William E. Lapworth & Sons, a firm once located off Depot Street [Milford] that was owned by William Lapworth, was
    engaged in the manufacture of elastic and non-elastic fabrics. It employed 125 workers and the plant was equipped
    with 88 narrow looms.

    More recently, the large building was occupied for several years by "Grandma's Attic."

    Lapworth was born in Coventry, England on March 3, 1844. He gained his early experience in weaving in his native
    land and in 1870 he came to the United States.

    He was first employed as an elastic weaver by an English house in Connecticut, and his knowledge and skill were at
    once recognized.

    Subsequently, he worked for the Boston Elastic Fabric Company of Chelsea and next he became associated with the
    Glendale Elastic Fabric Company of Easthampton in the capacity of manager.

    He was one of the organizers of the Hopedale Elastic Fabric Company of Hopedale, remaining a stockholder and
    general manager of the business for 11 years.

    Then he embarked in elastic webbing independently. His inventive genius and thorough understanding of the work
    resulted in his producing many patents, all of which were regarded as indispensable in the production of elastic web
    and he became the pioneer manufacturer of elastic twill.

    He also invented the elastic web from which the celebrated policemen suspenders are made and he introduced
    various other weaves of equal value.

    The rise of the elastic webbing industry in America and its diversified use, as well as the constantly widening field
    opening to the manufacturer of this domestic and personal necessity was due perhaps more to the energy, inventive
    genius and business sagacity of Lapworth than to any other representative of the industry.

    His plant at Milford covered about two acres and was the last word in equipment, commercial stability, skillful
    workmanship, superior management and perfection of product. the business ranked among the foremost in elastic
    web manufacturing in the country and was conducted in a most systematic manner, everything being done according to
    a most thoroughly worked out system in the offices and in every department of the plant.

    The weaving room, 180 by 120 feet, was one of the best lighted in the country and its 100 looms were operated by
    skillful employees, many having been with the company for a long period.

    A number of these looms produced the beautiful and dazzling colors of the "Boston Silk Garter," each loom being
    devoted to a particular color.

    The warping and winding room contained a number of machines which warp and wind the fabrics. The dressing room
    was used for dressing the beautiful and many-colored webbing and it contained machines of great size and of the
    latest invention.

    The rubber stock room was kept cool and somewhat dark with great rolls of rubber upon the floor and shelves, looking
    like brown yarn.

    There was a finishing department where the last touch was added to the beautiful fabric of elastic webbing and then
    neatly rolled, ready to be packed.

    Lapworth was regarded as an expert on rubber, from the time it was taken from the tree until it was formed into the
    smallest thread and only its finest product was used by this company.

    Lapworth gave equal attention to the welfare of his workers, in which connection he gave most comprehensive study to
    the ventilation of the immense weaving room, so that pure air was conveyed to every section, there being two large
    skylights which were operated from the floor and two powerful fans that could be regulated immediately. The output
    was from 12 to 14 million yards annually, the capacity of the weaving department being about 20 yards per minute.

    The product included only high-grade goods, principally silk web of every shade and color and of varying widths for
    garters, hose supporters, arm bands, etc., and was sold to both wholesale and retail merchants. Milford Daily News,
    July 6, 1996.

    The Lapworth house at 85 Adin
    Street. The original house is
    shown above, and the house
    after alterations on the right.

                             





    William Lapworth, oldest elastic web manufacturer in the country and a prominent resident of Hopedale,
    yesterday observed his 87th birthday anniversary with a quiet celebration at his residence on Adin Street, at
    which the members of his family were present.

    Though his advanced years mark him as the last of the "Old Guard" of veteran industrial promoters in this
    vicinity and possibly of the entire state, Mr. Lapworth still remains active in the business world and continues
    almost daily to go to his factory, located off Depot Street [Milford] and confer on various matters with his sons,
    who have for years been associated with him in the industry.

    Until recently, when his age forced him to cease activities to some extent and cause more automobile riding
    between his home and the mills, Mr. Lapworth often walked to and from, being a great lover of the outdoors
    and believing that this healthy exercise was essential for the mind and body, either before or after hours of
    labor of daily toil.

    Proud of his successful business career, which has been noted throughout the general business world,
    and of his family life, in which he insisted upon strict discipline that resulted in ultimate happiness and
    affection for all, Mr. Lapworth always spoke mildly and modestly upon the reasons he attributed for the
    growth and advancement of a substantial business.

    He does not claim to deserve any more honor or distinction than could be rightfully bestowed upon an
    individual who had succeeded after diligent and hard work and prevented social activities to interfere with the
    objects he was striving to overcome.

