Saturday, September 15, 2007

“The Legacy of the Glasgow Company” by Andrea Dalton

Andrea Dalton of 65 High Street in South Hadley wrote “The Legacy of the Glasgow Company” as one of the requirements to apply for a 2005 scholarship from The South Hadley Historical Society scholarship, which she was awarded. According to Andrea’s mother, Pam Dalton, in September of 2007:

“ Not too many people realize that our family house has some history and historic ties to old businesses in South Hadley and I think it was fun for Andrea to start with the facts that she knew about our house and research what she could to add to those facts.

Andrea was a 2005 graduate of South Hadley High School. Andrea is currently in her Junior year of Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is specializing in Thermal and Fluid dynamics within the field of mechanical engineering. She is also minoring in Science, Technology, and Society which deals with analyzing, researching, and stressing the effects of advances in science and technology on the world, both good and bad. Rensselaer wants their students to carefully consider the impact that any of their technological or scientific advances, research or discoveries may have on the world.”

The Legacy of the Glasgow Company

With the integration of the canal system, South Hadley had the opportunity to grow as a center for business and industry. The South Hadley Falls area became the hustling, bustling section of town and the home of many mills and factories that hired workers to produce paper, fabrics, and buttons, among other things. One of these such mills, the Glasgow Company, whose former office building is my current home at 65 High Street, produced textiles and helped shape the history of South Hadley in the nineteenth century.

With the numerous fires that frequently destroyed wooden mills, there was always a venue for new companies to work their way into the falls. As severe scorching was the fate of both the Ames and Howard and Lathrop Mills, George M. Atwater, Charles Peck, and William Bowdoin had the opportunity to form a corporation to manufacture Scotch ginghams. The Glasgow Co. was incorporated on February 16, 1848 and found its niche in the South Hadley Falls on the previous site of the Howard and Lathrop Mills, between Bardwell and North Main Streets.

The mill slightly strayed from its original goal and branched out to manufacture cotton, woolen, and silk goods. With its expansion it required more funding, so its capital was increased over time from $200,000 to $350,000, a rather hefty sum and mark of success in the 1800s. In its prime, the company employed over 400 men and women to work the 389 looms on a payroll of $10,000 per month, paid in leather coins only redeemable at the company store. The mill was acclaimed as one of only two reputable, distinguished gingham mills in the nation, producing 70,000 yards of quality fabric each week. Its six-story main building was built mainly by Irishmen and was made of brick, unlike the more flammable wooden mills of the past. In addition, there were six other buildings that served as dye houses, offices, and cloth storage facilities.

Though a less incendiary material was used to make the Glasgow Co. mills, the main building suffered a fire that destroyed the upper floors of the mill building on July 3, 1855. This setback, however, did not halt the success of the Glasgow Co. as the mill was rebuilt and outfitted with new, advanced machinery. This near-tragedy also shows the extent to which the fire fighting capacities had grown as firefighters of Holyoke and Canal Village used the Glasgow and Carew Mills’ force pumps to fight the blaze. After so many other mill buildings had met their fiery ends, companies began to recognize their own potential for disaster. They started outfitting their buildings with firefighting apparatuses and greatly diminished the number of buildings accidentally burned to the ground.

The Glasgow Co. expanded again when it followed the example of other area mills and used some of its earnings to purchase more land on which to build a paper mill. Its workers produced high quality paper to be sold by Springfield’s Lewis Powers, the area’s expert paper dealer. This paper mill was sold by Glasgow Co. in April of 1866 to former Glasgow Co. stockholders Edward, Wells, and John Southworth and became the Hampshire Paper Co., which continued to produce paper under the direction of the Southworth family until the machines were retired in 1935.

Though the Glasgow Co. was very successful in the mid-nineteenth century, it struggled to survive the depression in the late 1800s. It was leased to the Farr Alpaca Co. for a couple of years, but after it failed to be recuperated by the new leadership, the Glasgow mill was finally shut down in April of 1896. The building remained abandoned until its purchase by the Hadley Mills in 1903. Though achieving moderate success, the Hadley Mills only continued to produce textiles until 1930. Its lack of funds forced the company to declare bankruptcy. The property was bought by the Holyoke Water Power Company and the mill was demolished. The remaining Hadley Mills office building was preserved to be used as an office for the Holyoke Water Power Company until it was bought in 1932 for $500 by William Quinlin, a former Hadley Mills employee, moved to 65 High Street by the use of numerous horse-drawn rolling logs, and converted to a residential dwelling for the Quinlin family. It was later purchased by my parents and now serves as my home.

The Glasgow Company had a significant impact on life in South Hadley. It not only offered many residents, men and women alike, the opportunity to work, but also shaped the culture of the South Hadley Falls. Its buildings were a staple in the riverside skyline and its reputation as one of the few gingham producers helped put South Hadley on the national map. With the great success of the South Hadley Canal system and the seemingly constant business transformations of the mills, the successes of the individual companies may be overlooked. The added factor that many of the records kept documenting the particulars of these companies were destroyed in the 1936 flood. The bottom line is that they brought diversity to western Massachusetts almost as efficiently as they produced goods. The Glasgow Company was an incredibly successful corporation that should not be forgotten for its considerable effect in the shaping of the South Hadley Falls and the general society of South Hadley.

References

Brown, Cindy and Laurel O’Donnell. South Hadley. 12 July 1999. Accessed 23 April 2005.

Cronin, Irene, Dale Johnston, and the South Hadley 250th Anniversary Committee. Town of South Hadley: 250th Anniversary Book. Northampton: TigerPress, 2003.

Cronin, Irene and the South Hadley Historical Society. Images of America: South Hadley. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 1998.

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