useful for schools in Hopedale and the area when doing an invention convention or similar activity. The more I
worked on it, however, the more I began to wonder if it would be of much use. With just a couple of minor
exceptions, Hopedale wasn't a place where consumer goods were being invented or improved. It might be
hard to get kids fascinated with the invention of the rotary temple or the many improvements made to
spindles. Shuttles, anyone? The bobbin battery? The closest things I've seen to consumer goods would be
Charles Roper's improved boat propeller and William Lapworth's elastic webbing. At any rate, here it is, and if
nothing else it may be helpful to teachers for background information.
Over the last 150 years, Hopedale must have had a very large number of inventors. To operate a shop of the
size and complexity of Drapers must have required constant innovation. Also there were other areas and
business in town, such as the Westcott Mill in Spindleville, that had workers who were certainly developing
ideas regularly to improve their product or the means of producing it. Since there is no way to know about this
large number of people and their ideas, I'll have to limit this to the inventors whose ideas have been recorded.
I'll begin with an individual who never set foot in Hopedale, but his device set the stage for all that followed in
the Draper business. That would be Ira Draper.
Of Ira, his grandson, General William F. Draper wrote, "There are few men identified with the State of
Massachusetts who have left a more brilliant record in the line of invention than he. A native of Dedham, he
removed to Weston in 1808, and during his residence there he devoted himself to perfecting the power loon,
and finally succeeded in inventing what he styled the 'revolving temple' for weaving, which is still
manufactured in Hopedale. His creative genius covered many inventions of great value, some of which are
still in use. Among the more important are the following:
1, A threshing machine for horse power; 2, the endless track horse power (now in general use); 3, the hay
and straw cutter (now in general use); 4, the road scraper (now used); 5, a rock lifting machine; 6, the potato
planter; 7, special horse shoes for meadows (now used); 8, a horse power ditching machine to cut and clear
drains and ditches; 9, false felloes for wheels to traverse meadows, etc.; 10, the revolving temple for keeping
cloth extended in weaving. He also invented what are still in common use with carpenters' brackets for
shingling roofs. In a portrait owned by James Sumner Draper, he is represented holding in his hand the
His inventions, though several of the later came into general use, were not a source of profit to him,
pecuniarily speaking. On the contrary, the time and money devoted to them reduced his patrimony so that
when my father started his life at the early age of fifteen, he had only his own resources to depend upon.
Draper, William F., Recollections of a Varied Career, pp. 3 - 4.
George Draper - In his autobiography, General Draper has far less to say about his father, George, than he
did about his grandfather. However, he did write that:
He was a man of large inventive capacity and possessed also the business faculty which enabled him to
introduce into use his own inventions and those of others, which he controlled, at a profit not only to the
community but to himself. The improvements introduced in spinning machinery under his auspices and the
writer's have doubled its production and saved to this and foreign countries hundreds of millions of dollars in
machinery, and tens of millions per annum in power, labor, and incidentals. Draper, William F., Recollections
of a Varied Career, p. 6.
William F. Draper - General Draper has very little to say about his role in the invention of new and/or improved
products for the George Draper & Sons Company in his autobiography, but I have a few ideas of his work from
other sources. There seems to be no doubt that the general was very much committed to the development of
new and improved products. He served two terms in Congress (1893 - 1897) and for part of this time, he was
chairman of the Committee on Patents. The Draper feud that split the family in the first decade of the twentieth
century was evidently due, at least in part, to a difference between the general and his brothers, Eben and
George Albert, as to the wisdom of continued research. At that time the company was enjoying tremendous
success as a result of its long and costly program to develop an automatic loom. It seems that William wanted
to continue the research program and his brothers opposed it. He left the company (or was pushed out) in
1907. Here's what he says about the situation in his autobiography:
The right stopping place [for the autobiography] did not present itself until after my return from my foreign trip
in June, 1907, when I resigned as President of the Draper Company, and severed my connection with its
The diversity of opinion before referred to, as to the policy which the company should pursue in important
lines, continued, and it seemed that it would be a relief to all concerned if I left the carrying out of certain views
to those who believed in them. It was also for the advantage of the company to be free from divided counsels,
as almost any course consistently pursued would produce better results than deviations made to meet
special emergencies. Further, at sixty-five years of age it did not seem worth my while to live in an atmosphere
of continual discussion, with no hope of agreement.
