New England Textiles

New England Mills

An excellent beginning study can be found in Dunwell’s The Run of the Mill.  Dunwell grew up near the textile town of  Wappinger’s Falls, New York.  He often passed through Derby, Connecticut while traveling from home to college. Later he began documenting what he saw around him with photojournalism. His first visit to a running mill was overwhelming  ” … It seemed like a mechanized hell on earth… Who would choose to work in such a place, and why? …I was fascinated”   His book was designed “to show the disturbing present in relation to the grand design of the past.”  His story is a slice of life, written by one who has difficulty accepting that this was marvelous progress made by those creators of industry.  It is a story told over and over again by twentieth century writers reflecting on nineteenth century living and industry across the board.

Lowell and Lynn, Massachusetts became important textile centers in the 19th century and continued strongly into the early years of the 20th century before the ageing mills were overcome by new mills that opened the South.   In Lowell and Lynn, MA, the woolen industry got a foothold.  French-Canadians knowledgeable of the French worsted system established the industry in these locations.  Many of these Canadian workers migrated south to woolen mills in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and over into Connecticut.  Many more settled in New Bedford and Falls River, Massachusetts and worked in cotton mills.  Other workers in these cities were descended from fishermen and whalers who came from Portugal and the Azores and later sought new opportunities as the whaling industry slowed.

A far-reaching textile strike developed in 1928 that involved mills from these cities and was well documented by Georgianna and Aaronson.  In addition to the mills listed there were these: New Bedford, Bennett Mfg; Columbia Spinning; New England Yarn; and Fairhaven Mills.  In Fall River: American Thread, Wampanoag, Kerr Mills, and King Philip Mill.


  1. Dunwell, Steve, The Run of the Mill. Boston: David R. Godine – Publisher, 1978.
  2. Georgianna, Daniel and Roberta Aaronson, The Strike of ’28, Spinner Publications, Inc., New Bedford, MA.
  3. Ricard, Leander, Personal communication, March 2008
  4. Other mills in Willimantic, Connecticut: Thanks to Peter Metzke
  5. The Windham Mfg. Co., No.3 Mill
  6. The Morrison Machine Company factory which was adjoined to the  Natchaug Silk Company, the machine company  working hand in hand with  the new development of machinery.
  7. The Holland Silk Mills
  8. The Smithville Cotton Mfg Company’s Cotton Mill
  9. Turners Silk Mill. – a little below from Posselt’s Journal of 1909.