Probably no town in New England of two thousand people has figured more in contemporary history than Hopedale; and
certainly no town of its size has occupied as much space in magazine and newspaper literature. The reasons for this are
varied. It was for about twenty years the seat of a socialistic or semi-socialistic community, --one of the many established
in the forties in the expectation of regenerating the world, --and it had more vitality than most of them, largely because of
the character and ability of its leader, Rev. Adin Ballou.
Again, the legislative contest which brought about its separation for the neighboring town of Milford was conducted with
so much vigor on both sides, in the press as well as before the legislature, that the name became, temporarily at least, a
Furthermore, it has been the home for three generations of an aggressive family, one that has made its name known in
business affairs wherever textile manufacture is carried on; in public affairs not only in Massachusetts, where one of
them now holds the office of Governor, but in Washington, where the elder brother was for some terms in Congress, and
where he still lives in the winter; and in foreign courts, where this same elder brother has represented his country as an
In what has been written of Hopedale two sides have been taken, -- the one laudatory and the other denunciatory. There
is nothing commonplace about Hopedale.
Those who praise it say that it is a "workingman's paradise," (it is a factory town). Those who condemn call it an
"autocracy," a "petty tyranny," a place to be avoided by self-respecting men unwilling to bow the knee to the reigning family
and their representatives.
The truth lies between; or, rather, there is truth in both statements, as will appear from the briefly detailed history that
follows. I shall commence with the Community and shall endeavor to state facts as they have been secured from local
residents, and from the records of Rev. Adin Ballou, General Draper, and the Draper Company, which are in print and
accessible to all.
The Hopedale Community was established in 1841 by the Rev. Adin Ballou, then pastor of the First Church and Parish of
the town of Mendon. There were 32 original members, the number being largely increased later. At the time many
intelligent men believed that society and government could be greatly improved, and the status of humanity be uplifted, by
voluntary co-operation along socialistic lines; and the Community of Hopedale was one of the most successful of these
experiments, having been one of the first to be organized and one of the last to be abandoned.
The members of this organization were pledged to a high standard of morality, their declaration going beyond ordinary
standards, in that they required a total abstinence from stimulants, non-resistance to physical violence and abstention
from participation in government. They agreed not to vote or hold office, because ordinary civil government is founded on
force, The Community as a whole owned the farms and shops, "the instruments of production," but members were
allowed to own their houses and furniture, in which, however, all extravagance was discountenanced. For a home they
bought the so-called Jones Farm in the valley of the Mill River, in the town of Milford, not far from Hopedale center. The Mill
River is a small stream flowing into the Blackstone ten miles below, and the Hopedale purchase included water
privileges. These were developed by the Community up to twenty-five or thirty horsepower, and later by the Drapers to
several times that amount, before the increase of their business made the introduction of steam power necessary.
Here for about sixteen years the experiment of socialistic government was tried on a small scale. Mr. Ballou's account of
it is very interesting, as is General Draper's summary in his "Memoirs." The government swung from side to side, from
radical to conservative, and back again. Some resented the authority of the temporary majorities, while others felt the
seed of a systematic arrangement in which each should do his share of the work as nearly as possible, as well as
receive his proportionate shore of the general income. There were frequent secessions, but the vacancies were more
than made good, and under Mr. Ballou?s directions the experiment proved a success in all directions except the financial.
The Community did not earn its living and used up its capital, or nearly so.
Such, at least, is Mr. Ballou's view, as recorded, though at the time a large percentage of the members believed that the
Draper brothers, E.D. and George, broke up the organization to advance their personal interests. This view does not
seem a fair one, as the Community, being in dangerous financial condition, voted to let the Drapers take the public
property. The latter then assumed the public liabilities and paid other holders of the stock at its face value.
E.D. Draper was a member from the start and for several years President. George, who had a socialistic streak in an
eminently practical nature, joined the Community in its latter days and soon discovered the financial troubles with which
he had to deal in representing the organization. After a year or two he decided to withdraw and make a fresh start in life, if
some arrangement for paying the debts could not be consummated; and his brother joining with him, the arrangement
above stated was made and the experiment ceased, greatly to the sorrow of Mr. Ballou. He summarized the causes of
failure in the statement that "the experiment was born out of due time, it being scores and perhaps hundreds of years
ahead of the age in which it was put on trial."
THE INDUSTRIAL ERA
After a severe struggle through the panic of 1857 the Drapers business and Hopedale, then a village and part of Milford,
which depended on the Drapers for business employment, grew slowly till 1868, when a difference of opinion culminated
between the two brothers, and General Draper, having recently returned from the war, became his father's only partner. At
this time about 100 men were employed, probably less rather than more. During the war the lack of sympathy above-
mentioned arose because E.D. Draper stood by his non-resistance principles, while George became convinced they
were impractical. His son, who entertained the same views, served in the army where he was desperately wounded. This
divergence of view, together with other questions arising from time to time, finally broke up the partnership, and E.D.
