Draper Corporation Memories of Robert “Bob” Anderson
In my early years at Draper, I got in on the shuttleless loom job in the engineering department. After a while, the
job was transferred from engineering to research. That was the result of an internal struggle. “I can do it better
than you.” At that time, I was transferred into the research department.
I used to get all over the plant. I’m amazed that they let me do what I did. Nobody ever stopped me.
When I started working at Draper, Ted Fitzgerald was in charge of the research department. He was killed when
he was a passenger on the plane that crashed at Logan in 1950 when it hit a flock of birds. The second in
command in research was Ted Horton.
Draper Corporation had done some work on several different kinds of shuttleless looms, but there was just one
that was put into production. They called it the DSL for Draper shuttleless loom. The design came out of some
country in South America. A fellow named Walter Budzyna, who was a senior engineer in the research department
was assigned to go to South America, evaluate the loom, come back and explain it to management in Hopedale.
Draper decided to buy the rights to produce it. Research upgraded the machine design-wise until they were in a
position to recommend putting it into production.
Draper shuttleless loom
Another type that they had done some work on was referred to as a missile loom. They never made more than
three or four of those. It was a copy of a Swiss design of the Sulzer company, that had been around long enough
so that the patents on it had probably expired. Any research done on the fly shuttle loom at that time was done in
the engineering department. Joe Jackson was in charge of the engineering department, and his second in
command was Charlie Burnham. A senior engineer and manager in engineering at that time, who I thought was
very competent, was Roy Rehbein. When I first went there, there were a couple of senior men, and I worked for
one of them, “Deke” Davis. He was very tall and thin, and you might say that he looked like a deacon.
In those days, it was a rule, almost, that the engineering drawings be very neat. They would first be done in pencil,
and then gone over in ink. To make a blueprint, you had to use the original drawing which was put to a machine,
which was a wet process, to get a blueprint. My job, when I first went to work there, was to ink drawings. I did a
terrible job. I was not neat at all. I didn’t last very long at that job.
At some point, it became clear to Draper management that the days of the fly shuttle loom were coming to an end,
and also that they shuttleless loom that they were producing wasn’t living up to expectations. Speed in weaving
was the big factor and there were other looms that were faster. They were more expensive to buy, but speed was
important enough for mills to buy them. What was “up and coming’ at the time were the water-jet looms and the air-
I’m not sure which type came first, but I think it was water-jet. Randy Sample was the Draper person in charge of
developing a jet loom. How much research was Draper and how much was copied from other machines, I don’t
know, but a few were produced in the engineering department.
When Draper was shutting down and moving south, the engineering department, what was left of it, was moved to
Greensboro. Randy was one of the people who agreed to go down there, and eventually he retired out of there.
Ruti, a Swiss company, had engineers here for months at a time. People in engineering would explain the
drawings for the DSL, what the mechanisms were, and show them looms in the weave room. They’d follow the
process through manufacturing and onto the erecting floor, so they could go back to Europe and do it themselves.
Once one of their looms came to Hopedale. It was in a big wooden box, like the ones Draper shipped foreign
looms in. When the box was opened, there was an envelope on top of the loom that said “assembly instructions”
or something like that. The note inside said, “Try our way first.”
Their machine looked terrific. When Draper looms were painted, everything other than a few parts that were
masked off, were the same color. With the Ruti loom, the castings looked smoother, and the paint job looked
shinier. The bolts for the Draper looms were originally black, but after being spray painted, everything was gray.
With the Ruti loom, the cast iron parts were gray and the bolts were black. I don’t know how they did that.
A company in Japan also built the DSL. They, also, had a crew of engineers here for a few months. The company
they worked for was Itoh.
Another project was to convert X3 looms (fly shuttle looms) to jet looms. That was done in Greensboro. Some were
made and put into the field, but I don’t know how far it went.
Sometimes during textile shows, Draper looms would be run faster than they’d normally be run in a mill. At night,
after the show had closed for the day, Draper repairmen would go in and replace parts that had worn out at the
high speed, so that they could be run again the next day.
Draper fly-shuttle loom
The fly shuttle looms would operate at around 120 to 150 pics per minute. Pick here, refers to a pass of the
shuttle across the loom. The early shuttleless looms did about 200 picks. Looms now can do about 700 or 800.
