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)
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.
in Mendon in 1856.
LaPoint and Laurel 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
Missle Golf League Completes 30th Year.
Hopedale Hires First Woman Cop (Rosemary Naughton)
Televangelist Pat Robertson announces his candidacy for the 1988 Republican
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’
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 soon followed
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 Upstate, 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.
Demolition of the Draper plant
One of the Draper plants in Spartanburg - 1929.
Hopedale Pond - August 6, 2012