As to the future, I shall doubtless continue to be interested in the textile industry, particularly in improved
processes and machinery as they come to my knowledge, but whether I shall again enter into the direction of
business operations is another question, and the chances are decidedly against it. Draper, William F.,
Recollections of a Varied Career, p. 398.
Below are a few paragraphs from different sources that mention General Draper's interest in and/or
contributions to research and invention.
During his career, he patented more than fifty inventions in textile machinery, and was recognized nationally
as an expert in spinning machinery. Dictionary of American Biography, p. 444.
The first three years [working in his father's business] he was an employee and after that a junior partner. In
1867, when his salary reached $1,500 yearly, he was told that it was all he could expect from the firm. About
this time he invented a machine that sold for $10,000. This was practically the beginning of a long list of
inventions, which he developed, for he was an inventor of great ability and his was the mind that conceived
many of the important improvements that have well-nigh revolutionized some processes of cotton
manufacture. Obituary. Name of paper unknown.
The mechanical and inventive talent shown in the last two and a half centuries of his family, finds full
expression in General Draper. He has personally patented more than fifty different inventions, most of them of
great value to manufacturers. These inventions have covered substantially the entire field of cotton machinery,
but have special reference to spinning and weaving. Under General Draper's auspices and by his own
inventions and those of others controlled by him, the speed of spindles has been doubled, and the cost of
spinning cotton yarns been divided by two. These inventions have not only been thoroughly introduced in
America, but largely in other parts of the world. The saving to the people of America in the cost of machinery
alone, has not been less than fifty millions of dollars, while savings in labor, power, and incidentals resulting,
are probably as much more.
During the last few years General Draper has been giving attention to the improvement of weaving,
employing as skilled inventors, Mr. James H. Northrop and Mr. Charles F. Roper and others, and adding the
results of his own thought and study. His intention is to halve the cost of weaving, as he and his associates
have already halved the cost of spinning; and great progress has been made in that direction. The machine
may be said to be perfected for many lines of goods today, but its perfection for all lines is the final
mechanical task that General Draper has assigned himself. Representative Men of Massachusetts, 1890 -
George Otis Draper - Otis, born in 1867, was the second son of William F. and Lydia Draper During his years
with the Draper Company, Otis was a part of the research department, and was also involved with company
publications. His home was at the top of the hill on Williams Street (actually called William Street when he
lived there) on the Hopedale/Milford line. It was later operated as an inn by the Draper Corporation, under the
name, The Larches. After the "Draper family feud," Otis became associated with the Hopedale Manufacturing
He was a development engineer and an inventor of rare talent. He held at one time patents in excess of one
hundred, the outstanding of which were applications and developments of the Northrop loom, called the
greatest in textile manufacture since the cotton gin. Draper, Preston and Allied Family Histories, pp. 54 - 55.
George Otis Draper. A later addition to our forces, was the early associate of James H. Northrop during the
harder time of trial and devised many of the important loom details such as the feeler, shuttle incline-one-
hand loom. etc. He handled the entire literary campaign of automatic loom introduction for some fourteen
years and now handles our sales department and general literary features. From an advertising brochure for
the Hopedale Manufacturing Company.
Warren Dutcher - In 1742, three Dutcher brothers migrated from Holland to this country. Warren W. Dutcher,
Sr. settled in Shaftsbury, Vt. with his brother Eli. Eli was a Baptist minister and with his brother Warren W.,
perfected the famous Dutcher temple. Warren settled in Hopedale in 1856 and continued the manufacture of
temples in connection with Ebenezer D. and George Draper as managing agent at home and they as selling
agents abroad. His son, Frank J. Dutcher, also possessed of unusual inventive ability and served as
treasurer, secretary and president of the Draper Company. From a paper presented to the Hopedale
Community Historical Society by Mrs. Fred Sweet.
William Lapworth - (1844 - 1937) was another Hopedale-based inventor and industrialist whose business
was acquired by the Drapers under the direction of William F. Draper. Lapworth was an English weaving
expert who came to the United States about 1869. The inventor of the weaving process used in suspenders,
boot webbing, and garters, he obtained patents in elastic weaving. In 1887, he became a primary stockholder
and superintendent of the Hopedale Elastics Company, which was purchased in 1898 by the Draper
Company. Following the acquisition of his company by the Drapers, Lapworth and his wife hired architect R.V.
Carey to redesign their home and carriage house at 85 Adin Street to their present high-style Queen Anne
appearance. Broomer, Kathy Kelley, National Register Nomination, section 8, p. 8.
Another source on Lapworth is mainly about his plant in Milford.