    The opinion that anyone with push, common sense and perseverance which, together with real work would,
    in the end, overcome all obstacles, could rise to the top, was his firm conviction throughout life. He has
    evidenced this fact in his own career and that of his sons, each one of whom he launched into the business
    world.

    Yesterday at the Lapworth residence the festivities included a family dinner and reunion, during which some
    of Mr. Lapworth's experiences of the early days were related. Many friends called to extend congratulations
    and he was showered with flowers, cards, telegrams and tokens of the event.

    William Lapworth was born in Coventry, England, March 3, 1844, and came from a family whose male
    members possessed a knowledge of weaving equaled by few in their time. His ambitions to get ahead in life
    resulted in his decision to come to America and at the age of 26 he arrived in the United States.

    He believed that his knowledge of weaving obtained in his native country, together with an unusual amount
    of energy inherited from his parents, would result in achievement, hence is early decision to come to this
    land of opportunity and inducement.

    While in Norwich, Ct., he secured employment with a branch English house as an elastic weaver and his
    knowledge and skill were at once recognized and stamped his as an individual in this line of endeavor.

    Mr. Lapworth's ambition a few years later caused him to make a start for himself and in 1886 he came to
    Hopedale and founded the Hopedale Elastic Fabric Co., the pioneer concern of its kind in this locality, and he
    was at once successful, despite the fact that he was besieged with obstacles that were almost continually
    thrown in his path.

    His general knowledge of the business, much of which he acquired through his father, John Lapworth, and
    to which he added by his own natural talents and experience, instilled within him a desire to pursue a wider
    field, which he did by coming to Milford to locate in 1896.

    While in Hopedale, Mr. Lapworth was a stockholder and general manager for the company 11 years but he
    was constantly in search for an opening to secure a more modern and larger plant, to which he could build
    from time to time as the occasion warranted. He finally decided upon Milford and bought up the old storage
    battery car barns, which he converted into an excellent mill that is part of the Lapworth & Sons plant today.

    As is well known his success from then on resulted in a steady upgrowth of the elastic webbing venture and
    Mr. Lapworth acknowledged, as the head of one of the most extensive silk web works in the country.

    To his credit belongs the honor of making a series of elastic webs which have in great measure
    revolutionized this important industry and proved a distinct achievement for Mr. Lapworth. He has many
    patents of various devices used in the manufacture of his goods and his creation of the elastic twill was
    possibly one of his greatest accomplishments.

    Mr. Lapworth invented the elastic web from which the policemen suspenders are made and have become
    world-famous, while looms at his plant produce the material that made the popular "Boston" silk garter. The
    Lapworth factory covers more than two acres. The various departments were well planned and arranged.

    Years of study and persistent work by the successful promoter reached the goal for which Mr. Lapworth
    strove when a young man and he justly deserves to enjoy the fruits of one of the longest possible careers in
    life.

    His wife, who was the former Miss Frances Smith of London, England, died 17 years ago. The Lapworth
    family includes six sons, Charles A. of Brockton, Frank A. of Hopedale, Arthur F. of Los Angeles, Cal., W.
    Sumner, Winfield S., and Clarence H. Lapworth of Hopedale, and three daughters, Miss Fannie, Mrs.
    Florence Schnetzler and Miss Mabel I. Lapworth, at home. Milford Daily News, March 4, 1931

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1907

Thanks to Peter Metzke for this.
William Lapworth, 87, Veteran Manufacturer

His Birthday Anniversary Observed At Adin Street Home

One of the Last of "Old Guard" in Bay State
A Top Elastic-Web Manufacturer

by Gordon E. Hopper

    Lapworth Elastic Fabrics, Depot Street, Milford. Grandma's Attic Moving
    and Storage is now on the site. Thanks to the Milford Museum for this.

    From Leading Business Men of Milford, Hopkinton and Vicinity, 1890.
    Thanks to Peter Metzke of Melbourne, Australia for sending it.
(Milford)

    The Lapworth house (85 Adin Street) in 2008. At that
    time it was the home of Alan and Theresa Ryan.

                                                                William Lapworth

    Interests closely tied in with George Draper & Sons Co., builders of the Draper looms at Hopedale, Mass,
    were responsible for the starting of the Hopedale Elastic Fabrics Company in 1887. General William F.
    Draper, president of the company, was the largest shareholder. E.L. Osgood, who married a sister of
    William F. Draper, served as treasurer and among other holders were Eben S. Draper, later governor of
    Massachusetts, Claire and George Otis Draper ; Eben D. Bancroft; and William Lapworth, who had been
    hired away from Glendale Elastic Fabrics Company to serve as general manager. Lapworth was the only
    practical web man of this group. Captital $125,000.

