Monday, May 5, 2008

uniform cloth

Damage to Harlow's wall is done by vehicles large and small

In the years between the War of Secession and the first World War, Americans voiced a preference for light weight clothing more in line with new modes of heating, transportation, and styles. It was this change which sealed the fate of primitive rural mills.

In plotting their course after 1882, the directors of the Charlottesville mill determined to continue making heavy fabrics, but production was shifted from cloth for men's suitings to material for uniforms of various types. Whether this decision was farsighted or whether later events made it seem so, cannot be known. However, its effect was obvious. Uniform styles changed slowly and once a market was established a mill of that type could estimate its output much more shrewdly than one making apparel fabrics. Since close similarity in subsequent orders of uniform cloth was of prime importance to an institution, competition was lessened once a mill had won a contract. furthermore, foreign cloths were practically excluded because of the requirements of uniformity.--Harry Poindexter

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rubber v stone

Damaged resource. Cel Harlow's stone wall shows damage secondary to commercial traffic short cutting through this residential neighborhood.

It will be noted that the Central Atlantic region held its own. New England's increasing percentage came from two factors: the rise of new mills there and the decline of the small inefficient western and southern mills whose income was mainly based on custom carding and local sales. By 1914 the South possessed only sixty of the 1000-odd mills in the nation; Massachusetts alone had nearly one hundred. In 1919 New England mills employed sixty percent of all woolen workers.--Harry Poindexter

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Monday, March 10, 2008


House on the left ( 1604 Woolen Mills Road. 002-1260-0030 ) built by Virginia (41 y.o.) and James Starkes (55 y.o.) in 1890.
Brick house on right residence of Cel and Bettie Harlow. John Baltimore, mason, Bettie Baltimore Harlow's brother, laid the brick.
The Starkes acquired their 4 acre lot the first day of summer, June 21, 1886, for five-hundred dollars (Albemarle County DB 92 Page 65). To the north the Starkes lot had 310 feet of frontage on Woolen Mills Road. It was bounded on the south by the C&O railroad tracks, to the east by a paper street, 2nd road (modern-day Franklin Street) and to the west by James Timberlake (002-1260-0037, 1512 Woolen Mills Road)
Following the death of the Starkes, their property became involved in a chancery suit between their children and was sold at auction June 20, 1903 to James Timberlake, wet-finishing foreman at the Woolen Mill. (Albemarle County Chancery orders 1903, Book 21, Page 42, Albemarle County DB 127 Page 250)
In January of 1916, Timberlake divided and sold Virginia Starkes land. The western portion of the land he sold to R.N. Gianniny (1600 Woolen Mills Road, 002-1260-0041, Albemarle County DB 161 PG 406 J.E.Timberlake to R.N. Gianniny 1/24/1916 $500). Gianniny was a weaving second hand who had grown up in the mill village. In 1919, at the age of 48, Gianniny was promoted to the position of supervisor of the Woolen Mills weaving department. Gianniny was Virginia Starkes first cousin (?? have to tie this down)
Gianniny subdivided his lot and sold the western portion to Woolen Mills transportation supervisor, J.E. Hudson (DB 162 PG184 R.N. Gianniny to J.E. Hudson 2/19/1916 $250, 1516 Woolen Mills Road, 002-1260-0040)
Timberlake sold the eastern portion of the Starkes lot to Marcellus and Bettie Harlow, 1606 Woolen Mills Road. (Albemarle County DB 160 PG 406, 002-1260-0045).
Marcellus "Cel" Harlow's wife, Bettie (nee Baltimore), had a sister in-law desperate to move back to her natal home. The Harlow's subdivided their lot.
The day after Christmas, 1916, Mamie Starkes Baltimore spent 1500 dollars and regained the house she lost thirteen years previously. (Albemarle County DB164 PG153 12/26/1916, M.C & Bettie Harlow to Mary Starkes Baltimore $1500).

Within a year, the company's stock and mortgage liabilities settled down to a total capitalization of about $101,000 in common stock, $56,000 in preferred stock, and $52,000 in mortgage bonds. Except for the gradual retirement of the mortgage, which was accomplished by 1903, these figures remained relatively constant until 1896. In that year the accumulated surplus was distributed to common stock owners pro rata in the form of $50,000 worth of new common stock. Capitalization was then set at $200,000. This in turn grew to $300,000 in 1902 when the surplus was once again capitalized in the form of capital stock. No further changes occurred before the outbreak of war in 1914, but the surplus had grown again to nearly $60,000 by that date.--Harry Poindexter