However, the quality of the cloth produced isn’t as good at those speeds as it used to be. A few years ago, Cone
Mills obtained some Draper looms and used them to produce denim. It’s more expensive than denim woven with
more modern looms, but it’s a better fabric. Cone stopped production in 2017, but here are a few paragraphs from
a web page article dated April 2019.
In my time there, I don’t know how much research was done on the fly shuttle loom, but I don’t think there was
much. It seemed to be all about the shuttleless loom, and some other projects.
together. Some patterns that you’d think would have been made out of one piece of wood, were actually made out
of two or three. They’d have the grain going in different directions so that the pattern wouldn’t warp.
Pattern makers working on a pattern
There were a couple of different types of patterns. If they weren’t going to make very many parts, they would make
a wood pattern, which would be used to make a sand mold. Patterns were made oversized, I think, by a sixteenth
of an inch per foot. That’s because the iron would shrink as it cooled and became solid. They used what they
called “shrink rulers” that were a sixteenth of an inch longer than standard foot rulers.
When they were going to make a permanent pattern (of aluminum - the production kind of pattern) they’d have to
make a wooden pattern first, and it was done with a “double shrink,” because a casting would have to be made
using the wood pattern, cut it in half and use that to make the aluminum (or production) pattern. There would be
two shrinks in the process, so the original wood pattern had to be made to allow for that.
In the old foundry, when they were making molds, they could shake the pattern a little so the mold would come out
clean. This process had to be a little different in the West Foundry. They needed a little “draft” or angle in the
patterns so that the casting would come out. Because of that, most of the patterns had to be remade. They had a
large number of patterns, so that must have been a huge job.
The advantage of a permanent or aluminum pattern (or match-plate as they called it) is that they could have many
different impressions on the plate. Molds for almost any number of parts could be made on one plate, while with
wooden ones, they had to be done one at a time.
The pattern safe was a big brick building with a lot of fire doors. There was a lot of asbestos in it. At the time they
were moving the foundry operations out of Hopedale, they threw away a large number of the patterns that
probably hadn’t been used in years. A few people took some of them home as souvenirs.
After the castings cooled, they went to what was called a shake-out area. The two halves of the mold would be
taken apart, and it would somehow be shaken so that the sand fell to the floor. It wasn’t a solid floor; it was a grate,
and the sand would drop through to be recovered and reused.
Once out of the molds, the castings would go to another room to be cleaned by sand-blasting or shot-blasting.
Then they’d go to the snagging department where they’d cut off the risers and the gates and such. They’d also be
brought to grinding wheels where they’d smooth out the pattern line where the two haves came together.
There was a thing that I think was called a train. It ran behind the molders, who were all lined up making molds. It
ran on a track, and must have had an electric motor in it. It had a series of carts behind it. Each time a molder
finished a mold, he’d turn around and put it on the train. It would then be delivered to wherever it was needed.
Making sand molds.
At the end of each day, it was fun to watch them “dump the furnace.” About 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, a loud
siren would go off, and you knew they were going to dump the furnace. The siren was a warning to everyone to
get out of the way, because all hell was about to break loose. It was a pretty spectacular scene when they opened
the bottom of the furnace, and all the bricks, slag, leftover molten iron and such dropped to the floor. All smoke
and fire. They had two guys with fire hoses that they’d squire on it to cool it down. I don’t know if there was any
reclamation of the materials, or if it would just go to the dump.
When the West Foundry was built, Roger Burns was the Draper manager who represented the company and
supervised the building. Men who worked for Roger would be out there every day while the construction was in
West Foundry under construction
The West Foundry had a huge melting furnace. They melted the iron electrically. I marveled at the electrodes. The
furnace was basically a big, round pot, and there was a top that lifted a little and slid out of the way so that they
could fill it. Then the top would go back into place, and they’d lower the electrodes down through it. As I recall,
they must have been around 14 to 16 inches in diameter. I don’t know how long they lasted or how fast they wore
out, but they must have cost a fortune.