    Son of a thoroughly trained weaver, William Lapworth was born at Coventry, England, and from childhood
    absorbed knowledge of weaving. He received no education other than what he picked up in a determined
    endeavor to rise above a disadvantaged family and in battling to work his wits and make his native abilities
    suffice in place of academic training. It is stated by members of his family that for the ninety-three years of
    his life, he never learned the three R's and could very poorly sign his name. So great was his ability as a
    weaver, so powerful was his domineering personality, so pompous the front he presented to the world, that
    nothing he had to face in his career ever got him down.

    The polished aristocracy of the wealthy Hopedale group into which he was called never fazed William
    Lapworth one iota but that his bluntness gave the Hopedale group many band moments, there are tales
    aplenty. There is no doubt that through native ability he could handle an elastic web mill; neither is there
    reason to doubt that he constantly irritated the Drapers, particularly the suave Eben S. Draper

    Very little ever escaped Lapworth's dark, penetrating eyes. Nimble-witted, he rarely failed to catch a point, an
    expression, and intonation, and it was indeed rare when he failed to have a comeback to any question or
    assertion.

    Until he was twenty-five, Lapworth lived a stormy career in England, taking advantage of every opportunity to
    master the art of weaving elastic webs and to master men and conditions. In 1869 he came to America to
    work at Norwich, Conn, for the Norwich Loom Company, a branch of an English company, which in addition
    to building looms did some weaving of elastic webs. This branch company, later known as the Norwich
    Suspender & Elastic Company was of few years experience and many troubles.

    West, Bradley & Carey Mfg Co of New York City experienced difficulties in weaving buttonhole webs. They
    appealed to the Norwich Loom Company for help. William Lapworth was sent there to straighten them out.
    This and other things he did for West, Bradley & Carey, winning their profound respect for his abilities and no
    inconsiderable fear of his personality.

    When Thomas and William Martin withdrew from the Boston Elastic Fabrics Co. to start T. Martin and Bro.,
    William Lapworth succeeded William Martin as superintendent and the help quickly recognized that William
    Lapworth was boss, with a large B.

    The Glendale Elastic Fabrics Co. needed a strong hand to control their garter web department. William
    Lapworth applied for and won the place. The first thing he did--the first day--was to blusteringly fire twenty-
    three weavers.

    At Chelsea, Lapworth became a close friend of George C. Moore, then a loom fixer employed by T. Martin
    and Bro. At the Glendale Elastic Fabrics Co., Lapworth was again associated with Moore. They became
    lifelong friends, had many wordy fights over who saw things first, and in later years jocosely allowed each
    had taught the other no end of tricks in weaving.

    Following parental example, William Lapworth trained his children to be proficient weavers. the oldest sons
    and daughters had worked with their father at Chelsea, and at the Glendale Elastic Fabrics Co., and when
    the father was called to Hopedale he took with him a goodly team of Lapworth sons and daughters who
    were well grounded in the manufacture of elastic fabrics.

    The Drapers sent Lapworth and his oldest son Charles A. to England to buy up and bring to Hopedale
    twenty goring looms from the defunct Rapp & Thetlow mill at Leicester, where William Lapworth had once
    worked as a weaver. Upwards of eighty new looms were purchased in Worcester from loom builders later to
    be combined as Crompton-Knowles Loom Works.

    Many amusing stories are related of the autocratic way William Lapworth handled the Hopedale Elastic
    Fabric Company, eek (?) the Drapers, and Lapworth methods of getting what he wanted out of the business
    during the eleven years of its existence. Always masterful in exercising his dominating and domineering
    qualities, Lapworth played his cards with adroitness and very close to his chest.

    In the management of the Draper Company, there was considerable friction among the Draper brothers,
    notably between General William F. and Eben S. In degree this carried into the Hopedale Elastic Fabric
    Company and made William F. look with much favor on long trips to Europe.

    It was during one of William F.'s long jaunts abroad that things at the web mill were brought to a showdown.
    The free trade depression during the second Cleveland administration had told heavily on the elastic web
    industry, atop of which came heavy claims from shoe manufacturers for gorings they held to be defective.
    The trouble Billy Lapworth insisted, was the square needles used in stitching the gores into the shoes, the
    square needles cutting the strands of rubber and allowing them to slip into the webs. All of this was
    undoubtedly true but probably not the whole story. Just at this time, in order to make low prices so American
    gorings would sell beside English webs flooding the market, smaller sized rubber threads were being used
    and spaced farther apart in the webs than theretofore.