Draper removed from Hopedale shortly after. These Drapers were, and are, positive men, and less affected than the
average by family considerations.
During the next decade, and up to 1880, valuable inventions were secured and introduced by the new firm, and the
concern became prominent in its line, increasing its capacity and the employment of labor accordingly. About the latter
date, George Draper's two younger sons were taken in as partners, and a few years later two sons of General Draper,
who became the practical manager, also became partners, his father giving attention largely to general matters and
traveling considerably. George Draper, however, remained the head of the concern until his death in 1887, no important
matters being decided without his sanction and consent. During his last few years he founded the well known "Home
Market Club," and also conceived and directed the movement for separating Hopedale from Milford by the establishment
of the present town of Hopedale.
George Draper, with the General, introduced and held in spite of litigation the famous Rabbeth and Sawyer spindles, that
have made Hopedale famous in the manufacturing world, and they also initiated the policy of building model tenements,
which has been continued by their successors.
General Draper's regime followed, during which he had full power till 1897, when the Draper Company was formed and
he went abroad as Ambassador. Returning in 1900 he took up the active duties of President and head of the company.
Under his personal supervision the celebrated Northrop loom was invented and placed on the market, and the
manufacture of this wonderful mechanism furnishes the main business at the Hopedale shops today.
Two or three years since, in 1906 or 1907, the younger brothers, George and Eben, -- the latter now Governor, -- thought
that their time had come, so they voted the General out of one of his committee positions, and later, it is said, reduced his
salary. He naturally resigned, and the existing relations between the family members have been none too pleasant since
that time and are not likely to be renewed.
Various reasons were assigned for this change in conditions, it being said on the one side that the President's absences
from business were deemed too long by his associates; and, on the other, that there was undue impatience on the part
of the younger men to reach the headship of the concern. In either event the dominating family characteristics were again
WHAT IS HOPEDALE?
This little history prepares the way for a discussion of the various statements pro and con that have been made about
Hopedale in recent years. The read facts can be ascertained and the above statements confirmed by consulting the
records or any disinterested "old resident" of Hopedale or Milford. The salient features of the story are:
The rise and fall of the Hopedale Community.
The rise of the Draper business.
The separation between George and E.D. Draper.
The setting off of Hopedale from Milford.
The retirement of General Draper from the business.
Without further comment this mere statement shows that the Drapers have been able, progressive men, willful rather
than sentimental, and allowing no personal or friendly or family considerations to prevent the execution of their plans.
Now, is Hopedale a "workingman's paradise," or a despotism, more or less benevolent, varying with circumstances?
The answer depends on what the workingman desires. If he is content with an unusually good tenement, good schools,
good streets, and good public conveniences generally, together with the common, or in some cases, low, wages, it is a
more than ordinarily good location for him.
If he desires to assert himself, rather than to accept what is given him, either in wages, conditions of labor or the local
government, he will be happier elsewhere.
I refer to the streets, schools and local government because public, as well as business affairs, are, under present
conditions, controlled by the ruling corporation. Lists of public officials and delegates to Republican conventions are said
to be prepared in the Draper Company office, and then ratified by caucuses and town meetings; and the feeling prevails
that any employee making public opposition to them would be obliged to seek some other field of usefulness.
The Drapers have always opposed labor unions, and do so now. [1913 strike] They have not only refused to recognize
them, but have in several cases broken them up temporarily, by learning who the officers were and discharging them. Not
that any many is discharged for being a union man. Far from it. They simply wait for an excuse on some other ground,
which can generally be found, and if not, a slackness of work permits the objectionable ones to be removed.
Politically, too, there is always more or less pressure, and while the present ballot protects the vote, there is felt to be
danger in any organized opposition to "the powers that be," and democratic local committees are anything but active.
There have been recently some cases of interference with personal liberty in other lines, but it is not necessary to go in
them in detail. Suffice it to say that if a workingman is satisfied with paternal government, in which he has little or no
influence, Hopedale is today a good place to find it. I say "today" because under the elder members of the family, while
the same principles prevailed to some extent, they were modified by the personal acquaintance between employer and
employed, which has latterly been reduced to a minimum, as the younger Draper brothers are not "mixers" at home,
however it may be elsewhere.
This is intended to be a dispassionate, unprejudiced view of the situation. The abuse expressed by the word
"Hopelessdale" is unfair, but the reply to it by calling attention to the comfortable tenements, with little patches of green
lawn in front, is by no means complete. The read question raised goes to the foundation of society and government; but it
seems fairly answered above, as far as Hopedale is concerned. It is evident that between the Hopedale of the
Community and the Hopedale of the factory, as at present administered, there is an absolute divergence of ideas and
Hopedale Community Menu Draper Menu HOME
A BIT OF HISTORY
OF AN EXPERIMENT IN
BY LEWIS R. HOVEY
PRICE FIVE CENTS
THE WADE PRINTING CO