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

labor force

Cutie Harlow, Athalia Shisler
In 1868, just prior to the organization of the mill as a stock company, Marchant?s labor force totaled nearly twenty. This figure can be compared with a national average of about twenty-eight employees per mill. By 1882 the Charlottesville Woolen Mills was using sixty workers, and had climbed considerably ahead of the national average which did not reach that figure until 1889. While the size of the Charlottesville company reflected the typical unit of production in the American wool manufacture, one must remember that the large New England mills often employed hundreds.--Harry Poindexter

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Friday, January 18, 2008

the laboring element, the heart of the village

Hezekiah Harlow, courtesy the Drumheller family

It is easy in studying the history of a business enterprise to become so involved with financial aspects that one neglects to examine the status of the laboring element. In the case of Southern textile mills such an omission is especially serious because of the almost feudal relationship existing between the mill worker and the company itself. The scarcity of information on this problem in our study is, therefore, unfortunate. After 1880 the picture is somewhat clearer, but for the period between 1865 and 1881 we must be content with only a casual glance. --Harry Poindexter

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

quality was the forte of the mill

Hezekiah Harlow, courtesy of the Drumheller family

Newspaper comments during the decade always emphasized the superior quality of Charlottesville Woolen Mills fabrics and the need to encourage home industries. Quality rather than a favorable price differential was evidently the forte of the mill. One must infer that in the better grades of cloth the company was unable to undersell Northern competitors who were being squeezed by a depressed internal economy even though adequate protection had been extended under the 1867 tariff. Indeed, in 1878 the directors considered turning to a cheaper rather than a finer grade of product. Three years later, however, the picture had altered. Equipment for a steam brush and rotary press was installed to improve the finished cloth at no extra labor cost. And plans were matured for extensive expansion. As we shall see later, this optimistic program was blocked by a second disastrous fire.--Harry Poindexter

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Friday, November 23, 2007

the mortgage proved exceedingly worrisome

1604 & 1606 Woolen Mills Road, the Starkes-Baltimore and Harlow houses

The stockholders were impressed. Still, the faulty bulwarks had to be shored up if the mill hoped for financial stability. So they quickly authorized a mortgage of $20,000 and a $30,000 issue of preferred stock carrying a ten percent guaranteed dividend. Why this stock issue was proposed is a puzzle. Its interest rate was only slightly less than the current rate for loans; and because of the guarantee it was in one respect more insidious than loans. The preferred stock dividend would open an irreparable leak during bad years, while borrowing could be adjusted according to needs. The directors decided not to use this method. Instead, the mortgage alone was seized upon. Twenty thousand dollars worth of bonds were sold to three Charlottesville men: John Woody, Jr., N. H, Massle, and E. R. Watson. Carrying nine percent interest, the bonds were due in ten years but could be called in after five. As it turned out, the mill remained saddled with a mortgage for twenty years. In 1880 the first bonds were replaced by a new series bearing only seven percent interest. Watson, Massie, and Jefferson R. Taylor took the second issue. Before it was retired in 1894, the mortgage proved exceedingly worrisome. Even worse, the sum raised by the mortgage was too small to remove the immediate evils of an inadequate capital. Although a ten percent dividend was unwisely paid in 1874, the following year found the board seeking extensions on credits. In December, 1875, the directors were forced to sign a joint note to raise $1,000 to pay the employees! So scarce did funds remain that only two cash dividends--five percent in 1877 and six percent in 1880--could be paid between 1875 and 1881. Profits meanwhile were set aside to accumulate in a surplus fund or to be used for improvements. In 1876 the surplus account provided the base for a twenty percent increase in common stock.
--Harry Poindexter

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

making his bid

Marcellus and Bettie Baltimore Harlow's house, 1602 Woolen Mills Road

Prospects for reviving the Charlottesville mill were improved by the depleted stock of woolen cloth in the South. For a time, at least, an intrepid manufacturer like Marchant could find a ready market for fabrics in his immediate locality. Already "footloose men, ready to embark in new and speculative enterprises" had begun "the speedy restoration of several little textile mills and iron works destroyed during the hostilities...." Into their ranks stepped Marchant, making his bid for a place in a revamped economy.

By August, 1865, he had acquired one set of wool cards and had begun the primitive carding of raw wool for local farmers. At the same time he cast his line into the local financial pool hoping to attract money to purchase machinery for a fully integrated textile mill. Merchant naturally first dangled his bait before the merchants and investors in the neighborhood who had at times shown definite interest in the woolen mill. Especially, he sought the aid of his old friend John C. Patterson and the latter's partner, D. T. Shreve. Both were now dry goods merchants with extensive financial contacts in the North. But Merchant was unsuccessful in attracting the cautious and depleted capital of Charlottesville business men. Undaunted, he packed his bags and headed north with Patterson in the fall of 1867 to fish in other waters.
--Harry Poindexter

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