They made three grades of cast iron in the foundry. What they made most of the time was what I’ll call regular cast
iron. The number two cast iron was harder and stronger. It had more tensile strength. The third type was number
two plus “moly,” or molybdenum. Some castings were made of ductile iron, but they purchased that. A small
number of castings were made of what they called a shell mold. They were purchased, also. There were more
precision castings, kind of halfway between a machined part and a sand casting. They would also purchase
castings make of malleable iron. I think the supplier would use Draper patterns.
There were two assembly lines. They were on the top floor at the back side of the part of the shop that runs along
Hopedale Street. One was for the fly-shuttle looms and the other was for the shuttleless looms. Each line had two
tracks with rollers, and the looms would be pushed from station to station along them. I wasn’t too familiar with the
fly-shuttle looms. I knew just about everybody on the shuttleless line on a first-name basis.
Fly-shuttle loom assembly line
Since the shuttleless was a new product, training the workers on the line was necessary, and I did a lot of it.
Sometimes I’d have to get other people out of engineering or research to come up to the line to help with that.
That was often difficult. Many people in those departments didn’t want to leave their domain. They didn’t want to
get involved in the problems they might run into in assembly. Their expertise was in putting it on paper.
Shuttleless loom assembly line
For the fly shuttle line, parts were brought up to the assembly floor by a conveyor that ran on a track. They came
up from the cellar, through the first floor, the second floor and up to assembly on the third floor. Parts were
brought up in sequence to coincide with how they were assembled. Two loom sides would come up first, and then
a front girt, a back girt, a top girt, a breast beam, etc.
I remember that there was a big change in how the looms were painted. In days of old, they were sprayed in a
spray booth. There were air filters with fans to keep the spray in the air from getting out into the room. Then they
changed to electrostatic-painting. An electric charge would attract the paint to the loom. Getting started on that
and working out the bugs that went along with it was a major project.
In the assembly process, there were always shortages that would “upset the applecart.” When they couldn’t put a
part on because they didn’t have it, there would be a couple of guys who didn’t have any work. The supervisor
would have to find something for them to do. It was just a pain in the neck.
On both assembly lines there was a large part of the room that was open and vacant. When the looms came off
the assembly line, they were put there to have the rest of the parts put on, or to be lifted to have the looms skids
put under them. There were always parts shortages. There was always a room full of looms that looked like they
were ready to go, but they weren’t. As soon as they were ready to go, if the train cars or the trucks were waiting,
they were brought down the elevators to the shipping department.
It was interesting to watch them move looms. They had jitneys that they used for that. They had a big, long tongue
that stuck out in front. They’d use that to lift foundry boxes, that were about five feet square. For transporting the
looms, from the assembly floor, down the elevator, to the box cars they had small, four wheeled propane powered
were castings with two synthetic wheels. When the loom was pushed, one end would skid along the floor, and the
dolly would be under the mid-point of the skid. They had to steer in the opposite direction of where they were
going, but they were very good at what they did. They amazed me. They could go around a corner without slowing
down at all.
They’d get the looms on the elevator and take them down to the bottom floor. Then they’d get them onto the
freight cars. There would always be boxes of loose parts; nuts, bolts, etc. They’d have to lift the skids to remove
the roller units, so the skids would sit flat on the floor. There would be some instances when looms would be
damaged in shipment and would have to come back to Draper to be repaired. Sometimes even the loom side
would be damaged. In that situation, everything would have to be taken off, and the loom rebuilt.
There were a group of men who worked out of Spartanburg who were called the erectors. When a mill received a
shipment of looms, the erectors would travel to that location, even overseas sometimes, to set them up. Setting up
the looms, leveling them, putting on any additional parts that hadn’t been included when they were shipped, and
resetting and retiming was their job.
There was a polishing department. Workers there had kind of a dirty job. They used grinders and buffing wheels.
There was a drilling department with long rows of drills. The drills were made by a company by the name of Allen. I
think they were located somewhere in this area. (Chas. G. Allen, Inc is a company that manufactures drills and is
located in Barre, MA.)
The wood department was located along Freedom Street, west of the Hopedale Pond dam. Wood was brought
there from forest owned by Draper at Tupper Lake, New York, Beebe River, New Hampshire, and probably some
other places also. Many items were produced in the wood room. The fly shuttle looms had cross pieces called
lays. Sometimes they were made of aluminum (always in the case of the shuttleless loom) but often they were
made of wood. Above the lay was another cross-member called a hand rail, which was wood. A lot of specialized
parts for laminating, gluing and clamping were wooden.
