A Top Elastic-Web Manufacturer

                                                                                          by Gordon E. Hopper

    Up into the 1890s, the part of Hopedale we think of as the home of Draper Corporation was actually the site
    of a number of companies, including the Sawyer Spindle Company, the Dutcher Temple Company, the
    Hopedale Elastic Fabric Company, and several others. All of them, however, were owned and managed, in
    part at least, by the Draper family, and in 1896 they merged into one company.

    “With the new loom on the market, the firm of George Draper & Sons and the various subsidiary companies
    in Hopedale for which they were selling agents were combined in a single corporation. Draper Company
    took over the business in December 1896, with the three Draper brothers of the third generation as principal
    officers of the company.” (Five Generations of Loom Builders)

    The elastic fabric company, established by William Lapworth, eventually moved to Milford. Here’s more
    about the venture. (Click here for a longer version.)

    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.

       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.

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


    Recent deaths:

    Constance E. (Thompson) MacGregor, 70, May 17, 2008

    Stephen J. Jastremski, 67, May 19, 2008.

    Lydia M. (Mantoni) Fitton, 93, Upton, May 21, 2008.

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Lapworth home at 85 Adin Street, before remodeling.