Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ninety employees

Ryalls House porch detail

Competition from worsteds and foreign cloth, fluctuating raw materials costs, style changes, and slowly rising wage rates, all combined to force the woolen industry "to do an increasing volume of business under conditions which make it constantly more difficult to prevent a decrease in the margin of profit." As a consequence, limited production of given styles and the need for low inventories made the small plant typical of the industry. Usually its annual production in the period from 1900 to 1909 varied between $115,000 and $180,000, and its employees numbered about ninety.--Harry Poindexter

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

worsteds rise

Nathaniel Leake House

Woolen mills throughout the period either had to combat this new cloth or go to the expense of installing machinery for making it. The result was that from 1889 to 1909 the trend in wool manufacturing was downward while in worsteds it was upward. In 1889, about 200,000,000 yards of woolens and less than half that amount of worsteds rolled off the looms. Twenty years later, worsted production was nearly three times the volume of ordinary woolens.--Harry Poindexter

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Woolen Mills Office



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Charlottesville Woolen Mill


Friday, April 18, 2008


1901 Woolen Mills Road

As if such problems were not enough, the woolen industry was confronted by a strong rival: worsted cloth. This material, although woolen, was smoother than ordinary woolen cloth. Made from a different type fibre, worsteds required machinery especially designed for their production. In 1860 this branch of the industry had hardly existed, but after the war consumer demand brought rapid expansion. By 1890 worsteds were close competitors of woolens. Ten years later, both in the value of product and the amount of wool consumed, worsted manufacturing surpassed the woolen branch of the industry.--Harry Poindexter

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

vicious financing system

Hudson House, home of Woolen Mills transportation supervisor

These same buyers kept the cloth makers on the ropes by means of a vicious financing system. According to one spokesman, "the manufacturer, in most instances, actually begins his production for the year to come before he has received his money for the production of the previous year. The extension of credits is of course equivalent to a reduction in price, but it cannot be indicated in market quotations."--Harry Poindexter

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

supply of raw wool inflexible

1709 Woolen Mills Road

Aside from fluctuations in the national economy, woolen mills faced several internal problems. Since there was no wool exchange and with the supply of raw wool inflexible in the short-run, the industry continued to be harassed by wide variations in costs. Moreover, Americans were changing clothing styles with greater frequency. Originating abroad, these styles gave foreign cloths an advantage and production problems arose because of the unpredictable demands. To complicate matters, wholesalers and ready-to-wear clothing manufacturers refused to buy in large quantities. This transferred the risk of loss from style changes back to the mills.--Harry Poindexter

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Friday, April 11, 2008

the woolen machinery was idle

Harlow, Starkes, Gianniny Houses (Monticello in the background)

Perhaps there were grounds for this attitude toward the tariff. Recovery in the woolen industry began about 1897--the year the Dingley bill restored protection to the 1890 level--and lasted for a decade. Even the 1907 panic, weathered behind the tariff screen, was minor compared to the 1893 debacle. Effective protection remained virtually unchanged until the Simmons-Underwood tariff of 1913 drastically reduced rates. While its effect could only be guessed at because the outbreak of war cut off woolen imports, nevertheless, on the eve of the war one-fourth of the woolen machinery of the country was idle.--Harry Poindexter

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

effects of the 1893 crash

Hudson-Baltimore-Pritchett-Starkes Houses

The effects of the 1893 crash were severe and lingering. The depression was complicated by the tariff of 1894 which lowered the amount of protection. Changes in machinery and in types of product seemed obligatory in the face of new foreign competition. Samuel N. D. North, secretary of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers, argued that:
Many manufacturers will find themselves compelled to change altogether the character of their products... At present it seems as though the hardest struggle was before the mills which have been engaged in making the medium cassimeres and similar goods for the masses. These mills have had the American manufacture to themselves... That great advantage will no longer be theirs.
--Harry Poindexter

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

violent swings of the business cycle

C.E. Mallory House, for sale...

During the three decades after 1880 the American woolen industry experienced the violent swings of the business cycle which were more and more becoming a characteristic of the national economy. Since the tariffs of 1883 and 1890 generally raised rates on woolens and extended protection to a wider variety of goods, pre-1893 prosperity was laid partly to the tariff schedule.
In the finer grades of cloths and dress goods, however, importations continued in large amounts. But American mills held their own and enjoyed profitable seasons until 1893.--Harry Poindexter

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