The tool room was an important department. Norman “Hoss” Taylor was the boss there during my time. They had
one section that had maybe between six and ten guys that did nothing but re-sharpen cutting tools. When they
became dull because of use in the shop, they’d come to the tool room to be sharpened. They had some pretty
clever machinists who made tooling. They were fixtures that were required to hold parts during machining. They
were designed by the industrial engineering department, which was headed by Roger Burns.
A lot of people relied on Al Shimkus, the electrician. He walked very fast, going from job to job. He didn’t fool
around; he kept busy.
The ring job. The rings were for spinning yarns, I think on machines that Whitins made. There was a part that ran
around the rings called a “traveler.” That wound the yarn, taking it from a big sheave of cotton, and made it into a
small thread. A project was started in the engineering department which became a separate department,
electrostatic spinning. It was under Charlie Burnham. Instead of spinning rings, the idea was to make threads
using an electrical charge. A Dr. Aschenbrenner was brought in to head up the department. They had about eight
to ten people working on it. After a number of years, it was transferred down south. Some of the Hopedale people
went. One, who I knew because we had graduated from high school together, was Vern Heselton. When the
department went out of existence, he stayed down there and went to work for Michelin Tire.
I think it was about 1944 when the Upton High School burned. I was in the sixth grade, which was in the high school
building. The fire occurred half-way through the school year, and we were out of school for two weeks. Then they
put us in the town hall. They made plywood partitions for the classrooms, but there wasn’t a roof over them. You
had to talk quietly or you’d be heard in the other rooms.
For the second half of the sixth grade, and the seventh grade, I went to school in the town hall. Then the town
farmed us out. For eighth and ninth grade, we went to Northbridge. For tenth through twelfth we went to Grafton
High. That was the old school on 140 just a bit up and across the street from the State Police barracks. We
graduated in 1950.
I worked at Drapers as a summer job for two years, washing windows and cleaning fluorescent light fixtures. There
was a fellow named Cyr who was a supervisor in the department.
I went into the military in 1952, for pilot training. To get into pilot training, you had to have at least two years of
college. I found out later that a young fellow from Hopedale named Cyr had also gone into pilot training. I think he
had graduated from college. He stayed in the Air Force until retirement, and lives in the area. My sister met him
about a year ago.
Jimmy Ackerman, who had the granite monument business in Holliston, worked at Draper. He also worked for a
guy who had a monument business. Eventually Jimmy bought the business and ran it part-time, while still working
at Draper. When his Draper job ended, he ran the monument business full-time.
There was a department that handled the moving of equipment, or of anything that needed to be moved. They
moved an awful lot of stuff real fast. Sometimes there was a lot of wires going into the piece being moved. They’d
just cut it. With a broken machine, they’d sometimes take it apart to get at the part that needed repair. For some of
the big Norton grinders, someone from Norton would come in to do the repairs.
The shipping department was run by a guy named “Doc” Celozzi. He always had more work to do than he could
handle, but he always got it done. Gertrude Main worked in the shipping room office for years. When Doc wasn’t
in, she ran the department. When I went down there for something, Doc would always be up to his ears in work,
but he’d always do what I asked. He wouldn’t like it, but he’d do it. If he wasn’t there, I’d go to Gertrude and she’d
get it done. She kind of reminded me of Charlie Shanahan’s (photography department) sister, Helen. They
normally just did their job, but they could take over the department if they had to.
Sometimes I’d have parts that had to be shipped out, usually to Spartanburg. I’d go to Doc, and he’d get it done.
He’d have to put the parts on a manifest, destination and all that, get it on to a truck, and so forth. When he didn’t
have time to do that, he’d take the box (I had to be sure to put on it who in Spartanburg was going to pick it up)
and he’d give it to the driver. The driver would carry it in the cab, because it wasn’t on the manifest. I had to make
sure that the guy who needed the part knew what truck it was going down on, and would meet the driver when he
got there. Doc was very accommodating. If he wasn’t there, Gertrude would get it done. I usually found people
Looms leaving the shipping department.
