Willimantic Cottong Mills, Co

Willimantic, Connecticut

Willimantic Cotton Mills, Co.

The Willimantic Linen Company was one of several companies founded along the Willimantic River, in the town of Willimantic, Connecticut.  An early history of Connecticut, however gave no specific names.

Lawson C. Ives and Austin Dunham originally founded the Willimantic Linen Company in 1854 to process flax into linen goods.  By 1872, the manufacture had switched over to cotton, but the name continued for some time.   Ives died in 1867 and had amassed a huge fortune that was channeled into improvements of the factory and into charitable efforts in Hartford.  The company began with capital of $75,000 and expanded beyond $1,000,000 in 1872.

As can be seen in the accompanying illustrations, the factories were constructed of granite. The first factory where three-cord thread was manufactured was four stories high and covered 200 feet by 68 feet in width.  The second or “new” mill designed to manufacture six-ply thread was five stories high, 400 feet long and 70 feet

1864  Willimantic Linen Company’s Mill No. 2
1890  Willimantic Linen Company’s Mill No. 2

wide.  Fales, Jenks and Sons provided force pumps to pump water for fire protection.  Each of the four pumps was capable of delivering 1300 gallons of water per minute.  Water from the river delivered 800 horsepower.  A Corliss steam engine capable of 300 horsepower was installed in the early 1870s.  A bleachery and dye house attached to the mill was 120 feet by 70 feet in width with drying rooms.  The department was cleverly arranged with unique ventilation in the lower rooms.  The capacity of the mill was 4,000 pounds per day.  The boiler house had eight steam boilers for the dye house and the mill.    Storerooms were in the top story and attic for finished goods.  The Company developed and patented several machines including the doublers used to manufacture the six-ply threads.  After winding large spools, the process was automated to deliver 200-yard spools and stamping the ends of the spools automatically.  The capacity was 50,000 dozen spools a week.  A red ticket was placed on the end of each spool to differentiate from the 3-ply thread. Greeley reported that this was the leading thread-making company in the United States.


1907  Willimantic Linen Company Mills No. 2 and 6

Gulliver was captured by the people of Lilliput after being shipwrecked. Illustration based on the literary work, commonly known as Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726 by Jonathan Swift.  Business Card 1904 shown above.

The company became quite famous for the quality of their ads promoting the Willimantic Sewing Thread.

A museum is open at the site.  Other links at the bottom of that page are well worth reading.

An absolutely beautiful modern photo of the restored property later known as American Thread can be found at:



Source:  Greeley, Horace, 1872, “Spool Cotton Thread”  in  The Great Industries of the United States: Being an Historical Summary of the Origin, Growth, and Perfection of the Chief Industrial Arts of this Country, J.B. Burr & Hyde, Hartford, Connecticut.

Source:  Trumbull, Benjamin, 1818, A complete history of Connecticut, Civil and Ecclesiastical, from the emigration of its first planters, from England, in the year 1650, to the year 1764; and to the close of the Indian wars.  In two volumes. New Haven, Maltby, Goldsmith and Co. and Samuel Wadsworth. Google Search Digital version.