Clark Thread Co

Newark and East Newark, NJ
1866 – 1949

Clark Sewing Thread in America

“During the mid­1850s – until the Panic of 1857 – foreign investment in the United States rose.” The Panic dampened investment for a short time as the country continued to struggle with issues that ultimately led to the Civil War in 1861. However, the country was growing by leaps and bounds and the invention of a successful home sewing machine by Howe and Singer spurred the need for thread manufacture. The first recorded instance of the Clark Thread interests occurred in 1856 when George A. Clark joined his Scottish competitor Andrew Coats in marketing to the United States. George A. Clark & Brother was formed in 1863. Clark began manufacturing in Newark, N. J. in 1865 as J. & J. Clark and became Clark & Co. in 1879. The competition, J. & P. Coats, began manufacturing in Pawtucket, R. I. in 1869. Wilkins reported, “At that time, many American manufacturers existed.” However, the real expertise and experience rested with the Coats and the Clarks of Scotland. In addition, it was a very capital­intensive process to spin a strong cotton thread and the Scots had accumulated quite a bit of wealth as they provided a superior product to the growing British industrial market. A totally separate Scottish firm, John Clark, Jr. & Co., began manufacturing in East Newark (Kearny), N. J., in the early 1870s. When George A. Clark died in 1873, his brother William took over management of the mills and of the sales firm. Initially, the Clarks in the United States were well­separated from their Scottish relatives until after the death of George A. Clark. In the 1880s, Clark’s “O.N.T.” (Our New Thread) was widely advertised in national publications. In 1883, The U. S. subsidiary of the John Clark, Jr. & Co. of Glasgow became Clark Mile­ End Spool Cotton Company and enlarged the Kearny works. The American economy was expanding following the restoration of peace. Home machine sewing added demand for quality spooled thread.

clark_thread_plant_old_photo_2_

Clark Plant in East Newark. Passaic River and Newark in background

 

 

 

 

Mergers of thread companies in the United in the late 1890s due to strong competition foretold of mergers in the United States. In Britain, merger of the Coats and the Clarks in 1896 led to another merger of fourteen firms to create English Sewing Cotton Company, Ltd. in 1897. Even then, the Coats and the Clarks had a financial interest in English Sewing Cotton.

In 1898, the American Thread Company was incorporated in New Jersey, a combination of thirteen New England firms­ the largest being Willimantic Linen Company. The parent company of this “American” company was none other than English Sewing Cotton Co.! In 1899, a new venture, Spool Cotton Company, took over the sales of the three brands of the Coats and Clark interests in the United States: Coats Cotton Spool, Clark’s O.N. T., and Mile End. The battle between the Scottish giants was joined. These mergers made it even harder for U. S.­based companies to compete. There was fierce competition and price­fixing during the next 15 years. Finally, the U. S. government filed suit in 1913, alleging restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. By 1914, this action modified the structure of the ownership by spitting the management of all the Scottish­ owned mills, but their technological advantage continued to hinder U.S. competition. 1.

Clark Thread was built on both sides of the Passaic River in Newark. The larger complex was on the east bank, known as East Newark, and was bounded by Central, Grant, Passaic, and Johnston Avenues. The buildings on the west bank look like they are gone. At its peak the company employed 3,000 people.

clark_william_2_

William Clark – 1892
Grandson of the original James Clark, Founder of the Clark dynasty in textiles

 

 

 

 

 

clark_residence

The Clark Home, 340 Mt. Prospect Ave., Newark, NJ

 

 

 

 

clarkontjumbocard

 

The famous O.N.T. design and a card from 1894 featuring the famous elephant “Jumbo” frolicking at Coney Island, New York.

Mile End card refers to factory location in Glasgow, Scotland Courtesy Peter Metzke

 

clarkontspool

Art work for ads like these was often done by Louis Prang and his firm of Boston. Prang is the father of the modern day greeting card.

 

 

clarksmileendspoolcotton81900

 

 

 

 

 

clarkthreadwesterlyri

Clark Thread, Westerly, Rhode Island

 

 

 

 

clarksthreadmillpawcatuckriverrict

Clark’s Thread on the Pawcatuck River between CT and RI Courtesy of Bill Wornall

 

 

 

 

The company that originated in Mile End, Glasgow, Scotland, built plants in New Jersey and Rhode Island, and became Coats & Clark with the merger of a major competitor J.& P. Coats. The company eventually closed northern operations and moved south. Visit the C & C website for a timeline and old images.

One outstanding chemist was Herbert Grandage who joined the company in 1921 and was recognized as one of the “Men of Mark in the field of dyes and their application” by the American Dyestuff Reporter in the early 1920s. Only a select two or three were named each year.

“Herbert Grandage was born in Bradford, England June 12, 1891. At an early age he moved to the United States and after graduating from the Philadelphia Central Manual Training High School in 1908 he continued his studies at the Philadelphia Textile School and at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. His first position in the textile field was as Assistant Dyer at the Industrial Dyeing & Finishing Company, Frankford, Philadelphia, where he remained two years. Later, he became Laboratory Assistant and Color Matcher for Read Holliday & Sons, in New York City, which position he resigned to become Superintendent of Bleaching and Dyeing at the Bay State Thread Works, Springfield, Mass., where he remained until 1919. For the next two years, he was Superintendent of Bleaching and Dyeing for Gerald Cooper, Providence, R. I. In June 1921, he became Superintendent of Bleaching, Mercerizing and Dyeing at the Clark Thread Company, Newark, N. J., which position he still holds. In addition to exercising the entire supervision of all chemical processes for Clark Thread Company he is also Manager of the Bloomfield, N. J., works of the same company. Mr. Grandage is regarded as one of the best informed and most progressive of the younger generation of dyers who have helped to raise the occupation from the rank of skilled labor to that of a highly trained technical profession. His popularity among all elements of the textile­chemical fraternity has led to his being the recipient of many honors. He was formerly Secretary and later Vice­Chairman of the New York Section of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, and is at present Chairman thereof. He comes of a long line of dyers centered about Bradford, England, there having been at one time or another no less than twelve of his family following the profession of dyestuff application.”(3)

herbertgrandagelr

Herbert Grandage
American Dyestuff Reporter
Men of Mark selectee 1925, p804

 

 

 

 

 

The current company since 2003 is Coats plc .

 

Sources:

  1. Wilkins, Mira, 1989. The History of Foreign Investment in the United States to 1914. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
  2. Shaw, William H., 1884 History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, Everts & Peck. The article had three high quality images which are attached.
  3. Herbert Grandage, “Men of Mark in the field of dyes and their application,” American Dyestuff Reporter, 1925, p804.

 

Many thanks to Bob Baptista for suggesting this page and for supplying many links.