Doc played the accordion and I recall a number of occasions when there were Draper related meetings or events
where he would play it. He was very good, and he always looked much happier at those times than he ever did
when he was at work in the shipping department.
Chasers. When there were shortages in a job, the chasers were people who would go to the foremen of different
departments to move the job along. One chaser was named Lena. She wouldn’t take any guff from anybody. She
worked for Pete Stock. She was a very hard worker; a very good worker. There were a number of women in the
shop and in the main office who had pretty important jobs. Not always management, but people who had expertise
in different areas. There was a whole Rockwell newsletter on that subject. Moving women along in the business
wasn’t just a Rockwell thing. That had started in the Draper years.
There were a number of machine shops in the area that did work that Draper couldn’t do or didn’t have the time to
do. One was Noremac. It was started by a guy named Cameron. (The company name was his name spelled
backwards.) He had been an industrial engineer at Drapers, and when he started his own company, he did a lot of
Draper jobs. A fellow named Bob Weatherhead had a machine shop in Medway or Millis. He also did a lot of
Draper work. A lot for the research department – onesie, twosie types of things. Not production.
Draper was pretty advanced when it came to gearing, but when the shuttleless loom came out it had a couple of
bevel gears. Draper didn’t do bevel gears, so they jobbed out the work to Worcester Gear Works. I went there
once with Tony “Chic” Chicanowicz. Tony worked for Roger Burns in the industrial engineering department. I was
impressed with the work they did at Worcester Gear Works. If you wanted to know anything about gearing, you
went to Tony. If he didn’t know the answer, he knew who to get ahold of. He and I were sent to the Fellows Gear
Shaper Company in Springfield, Vermont for a week. They made most of the gear cutting equipment, maybe all of
it, that Draper had.
Fellows offered a service. In effect, what they said was, if you get a new gearing, and you don’t know how to
specify it, how to dimension it, what to call for, call us and we’ll tell you. If you were one of their customers, as
Draper was, the service was free. I learned a lot on that trip to Fellows. When you put two spur gears together,
they’re supposed to come in contact all the way across, evenly. But in manufacturing, things aren’t always perfect.
Fellows had developed a process called crown shaving. They’d put a very little curve in the teeth that would result
in a quieter, more even mesh. The loom even sounded better when it ran. Chic came to me when he became
aware of that process and suggested that the drawings be changed. He got the needed information from Fellows,
and passed it on to me. I changed the engineering drawings. I went to Ted Horton, and he approved it.
Gene Phillips worked for me at one time. He had gone to Limerick and was there for a year or more.
There was a time when there was a major layoff in engineering. I had moved to the research department by then.
The guys who had been laid off formed a group they called The Expendables. Al Savoy, Bobby Moore, Jimmy
Giacamuzzi, and many others. I think Dick Volpe was in that. They held annual get-togethers of themselves and
other Draper and former Draper employees. I was often invited to them. Al Savoy kind of ran the group. They held
the gatherings at the Village Haven in Forestdale, Rhode Island.
Drapers eventually had a thing they called consolidation. As there were layoffs and departments became smaller,
they wanted to consolidate some of them into a smaller area, to cut down the traveling distance within the shop
from one area to another. They moved the erecting floor down into what had been the old foundry. It had good
solid cement floors, but they had to patch a few places and cover the grated parts. They moved the shuttleless
loom assembly down there. I don’t remember if they did that with fly-shuttle loom assembly also. Maybe it went out
of existence before then. They assembled a few orders of shuttleless looms down there, and then the whole thing
went out of existence.
For a while it was a mystery as to where the new Draper facility was going to be in the South. I had a Coca Cola
advertising sign that you could write on in chalk. I was working in quality control at the time. I mounted the sign up
on the wall, and wrote, “Welcome to Green_____.” It could be either Greenville or Greensboro.
They were the two rumored places where the new Draper plant might be. I remember a couple of guys from the
South were here and looked at the sign. They asked who put that up there. I said, “I did.” They asked where I got
that information. I told them it came out of the toilet. They knew where it was going, but I didn’t. It turned out to be
Some Draper people from Hopedale were asked to go to Greensboro, including Randy Sample, Ralph Brown and
Tony Tosches. Al Krauss, who was in charge of the research department went to Greensboro where he headed
the engineering department.
