Thursday, May 31, 2012

Broom Twine & Shoe Thread

What? You heard right. Broom twine & shoe thread. That can only mean one thing...

You guessed it! Linen. What does linen have to do with Greenwich you may ask? I'll tell you.

From 1879 to 1952 Greenwich was the home to an (almost) continuously run linen mill. The Dunbarton Mill processed flax into study linen thread to be used  for the manufacture of brooms and shoes. Linen makes great thread because of the long, stiff fibers. Cotton has short, soft fibers and replaced linen for use in making clothes because the cotton gin, patented by Eli Whitney in 1794, made cotton cheaper to use. During the Civil War, cotton was in short supply, and linen was in demand. The Greenwich Linen Mill (1869) was built on the banks of the Batten Kill, to capitalize on the increased linen prices. The prices didn't last & by 1879 Dunbar & McMaster were able to open the doors as the Dunbarton Mill.

Some Dunbarton employees with 25 years on the job- 1945

Dunbar & McMaster also operated mills in Gilford, County Down, (Northern) Ireland and Patterson, NJ. Many of their workers came over from Ireland & settled in Greenwich (& NJ) bringing an influx of people to the small village. The Irish that came were Protestant and Catholic. They lived in mill houses which are still in use along Hill and John Streets.

The Old Gilford Mill in Northern Ireland*
In the weeks to come I'll write more about the mill, including a strike, a novel, and a tragedy...

For more information:
Ruddock, William T. Linen Threads and Broom Twines: An Irish and American Album and Directory of the People of the Dunbarton Mill: Greenwich, New York 1879-1952. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc. 1997.

* © Copyright HENRY CLARK and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence-

Edited 10/11/12- I removed the mill image previously posted. That mill image was of another Greenwich Mill, not the Dunbarton. Unable to locate a verifiable image of our Dunbarton in the town photograph collection, I opted for a more personal image. Thank you to Bill Ruddock for the clarification.
-Tisha Dolton, Historian

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adams, Mass is who's hometown?

My daughter & I needed to get away. I was finished with grad school for the semester, plus it was Mother's Day weekend, so we just up & left.

The 90 or so minute car ride was pleasant. We listened to Madonna (I refuse to listen to Ke$ha) & I only missed one turn in Adams. I was able to remedy the misdirection very quickly & in only a minute or so we were steadly winding our way through the northern Berkshires to our first destination.

There in the shadow of Mount Greylock, Massachusettes tallest peak (3,489 ft), sits an unassuming house with a small 4 or 5 car parking lot and gift shop. Have you guessed? It is the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum*. Susan and her family lived in the home until she was six years old & Daniel Anthony moved the family to Battenville. When we pulled in I was so giddy & excited, I had to sit in the car for a minute to gain my composure.

Greenwich Town Historian (me) in front the house

My daughter in what was probably the stock room for Daniel's store

An intern painted representations of little Susan for the gardens

There are some period furnishings in the house, but nothing original to the family or home. The main floor is open for tours and contains suffrage, temperance & abolition memorobelia. there is informative signage throughout & little take-away brochures. The upstairs is for staff, but you can glance up the stairwell.

I plan on going back this summer for an event with Penny Colman, author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World, which I have just started. Hope to see you there!

Some items of interest from the gift shop... The Mother of Us All: An Opera is available of CD, but the gift shop has the LP for sale. Awesome!

The Mother Of Us All on vinyl

And nothing says "Happy Golden Annivesary of the Passage of the 19th Amendment" like hairspray. You think I'm kidding? In 1970 Loreal launched suffrage hairspray in scented & unscented! I am so buying one when I go back this summer!

Loreal's Suffrage Hairspray circa 1970

Mount Greylock from the Anthony's yard

For reference:
Penny Colman's book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World is available from your favorite book store (ISBN 9780805082937)
The Mother of Us All: An Opera on CD (1992)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Anniversary to me!

April 24, 2012 (aside from being my 38th birthday) marked the beginning of my 9th year as Public Historian for the Town of Greenwich. My office is just as chaotic as it was in 2003. I still have three filing systems fighting for dominance. There are boxes I have not explored the contents of.

So, has anything changed? Yes, I now have a computer that is pretty current. In 2003, the computer in my office was from when I graduated from high school (Saratoga Central Catholic, Class of '92). I have a printer/scanner that is quite handy for blog posts. There have been some new editions, like those great dry glass plate negatives (see 4/7/11 & 5/18/11 blog posts). I created this blog. I started a Facebook page, even though there are only 14 "likes" so far. I need 30 to start getting stats. It's a small goal...

Below is the Town Office Building on 2 Academy Street. It used to house the Washington County Home for Aged Women. The Town Historian's office is were the two bottom corner windows to the left of the porch are.

Washington County Home for Aged Women postcard
Oh, and on May 16th I will be at the Greenwich Seniors meeting. I will bring some of the ephemera and photographs along to see if anyone can help me pinpoint some locations and put names to faces.