Wm. Lapworth & Sons, Manufacturers of Elastic and Non-Elastic Web. Office and Works, head of Depot
Street. Milford has among its diversified manufacturing industries, one of the best plants in the country for the
manufacture of silk webbing, and the head of the firm, Mr. Wm Lapworth, is undoubtedly the most expert
manipulator of rubber in this or any other country, being familiar with caoutchouc or Indian rubber, from the
time it is extracted from the plant or tree, through the various processes until he obtains the perfected product
used in his works. This factory is run on strictly high grade goods, principally silk web in all shades and
colors, and the various widths used for garters, and other uses by leading manufacturers, Mr. Lapworth is a
native of England, and came to the United States in 1869 for the purpose of introducing a new line of
manufacture in this country. He is not only an expert in the rubber business, but comes from a family of silk
manufacturers, who were acknowledged to be the best in the world. His early experience eminently fits him
for the conduct of these works, and he has taken out many patents on improved web for garters, shoe gores,
suspenders, etc. He founded and conducted the Hopedale Elastic Goods Co., of Hopedale, Mass., for eleven
years, and when they quit business, engaged with his sons in this enterprise, on his own account. He has a
substantial factory 123 by 125 feet in dimensions, fitted with the best machinery and equipment obtainable, a
number of special machines having been built for his use, He has a fifty horsepower boiler and twenty-five
horsepower engine, which occupy a separate building. They employ forty-five high-class workmen, and Mr.
Lapworth exercises a general superintendence over the entire factory, so that all goods that have his imprint,
bear the stamp of superiority. His facilities enable him to turn out upwards of 3,000,000 yards per year. He is
giving his sons a thorough instruction in the work and the industry promises to become one of our most
important factors in the line of manufacture.
The piece above on Lapworth didn't contain any information as to who wrote it or when. I wish I had as much
information on his factory in Hopedale as this article has on his place in Milford. If I find it, I'll add it. The
Lapworth home was at 85 Adin Street. There were many urns around the estate, situated at the highest point
on Adin Street, and it was called Urncrest. The Lapworths brought the theme to the Hopedale Village
Cemetery where the family stone is decorated with urns. The Adin Street home is now the residence of Alan
and Theresa Ryan and family.
James Northrop - Until 1894, the Draper Company didn't sell looms. They sold loom parts and parts for
spinning machinery. In 1887 the company began a research project to develop an automatic loom. Many men
contributed to the seven-year project, but since some of the most important developments were the ideas of
James Northrop, the loom was named for him. Here's what local historian Peter Hackett wrote about him
for the Milford Daily News:
World Famous Northrop Loom
Had Its Roots At Small Farm
in Hopedale Area
By Peter Hackett
Did you know that the world famous Northrop Automatic Loom -- the loom that made Draper Corporation, the
loom that made Hopedale, had its beginning in the hen house of Jimmy Northrop's farm somewhere near the
Hopedale-Mendon town line?
From the History of the Northrop Loom as given in the 1904 Draper catalog, Labor Saving Looms, we read
this statement. "On March 5, 1889, Mr. Draper [George Otis Draper, son of General William Draper] drove to
his farm (Northrop's) and saw a rough wooden model of his idea, which was set up in this hen-house."
Perhaps it could be said at this point, the time had arrived for an automatic loom. In 1888, Mr. William F.
Draper, Jr. (another son of the general), heard of a loom invention in Providence, and saw the inventors and
their device, which was an automatic shuttle-changer. He reported that the idea was interesting, but, in his
opinion, not practical. Draper then had a thorough investigation made of the patent situation involved and as
a result decided to give it a trial.
On Dec. 10, 1888, it was voted to allot $10,000 and assign the project to Mr. Alonzo E. Rhoades of designing
a shuttle-changing loom, which was to follow later. That Mr. Rhoades lost no time in designing a shuttle-
changing loom is proved by the fact that by Feb. 28, 1889, he had such a loom ready to start. This loom, after
being reconstructed from new parts during the next few months, though not changed in principle, ran with
good success. Some 12 years later, for purposes of litigation, the same loom was started up and ran for
days under the eye of a patent expert to his complete satisfaction.
Leaving the Rhoades loom at this point and returning to the "History of the Northrop Loom," it is of interest to
note that one James H. Northrop, an important figure in Hopedale-Draper history, was born May 8, 1857, in
Keighley, England. He became an expert mechanic and factory foreman in his own country, before coming to
America where he landed in May 1881, finally drifting into Hopedale where he became employed as an expert
on metal patterns. His invention of the Northrop Spooler Guide brought him to the notice of his employers
who asked him to see what he could do by way of an automatic knot tier for spoolers.