    Between the acid complaints the Drapers had to listen to from their aristocratic shoe manufacturer friends in
    the western part of Worcester County and the bluster of Billy Lapworth, under long-time, high priced contract,
    General William F. Draper felt the need of a trip to Europe and during that time the sudden success of the
    new Northrop looms caused the Draper Company to need more factory space and very promptly.

    The story goes that Eben S. Draper lined up control of the Hopedale Elastic Fabrics, promptly shut in down
    and sold the hundred looms to Kirby & Moore of Providence, sol them for twenty thousand dollars with the
    stipulation that the factory must be vacated immediately. Thereby hands a tale that will be told elsewhere in
    this history.

    Eben S. Draper had won all his points; Lapworth was out--but not down, not by a jugful. He insisted on being
    paid in full for the balance of his contract and, to make sure there were sufficient funds with which to pay it,
    his is reported to have gone after the Mechanical Fabrics Company--the rubber thread supply--for damages,
    claiming the rubber had caused the trouble the shoe manufacturers had experienced. He thumped away
    until he secured a large reimbursement. Rubber thread manufacturers have suffered such experiences both
    before and after the event here numerated.

    With the closing of the Hopedale Elastic Fabrics Company, William Lapworth was out of a job--for a few days
    only. Promptly he bought the old storage battery car barn near the station in Milford, and with his large family
    of sons and daughters and a few looms from the Worcester companies, plus a loan of $35,000 started a
    business of his own. Soon he was once again supplying elastics to George Frost & Co., makers of the
    famed Boston Garter. The Lapworth business grew rapidly, eventually totalling 88 looms.

    William Lapworth prospered in a large way, built a big mansion on Adin Street, Hopedale's millionaire road,
    had his coach and liveried servants and enjoyed letting his neighbors see that he could take his fur coat as
    seriously as they. William Lapworth made his hard-headed sense, perseverance, adroitness in overcoming
    obstacles and determination to be atop the heap pay him large dividends but he failed to apply his common
    sense to the handling of his sons. In the end he defeated himself by taking his sons into the business as
    William Lapworth & Sons, driving them, giving them small authority and ever regarding these able men as
    children and, truth be told, the sons were ever scared pink of the old man. Nothing is her set down as
    malicious criticism but a critical study.

    William Lapworth was deservedly the recipient of much adulation and as a self-adulator he had few
    superiors--he strongly concurred in the thought "Blow your own horn, else the same shall not be blown."
    Devoid of academic education but marvelously sure of himself, he had gone a long way from poverty in
    England to wealth in America and no one, so far reporting, ever unhorsed him in combat.

    Among his patents stands out the famed Police Suspender web, always in demand. He was first to make
    webs with twill weave.

    Had Billy Lapworth been less adamant in his stubbornness he would have left a thriving business, to which
    the services of his sons had liberally contributed, to be carried on to the glory of a rugged individualist.
    William Lapworth & Sons dates from 1896.

    Living until he was ninety-three, he did not let go his grip until nature called a halt. In the latter years when
    age began to slow up his activities, Lapworth drew heavily on the resources of his company and stubbornly
    failed to spend money to maintain the plant in position to meet competition.

    By will Lapworth left his money to his three daughters, the impoverished business to his sons who had
    remained with him. The eldest son, Charles A., had flown the coop shortly after the start of the William
    Lapworth mill, having left because fully fed up with things past and present for which he could not stand.
    Leaving a business to men who had long been treated as children, a business that had not been kept
    abreast of the times in methods and machinery, a business lacking sufficient capital to run it, leaving it n the
    depressing times of the 1930s when the PWA and the WPA "in our door yard bloomed," proved a bitter pill to
    the valiant sons who had put their lives into William Lapworth & Sons, Inc.

    The business was closed in 1943 and the 88 looms were scattered, mostly in small lots to the various
    aspiring weavers in Pawtucket.

    Always a terrific driver, William Lapworth stubbornly managed to have things his way and if in the light of
    experience it seems he short-changed himself on common sense it is doubtful, could he be reached, if he
    would admit it. By those who knew him well, he is credited as having stubbornly defeated himself. In
    England he had gotten a taste of class oppression and was determined to show the aristocrats of Hopedale
    that he recognized no superiors. William Lapworth lived and died a subject of the sovereignty of England.
    Clifford A. Richmond, The History and Romance of Elastic Webbing, 114-119.

                                                                                               
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