I was asked to go, but I declined. The plant manager asked me why I wouldn’t go. I told him that I didn’t think it was
going to survive, and I didn’t want to be down there when the end came. He asked if I’d go down and take a look. I
did, and met with the guy who was going to be the plant manager. He told me that they were going to bring the
engineering department and the assembly line there. Just shuttleless, as far as I know. There was going to be a
stock area, and some manufacturing.
I met the fellow who would be my boss. He told me how he thought things were going to work, and I told him how I
thought they would work. He didn’t know the details of what would happen. He didn’t know anything about building
They tied me up with a real estate agent, who showed me around and talked about house prices. There was a day
when I didn’t have anything to do, so I drove down to Spartanburg to say hello to guys I knew down there. I saw
quality control people I knew. The salesmen worked out of there, so I got to see them. When I got back, I went to
see Alex Archer, the plant manager in Hopedale, and told him I wasn’t going. Again, I told him that it might survive
a few more years, but I didn’t want to get left there after it closed.
A few years later, Rockwell sold Draper to a group of former Draper employees. When it went out of business, the
people who had gone south to stay with the company lost a great deal in retirement benefits. My retirement check
comes, not from Rockwell, but from Boeing. Rockwell had bought North American Aviation. The aviation division of
Rockwell built small planes, corporate jets and the space shuttle. Eventually Rockwell sold their aviation division to
Boeing. People who had retired out of Draper, Hopedale were part of the aviation division. The people who went
South retired out of the new Draper Company, and they didn’t have a retirement program like the Boeing one.
Rockwell had offered a savings plan deal where they’d put in three dollars for every four an employee put in. A
great deal. When they ended, you got a check with the money you put in. For the money they put in, they gave
you stock. Over the years there were spinoffs from Rockwell, and you’d get stock in the new company. There were
at least three spinoffs.
I was let go from Draper in 1978, in the last group to go. The shop and the Main Office were bare. Everything had
been sold, moved out, or scrapped. A lot of Draper history had been thrown out. I enjoyed my stay at Draper, and
learned a lot.
I spent most of the rest of my working days as a sales engineer and purchasing agent at a small company in
Waltham, and retired in 1994 at the age of 62. I retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1975 after 23 years of
Draper Menu Memories Menu HOME
The Draper plant around the time Bob started working there.
In a move that should bring joy to denim aficionados and a potential boost to U.S. jeans
manufacturing, Cone Denim has entered into an agreement to bring its American Draper
X3 selvage looms from the iconic White Oak plant back into production.
The agreement provides for the sale of the X3 looms to local investor Will Dellinger, who
plans to start them up to produce denim fabric in North Carolina.
“It is exciting to see a path forward for these iconic looms that allows them to remain in
North Carolina and continue the legacy of American denim,” Cone Denim president Steve
Maggard, said. “The denim community has been so supportive of Cone Denim and the
heritage of the White Oak plant, which will forever be a part of Cone Denim.”
During the years after Rockwell International (which later became North
American Rockwell) bought the Draper Corporation, Draper employees could
see that the Rockwell managers had no interest in the Draper history, and were
discarding many items the Draper employees thought should be saved. One of
these people was Bob Anderson of Upton. Bob rescued hundreds of photos
taken by the Draper photography department. Some months ago (early 2020)
Bob passed them on to me to me. I've been scanning them for this site, and
have been putting them on here at about 15 per page. I've been back to Bob a
number of times for information on what the machines did and what was going
on in the pictures. I also spent a couple of visits with him for the information you
see above. It's May 2020 as I am writing this, so we're well into the covid -19
situation. As I finish scanning the pictures, and when things open up, I'll pass
them on to the Bancroft Library and the Little Red Shop Museum.
Page 1 (machinery and workers - some from the West Foundry)
Page 2 (machinery and workers)
Page 3 (machinery and workers)
Page 4 (machinery and workers)
Page 5 (office workers, executives and meetings)
Page 6 (loom assembly)
Page 7 (people)
Page 8 (shuttle department)
Page 9 (salesmen's'book - captioned photos)
Page 10 (the rest of the salesmen's book)
Page 11 (more from inside the shop)
Page 12 ( building the West Foundry)