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

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