|Title||English Textile Workers in New England, Letters|
|Type||Primary Sources: Letter|
The Hollingworths—five sons and their father, along with several cousins—were skilled textile machinists who emigrated from England in the 1820s to find better opportunities in America. They all found work in the rapidly growing textile industry in New York, Connecticut, and central Massachusetts. letters to each other All of them were ambitious men striving vigorously to advance their fortunes in the new country. In their letters to each other we can see the personal, technical and financial challenges that they confronted.
Excerpts from letters written to or by members of the Hollingworth family
George Hollingworth to William Rawcliff
South Leicester Oct 21st. 1829
…It is expected the Factory will have to stop when we have worked up the present Stock which will only last us about 3 Weeks or a Month. Some are of opinion it will not stop long, only while a new Company takes hold but this to us who know nothing about it is doubtful. It is also surmised that when the new Company is formed that they will apoint a Yankee Superintendent who will show neither Mercy nor favour to Old Country* men. If the Factory should Stop or any other unpleasant thing should happen so as we should have to Quit, we think to try if possoble to do somthing for ourselves. We have had some talk respecting taking that small Factory which stands by the road a little more then half way betwixt here and Son John’s but upon second thought I am affraid that the engaugement would be more than we could manage at present for I understand there is no machinery in the Factory except a Water Wheel* a Fulling Stock drum*, &c. If we were to engauge it we should want 2 Carding Machines* one Billy* 2 Jennies* 4 Sattenett Power Looms* and one Hand Broad Looms* &c. These would cost a great deal of Money. I am told we could buy these things on Credit, but I do not aprove on much Credit for it is the verry cause of many failures. [This is] somthing we must do and I am verry anxiouse that we do it to purpose but it takes some time to become aquainted with all the NICK-NACKS of a new Country. Son Jabez is anxious to know whether he will be of any servise to you as he almoste expects to be at liberty soon. He is told that the Company intends to employ only one Machinist. This must be a man that can work boath in Wood and Iron. This is rarely to be found except in a Yankee who professes to do every thing. We should be verry thankful for your immediate advice upon these important subjects. I am of opinion it would be worse than foolishness to envolve ourselves in difficulties except it were in the attainment of a permanent residence and even this should be set about with great caution and deliberation...
George Hollingworth to William Rawcliff
South Leicester Jany 17th. 1830.
I embrace this opportunity of writing a few lines to you to apprize you of my advice and opinions respecting certain Matters relative to our futher and final Settlement in this Country. If we intend ever to rescue ourselves from Factory Thraldom* we must honestly and sincearly joine in hand and Hart and by our united efforts wisely directed and attended by the Blessing of Heaven we may fairly hope for every reasonable Success. Altho I am an advocate for prompt action yet I would advise to prevent failures that we do not act hastely or inconsiderately but cautiousely and delibrately especialy with respect to our fixing upon a perminent Sittuation for upon this will depend verry much our futher success and prosperity. Son Jabez has told us about Richmond’s Factory but I am doubtful we could not at present manage it to certain advantage and I am of opinion that it would be verry hazardous to engague so large a concearn without a sufficient Capital. I think it would be much better when we are able to buy cheap a small Manufacturing Establishment susceptable of emprovment and connected with some land. If this cannot be done that is bought cheap then to try to buy a Farm with a Water privilege* thereon sutably situated for Market and then buld or Erect theron by degrees whatever we wanted always being mindful not to try to fly till our Wings were grown. I am aware there would some difficulties lye in the way but I have not the least doubt but by our united efforts and persiverance that we could surmount them all…We have been a good while out of work which has been a considerable loss to us but now we are all got to work again. I hope the change here will be for the better...
George Hollingworth to William Rawcliff
South Leicester Jany 24th 1830
Since writing to you about a Week ago we have changed our minds respecting Richmond’s Factory. In that letter I advised to lett it alone at present fearing we were not able at present to manage it. A few days since Jabez mentioned the case to Mr. James Shaw…who resides here with a large Industerouse Family. This has led to several consultations betwixt us upon the subject and we have finealy agreed and determined to form a Copartnership and engague Richmond’s Factory if possoble upon the most reasonable and advantagious Terms. We are aware the greatest difficulty will be to begin or make a start. This over we have not the least doubt of success if we be blessed with Health, for we by our united Families could do all the work and have no wages to pay which is of vital Intrest to the success of a Manufactury...Now what we at present want you to do is emediately on the receipt of this letter to see Mr. Richmond and tell him that we will Engage his Factory provided he will put it into proper and sufficient repairs. We should wish to have it for some length of time at least 5 Years...We at this place are getting into a new Order of things and I have hoped that it might be for the better, but I am not a little afraid that my hopes will be frusterated. They have lowered Weaving to 4 cents per Yd. and it apears to me they intend to have every other thing done as low as possoble. They are posting up a new string of Rules more objectionable than the Old ones. In one of them there is the following “That if any Workman damage any Work or Machinery he shall be liable to pay damage the damage to be assessed by the Superintendant or Agent.