Although he did invent such a device it did not appear commercially practical. He became discouraged and
left the shop to take up farming. He soon tired of this and got a job in the shop as a mechanic at $2 per day.
Northrop, who had noted the Rhoades shuttle-changer progress, expressed the belief to Mr. George Otis
Draper, who had just entered the firm of George Draper & Sons, that if given a chance he (Northrop) could put
a shuttle-changer on a loom in one week's time, that could be made in quantities for a cost of $1 each. It was
at this time, March 5, 1889. Mr. Draper drove to his farm and saw a rough model of his idea, which was set up
in his hen-house.
At Mr. Draper's recommendation, the firm ordered another loom for experiments, and after its arrival Mr.
Northrop was started on April 8, to work out his scheme. By May 20 he had concluded that his first idea was
not practical, and meanwhile having thought of another idea, he asked for an extension of time, until July 4, in
which to perfect it. On July 5, the completed loom was running, and as it seemed to have more advantages
than the Rhodes loom the weaver was taken off and given the Northrop loom instead.
On Oct. 24, a loom with new construction, from revised patterns, was running at the Seaconnet Mill in Fall
River, and more looms of the same kind were started up there at intervals.
Mr. Northrop had, however, meanwhile thought out his idea of changing filling in the shuttle, some of the
parts of such a mechanism taken shape as early as October. The development at our works continued so
favorably that by April of 1890 a lot of filling changing looms were started in the same Seaconnet Mill, the
shuttle changing looms having been changed back to common looms, in view of the additional advantages of
the filling-changing loom. Milford Daily News, undated.
Here's another story on Northrop.
James Henry Northrop
Jimmy Northrop, as he was familiarly and fondly known around our Hopedale shops, was born in Keighley,
Yorkshire, England, May 8, 1856. With a trade and some experience as a mechanic, he came to America at
the age of 25 and worked for a time in Boston and Woonsocket.
Coming to Hopedale to work in one of our shops of George Draper & Sons, he showed ability as inventor by
developing the Northrop Spooler Guide.
Desire for outdoor life, ever a passion with him, led him to an unsuccessful trial of poultry farming.
Back in the shop at Hopedale, he found the Draper effort to develop an automatic loom in its early stages
with the Rhoades shuttle-changing device. He set to work by himself on the same problem, and ultimately
both the Rhoades and Northrop shuttle-changers were patented. The Northrop device was given a mill trial in
Meanwhile he invented a self-threading shuttle and shuttle spring jaws to hold a bobbin by means of rings
on the butt. This paved the way to his filling-changing battery of 1891 - the basic feature of the Northrop loom.
With development of a workable warp stop motion by other members of the Draper organization and
marketing of the first Northrop looms in 1894, the stage was set for the revolution in weaving that has saved
our textile manufacturers and the public millions of dollars and led to better wages and working conditions in
By 1898, with over a hundred patents to his credit and the Northrop loom successfully launched, his great
longing for an outdoor life led to retirement at the age of 42. Buying a fruit farm at Santa Ana, California, he
spent the second 42 years of his life as a gentleman farmer and at his favorite sport of fishing.
He is survived by his widow, who was Emily Driver of Keighley, five daughters, two grandchildren, and three
great-grandchildren. Cotton Chats, December 1940.
And finally, for Mr. Northrop, a few words from the man himself.
Now answering your question as to what I am doing. I am growing figs and dates. Am paying most of my
attention to dates, which is a new industry for America, and I find it very interesting fruit to grow and get ready
for the market. These dates are shipped mostly in strawberry baskets. I am taking out a patent for a cover for
these baskets. When the dates are picked and brought to the packing house they are all covered with dust. I
am taking out a patent on a machine to clean them, but the most important machine I have made is a
machine for taking the seed out of the dates. About one-quarter of the dates we grow are not packed on
account of some slight imperfection, so they are fed to the hogs. These can be bought for about 10c per lb.;
running them through my machine makes them worth at least 25c. Letter from James Northrop to Frank
Dutcher, Indio, Calif, July 14, 1918.
Hopedale inventors on page 2 include Charles Roper, Jacob Sawyer, Gilbert Thompson and Almon Thwing.
Inventors of Hopedale, Part 2 Draper Menu HOME