South Waterford, Maine c. 1840
Moved to OSV, 1963
Carding mills prepared wool for spinning by brushing the fibers to evenly align them. Farm families sheared, sorted, picked, and scoured wool before bringing it to the mill. Then wool was loosened in the picker to ready it for the carding machine. The “carding engines” brushed the wool into rolls for spinning or into batting for quilts. As industrialization proceeded, carding, spinning, and weaving machinery were combined in New England’s expanding woolen factories. But some rural carding mills remained in operation through the middle of the 19th century, catering to a dwindling market of home spinners. Carding machines took only 20 minutes to produce what required all day to card by hand!
The Carding Mill at Old Sturbridge Village survived in its original condition with much of its machinery intact. It was moved to the Village in 1963. Of the hundreds that once dotted the New England landscape, it is the only water-powered carding mill to survive today.