John Hollingworth to William Rawcliff
Woodstock July 4th 1830
I write to inform you that we are all in good health at present and hope these lines will find you the same. We have made a genral move this Spring. My Father and family are at Southbridg about the same Distance from here as South Leicester is from Oxford. My Father and James, Joseph, and Edwin are all in work at the above mentioned place. James has got married about 2 Months since. Brother Jabez cousin James and I … [are] at this place to manufacture Sattenette*. We came here about the 1st of May and our rent comenced on the 1st inst.* We are to pay 500 dollars per Annum for 3 years. We have Seven houses. The Factory consists of 2 Building connected together 3 storys each. They are about 18 feet wide and 36 or 40 feet long. We have 3 Double Carding Machines and 1 Billy 1 jenny [a] Picker* and Fulling Stock 2 Shearing Frames* 1 Press and 1 Dye Kettle. We are to have 6 Power Looms which is to be ready By 10 inst. There is about 2 Acres of Land a Pond of about 100 or 150 Acres which we can draw down 10 feet. It is quiet a pleasant place in fact it realy would be desireable if it was sittuated within 2 Miles of the North River. I forgot to say that there is 15 hand Looms at the place which we can use if we want. There is a Barn and other outbuildings
[To]Mr William Rawcliff
St of New York
Joseph Hollingworth to William Rawcliff
Muddy-Brook-Pond Factory, Woodstock Con. Nov 8th 1830
…I came back here on thursday last, and have finished 200 yds. more of Satinet. If you do take a Factory I should think you will have work for me and I will come any time when you think fit. But dont you think farming the best, and surest way of getting a living? Manufacturing is a very unsteady business, somtimes up, and somtimes down, some few gets Rich, and thousands are ruined by it. Rogues, Rascals, Knaves and vagabonds are connected with it. Some person that you trade with will cheat you in spite of your teeth, and you must cheat others in return to make ends meet and tie. In Short no honnest man can live by it. A Factory too, is liable to be burnt down, but a Farm cannot be easily burnt up. Manufactoring breeds lords and Aristocrats, Poor men and slaves. But the Farmer the American farmer, he, and he alone can be independent, he can be industrious, Healthy and Happy. I am for Agriculture. I am young Just steping into the world. I may probably be married somtime, and have a family, but I cannot bear the idea, that I, or my children (if I should ever have any) should be shut up 16 or 18 hours every day all our life time like Slaves and that too for a bare subsistence! No, God forbid. If I had the chance to morrow of either a Factory worth 10000 dollars, or a farm worth 5000 dollars, I would take the Farm...I believe we are all in good health at present hoping you are the same. Write as soon as possible so that I can answer you back again when Father comes. Is Aunt Nancy got better again? How is Mary Ann? And the other one, Anis I believe her name is? Is your youngest, a boy or girl? How is your mother, and sister Hannah? And where is Johnathan? Send me the price of Jamisons Atlass, and you will oblige your aftionate Nephew.
[To] Mr. William Rawcliff,
Glossary*Billy - machine to join individual carded wool rolls into roving, long continuous strands of wool prior to spinning on water powered equipment
*carding machine - a water powered machine which brushes knots and tangles out of wool and lines up the fibers in one direction to prepare it for spinning
*Fulling Stock drum - Fulling Stock is the process of applying a finish to the woven cloth. The drum is the pulley that powers the machinery via a leather belt.
*Hand Broad Looms - hand looms for weaving wide or broad widths of cloth
*Inst. - abbreviation for instant; present, current; occurring in that month
*Jennies - machine to spin carded wool into yarn
*Old Country - England
*Picker - machine with teeth on a rotating cylinder for untangling the scoured wool. Opening the fibers allows dirt and other impurities to fall away from the fibers.
*Sattenett Power Looms - water powered looms for weaving satinet, a strong fabric made of cotton and wool
*Sattenette - a strong fabric made of cotton and wool
*Shearing Frames - equipment used in the process of shearing or clipping the nap which was raised during the fulling process to a uniform length giving an even texture to the finished cloth
*Thraldom - a state of servitude or submission
*Water privilege - legal rights to control and use the flow of water at a site
*Water Wheel - equipment to power machinery with water power
SourceHollingsworth Family Letters, 1826-37. Courtesy of the Library of the American Textile History Museum, Lowell, Massachusetts. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.