Courtesy Peter Metzke
Pacific Mills by Charles B. Palmer
Pacific Mills was founded in 1852 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where it manufactured prints and fancy cottons as well as worsted goods in its woolen mill operations. In the early 1900s, Pacific Mills acquired several cotton mills in Columbia, South Carolina that produced broadcloth and shirting and one in Lyman, South Carolina, which produced sheets and pillowcases and included a finishing operation. In 1955, M. Lowenstein acquired the Pacific Mills. In 1992, the Lyman Printing and Finishing Company was a division of Springs Industries with bleaching, dyeing, printing, and finishing using seventeen dye machines and seven screen printers. The Columbia Division of Springs included the Granby and Olympia Mills, which employed 1300 in 1992 with 134,540 ring spindles and 1450 broad looms.
“Pacific Mills, near Spartanburg, SC”
Caption on postcard. This huge mill became the nucleus of the Pacific Mills, then sold to M Lowenstein and finally to Springs. Courtesy of Bill Wornall Textile Postcard Collection
Lowenstein & Sons – Lyman Printing and Finishing
In 1972 I went to Lyman to report directly to James F. Magarahan, VP and General Manager reporting to major stockholder (owner) Robert Bendheim, for the express purpose of leading the design, building, equipping, and staffing of a flocking plant to produce crushed velvets and upholstery fabrics. Since this was my experience of 2 years spent in LaGrange, GA, I was qualified for the task, which was completed according to schedule and started up with few difficulties. For about two years I operated Wamsutta Flocked Fabrics and then was asked to assist Les Heaton at Lyman Printing and Finishing. Les, originally from Milliken, had been brought in by Magarahan to report to him for the operation of Lyman Printing and Finishing and had requested my help in the Preparation and Continuous Dyeing Departments. I was happy to take on this task, which brought me back to my major field of interest…and operating the flocking plant was becoming too routine.
At this time Lyman was the second largest plant of its type (only Springs’ Grace Bleachery, Lancaster, SC produced more yards per week) producing 7,000,000 yards per week of woven fabrics from 36″ to 110″ in width, over a broad range of weight from very light to bottom weights, decorated by roller printing, screen printing, beck dyeing and continuous dyeing. End use was generally apparel and sheeting but also included a small but successful industrial department whose most expensive and successful product was silver cloth used to line containers for silver ware or make fabric holders for silver. The fabric truly contained a measured amount of silver, which tarnished instead of the silver ware it contained.
The above barely touches on the variety of the product line and the complexity of the equipment used to produce it…. Tommy Dodds and similar archaic machines were still in use…. but the production scheduling and control problems were enormous. Quality results were far less than I wanted and not acceptable. Each department superintendent operated his own fiefdom and production equipment was on three floors. Marketing headquartered in New York was organized and operated in the same way. In spite of all this we made money according to the accountants who also could point to product lines, which were constant losers…but yet were not discontinued.
During the next several years we reduced the weekly production from seven million yards to five million, number of employees from approximately 1000 to approximately 650, eliminated all roller printing, and made significantly more money as a result. Quality and productivity problems in preparation and dyeing were largely overcome and, for the most part, every one was “pulling in the same direction”. At this point the Wamsutta Dye Plant was built. It had Gaston County Jets and two tenter frames. All preparation was done at Lyman but drying and finishing took place in the new plant. Inspection and packing, etc. was done at Lyman. I was asked to start up and operate this plant and did so successfully for about two years.
Then more personnel changes were made at Lyman, which resulted in my return to the main plant in charge of all production and related services. We continued to take out or mothball obsolete equipment, streamline processes, improve quality and production, and even replace old equipment with new plus adding process controls.
Lyman was also the location for a large domestic cut and sew operation producing sheets, pillowcases, comforters and the like under the Wamsutta label. It was also home to Lowenstein’s research division, a screen manufacturing operation and design center, a water treatment facility for the operations at Lyman, and a waste disposal system serving Lyman, Duncan, and Startex.
Good Housekeeping Magazine 1946
Courtesy TJS Labs
Pacific Worsted, Craft Fabric Div.
Saturday Evening Post 1955
Courtesy TJS Labs
A sad story. The mill closed in 2005 and shortly thereafter was sold by Springs Industries. The roof leaked. No one wanted to spend the money needed for preservation. The Lyman complex was demolished and sold brick by brick in the Spring of 2012 as reported in Go Upstate. 2
- Charles B. Palmer, Personal Communication, 2008.
- News item April 7, 2012, Go Upstate.