September 1, 2012
The Rise and Fall of Draper
Hopedale in August
Interview with Joe Leoncini – Joe turned 95 this month. He’s still very active (he golfs three times a
week) and has lots of memories of the old days around here.
Mike Cyr sent links to three YouTube videos of Draper looms being operated. The first shows Pete and
Laurie Eaton’s Model D in Pennsylvania. (Here’s the story of the restoration of their loom on my
site.) The second one shows a loom fixer working on a Draper loom in Augusta, Georgia. In the
third, you can see Draper looms operating at Boot Mills, Lowell National Historical Park.
Many of you have seen the page with the picture of 26 kids standing on the raft at Hopedale Pond, c.
1960. Here it is, with several name corrections sent by Karen (Cutter) Hensel.
Aerial photo of Hopedale, c. 1960. Thanks to Ron and Sandra Kimball for it. And here’s another aerial
– this one c. 1956.
I’ve made recent additions to pages on Donald Midgley , the post office, the town hall, Hopedale
Country Club, and Roy Rehbein.
Moriarty who both sent the link. Seems appropriate that one person from Grafton and one from Upton
would send a G&U story.
Richard Wade, HHS 1962 - obituary. Thanks to Bob Butcher for sending it.
Twenty-five years ago – September 1987 Community House classes this fall will include rug
hooking, aerobics, quilting, sewing, oil and acrylic painting, knitting and stenciling.
Missle Golf League Completes 30th Year.
Hopedale Hires First Woman Cop (Rosemary Naughton)
Televangelist Pat Robertson announces his candidacy for the 1988 Republican presidential
Fifty years ago – September 1962 Minor note in a British music magazine - A Liverpool group, The
Beatles, have recorded 'Love Me Do' for Parlophone Records.
CBS broadcasts the final episodes of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, marking the end of
the Golden Age of Radio.
150 extra S&H Green Stamps when you spend $5 at Brunelli’s – Next to Atlas Shoppers’ World, Milford.
My cousin, Bill Wright, has an interest in the history of the Draper Corporation. Lately he’s been looking
into the story of the facilities they once operated in Spartanburg, South Carolina and Beebe River, New
Hampshire. To learn more about Beebe River, Bill took a trip to the museum of the Campton Historical
Society in Campton, New Hampshire this month. Here’s part of an email he received from the society
curator after his visit.
Dear Bill, Love, love, love, the video and the song. What a wonderful tribute to Hopedale. My daughter
watched it with me as I am down here in Boston. Sandy
The comment refers to Bill’s song about Hopedale, Sleepy Little Town. For any who would like to watch
and listen, here’s a link to it.
The article below is from a book on the textile industry in the Spartanburg area that Bill purchased
recently. Thanks to the editor, Betsy Teter, for permission to print it.
Rise and Fall of a Loom-making Giant
By Glenn Bridges
With the textile industry well established in Spartanburg by the 1920s, the nation’s largest loom maker
Draper Corporation, established in the early 1800s in New England by the Draper family, realized the
urgency of having spare parts readily available for Southern mills if it wanted to meet the industry’s
solid shift to that part of America. Highway travel between North and South meant countless hours of
lost time if the high-speed, hard-knocking machinery it built suddenly splintered apart.
Thus, in 1929, Draper opened a warehouse in Arcadia that not only served textile mills in the Upstat
e, but also complimented a loom manufacturing shop it had opened in 1910 in Atlanta. Then in 1936,
it began manufacturing loom parts at a new plant on South Pine Street in Spartanburg. From the
outset, this sprawling factory had a large foundry operation – one of the largest in the Southeast – and
from those castings, Draper manufactured more than 2,000 different parts used on looms.
By the time Draper came to Spartanburg, it had already established a solid reputation as a leader in
loom design and was the owner of numerous patents. One of Draper’s best-known inventions was
the “temple.” In the early years following the Industrial Revolution, most mills converted from a water-
generated power source to automation through electricity. This greatly enhanced production, but the
work was still slow and tedious – partly due to frequent stops to adjust the loom and re-stretch the
cloth back into position. With the introduction of the temple, this process became automatic and meant
the weaver could operate ten or more looms simultaneously. (All other mentions I’ve seen of the
advantage of the temple, including Five Generations of Loom Builders, bottom of page 4, say that it
enabled a weaver to operate two looms instead of one. It was Draper’s Northrop loom that increased
the number to ten or more.)
Between 1886 and 1996, Draper Corp. built more than one million looms. Operating from plants in the
South and Northeast, it controlled a substantial portion of the U.S. market and was hugely profitable.
By 1960, the demand for Draper looms was so great that about 1,200 of them were assembled at the
Spartanburg plant. Employment at Spartanburg ballooned to 1,200 people, and Draper was
considered one of the premium places to work, offering some of the best wages and attracting the
brightest talent in the area. The Spartanburg operation was not only providing a secure lifestyle for
hundreds of Upstate families, it was also a leading contributor to local charities. At that point, just
about every fabric worn of used in the United States was made by a Draper loom, including shirts,
towels, draperies, blankets and bed sheets, according to Ron Brown, a Spartanburg resident who
began working for Draper immediately after graduating from high school in 1953.
In 1966, Draper peaked at about 5,000 employees nationwide and was well known as a performer on
the New York Stock Exchange. Employees wanted a bigger piece of the pie, and in September the
Spartanburg plant was rocked by a two-week strike that put 1,000 workers on the picket line. The
company’s profitability also attracted the attention of Rockwell Standard, a manufacturer of carburetors
and axles, later known as Rockwell Automation. The huge company expressed an interest in buying
Draper, but Draper officials were not interested.
Refusing to take no for an answer, Rockwell made a lucrative pitch to individual stockholders until it
secured enough interest for a takeover. The company felt it had the scientific know-how to re-invent the
weaving industry, but it never succeeded, In fact, just the opposite happened. In the 1960s and ‘70s,
the Swiss and Italians aggressively captured the market. Then followed the Japanese, making faster,
more efficient and longer-lasting looms, which obliterated demand for Draper-made products.
In 1971, the Arcadia warehouse and offices consolidated with the South Pine Street facility, and a
90,000 square foot expansion was built. The Arcadia facility was sold to Barnet Southern, a fiber
reclamation company that eventually moved its U.S. headquarters to the city.
By 1983, Rockwell had lost interest in textiles and was no longer keeping pace with the latest
technology, so Brown and nine other investors secured the funds to repurchase the company.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to regain the luster Draper enjoyed prior to Rockwell’s takeover; in 1996
the company was acquired by Texmaco, a large Indonesian industrial firm with 26,000 employees, 15
manufacturing divisions, and almost $1 billion in annual sales.
The new arrangement as Draper-Texmaco was a perfect fit for the company’s products – air-jet, water-
jet and rapier looms. Under the DT umbrella, Polysindo now produces the fiber and yarn, Jay Mills the
cloth, and Perkasa Engineering, the machinery, meaning Draper-Texmaco has evolved into a vertical
integration that serves the industry from start to finish. From the blue building on South Pine Street, the
company makes and sells parts for textile carding and spinning operations, as well as a growing line
of non-textile parts. Employees there also continue to make parts for the last Draper looms remaining
in operation around the world – perhaps 2,000 of them.
If you have an interest in the textile history of the Spartanburg area, and would like to purchase the
book, go to http://hubcity.org/press/catalog/history/textile-town/ It’s 350 pages and the price is $12.
One of the Draper plants in Spartanburg - 1929.
Hopedale Pond - August 6, 2012