947.
Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware: 1609-1888, Vol. 2. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards & Co., 1888.
R.L. Polk & Co.s Peninsula Directory of Delaware Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, 1908-1909.
Biographical and historical information derived from the collection.
The Samuel Bancroft and Joseph Bancroft and Sons Company Records, spanning the dates 1869-1913, provide a glimpse of financial records of the family-owned textile companies. The collection consists of five volumes of transactions. There are two of Samuel Bancroft's cash books (1873-1884), a payable/receivable book (1869-1891), one ledger of goods purchased (1877-1883), and a letterpress book of internal company memorandums (1912-1913). Only the two cash books can be associated with the Bancroft's company at the Todmorden Mills (around Media, Pennsylvania) in Nether Providence Township, Pennsylvania.
Samuel Bancroft's set of leather-bound cash books are chronological and have the following spine titles: Cash Book (I), Cash Book (II) and each has the initials S.B. set in gold letters. The first volume is dated 1873-1881, and lists receivables and payables including deposits to Girard Bank, cash received from the Todmorden Mills, interest received, rent received, real estate expenses, receivables from farm, payments to Joseph Bancroft & Sons, and payments to Mrs. Bancroft. Laid into the book are a receipt from the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad Company to Samuel Bancroft, which is dated 1887; small flowers; and two cigar wrappers.
The second cash book is dated 1881-1884. The verso of the flyleaf reads "Sam'l Bancroft, Media, Pa, will call." Also laid into the book are an envelope to Mr. Sam'l (Samuel) Bancroft, Media, Pa from A. Klipstein, Aniline Colors, Dyestuffs, & c., New York; and two completed application cards for employment dating from 1920. A blotter was laid in between pages 119 and 120. The content of volume two is similar to volume one.
The payable/receivable book is a reversible volume. On one side are the payables (1869-1881), and when the volume is turned to the back cover, the receivables (1878-1895) begin. The payable side of the book consists of columns across the pages with the following information: no., to whom given, when given, drawn by, order of, where payable, date, time, when due (lists months), folio, amount (in dollars and cents), remarks. Many of the entries are "given" by Samuel Bancroft and "drawn by" Jos. Bancroft & Sons. Laid inside the receivable side of the book is a blotter advertising the Every Evening, a daily newspaper in Delaware (Samuel Bancroft, Jr. was president of the Every Evening Printing Company, located at Parkway near Rockford Road, Wilmington, Delaware).
The pages list the following on the receivable side of the volume: no., from who received, when received, drawer, to whom payable, place receivable, date, time when due, (lists months), folio, amount (in dollars and cents), and remarks. Many of the "drawers" are Samuel Bancroft, and many "to whom payable" are J. B. & Sons. Tipped into the receivable side is a note due to Joseph Bancroft & Sons from C. Carville (?) for $145, dated April 24, 1878 from New York.
The next volume, goods purchased from 1877-1883, is a record of material purchased for the manufacture and dyeing of textiles. Many of the transactions were made in Philadelphia, Chester, Media, Cleveland, and New York.
Goods purchased included bags of raw wool, bags of carded stock, and products for dyeing material such as soda ash. Each entry included the city, date, company, description of the product purchased, amount and size of the order as well as cost. Some penciled notations are made on the inside cover of the front and the back of the book.
The final volume is a letterpress book bearing the spine title of "Letter Book. Memorandum Orders #2 (1912- 1913)." It has 153 memorandums in a book with 748 pages. Generally, there are two short memorandums per leaf. Blotters used with the letterpress remain with the book. The memoranda, all from I.C. Philips, are addressed to H.C Hess, D.F. Many, W.H. Bannard, Jr., E. Mills, and Abner Overdeer. The memoranda provide instructions for orders and deliveries of textile products, inspection orders to be filled, and directives for inventory and quality control.