Greetings my friends! Last night brought the first flakes of snow to Easton! A cold and windy night was enough to change a light rain to a slight covering of snow, just enough to remind us that winter is drawing ever nearer with each passing day.
Today we take one last look at machines produced by the Easton Machine Company for the lace industry. One may be very familiar to you, another more obscure, and one that may still be in use somewhere.
First up is a rubber wringer. My grandmother had a washing machine in her house that had rubber rolls mounted on the top, where she would "wring" the wet clothing through before hanging them up to dry. This rubber wringer was the industrial version of that same familiar piece of technology that our parents and grand-parents used. After either dyeing or bleaching a material, fabric would be run through this wringer to squeeze out any excess liquid or dye before being placed on a dryer frame. The Morses experimented with the type of rubber used to perfect rolls that could withstand the chemical effects of bleaches and dyes. Another improvement was to enclose the gear mechanisms so they would stay cleaner and run more efficiently.
The somewhat obscure second machine featured here is a bit of a mis-nomer: a mangle did just the opposite of what the name implies. It takes any fabric, and through the use of springs and hand wheels, applies hundreds of pounds of pressure to sheets of fabric. Some fabrics, such as linen and damask, need this "flattening" of the fibers to bring out the sheen we are so familiar with. Another application for a mangle is to heat the rolls so that the mangle acts as an iron, removing wrinkles from bolts of material before being wound for sale. Mangles are still in use today by fabric producers, and are a favorite item for those who produce their own specialized fabrics, especially linens and silks.
The last machine takes bulk lace and wraps it into the small packages of material we are used to seeing today in fabric shops. This hand winder machine wrapped delicate lace around a piece of heavy cardboard. In the accompanying photo, you can see it in use inside a store. To the left of the winder are a number of lace pieces already wound and ready for sale.
I hope you've enjoyed this look at what goes into making lace. The machines that the Morse family developed, improved upon, and supplied through the Easton Machine Company helped to revolutionize the United States lace making industry, making lace more affordable for American consumers. When you put on your favorite holiday outfit this year, take a moment to reflect on what it took to produce that special dress or suit.
“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis
A few thoughts and wishes as we end 2021 on a brighter note than 2020:
Another strange year in the books! We all hoped for a much better 2021 than 2020, and I
think that mostly rang true. After a slow start, things continued to improve with the pandemic.
Places slowly began to reopen, and even if that might have been done under some strict
guidelines, it was good to see cinemas, stores, cultural institutions, government offices, and
public spaces take steps towards returning to normalcy. I for one do not miss waiting in line to
be counted before entering a store, and the one way aisle markings that frustrated me (it seems
I was usually at the wrong end of those aisles!) have become a distant memory.
One of the major focuses of 2021 was the full reopening of schools and colleges. There
have been a few issues here and there, but it sure is a nice sight to see students back in school,
playing sports, participating in musical programs, and getting back to seeing their classmates
face to face. There is something inherently good about fellowshipping together, and seeing our
houses of worship and other community groups gathered again is good for the soul.
Family events are returning too. Attending a grandson’s summer birthday party was
much more enjoyable this year. The party was held outdoors, but it was good to see more
people around, some family I had not seen in a while, and of course, it was good that the kids
could have a few friends over to celebrate. Travel made a comeback too as quarantines were
lifted. Several of my friends recently traveled to Florida to see family or to take long-delayed
Shortages still seem to be an issue (at least there is plenty of toilet paper on the shelves
now) and I have become used to the fact that I might not find everything I might be looking for
on a shopping trip. We have actually completed most of our Christmas shopping, so getting out
and about well before “Black Friday” madness has paid dividends. I think in a few weeks the
shortages of favorite toys and gadgets will confound many gift givers.
At the Museum, we recently hosted two home-schooled groups. The students were a
pleasure to have in and they were well behaved and well prepared for their visit. I wish we
could connect with more of these groups and make learning history a great experience! I wish
too that we will connect next year with our second graders whom we have missed for two years
As we put one year behind us, and look forward to the coming year, I wish you a time of
peace, fellowshipping, unity, health, reflection, and hope. The holiday season seems to be the
right time to get ourselves ready for great things to come. To one and all, I wish you a Merry
Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and all the fullness of the blessings of this season.
Greetings my fellow history lovers! The holidays are fast approaching, and you know what that means - family, food, high school football rivalries, and of course college and professional football as well. Oh! I nearly forgot that other popular after feasting activity, napping! Whatever your day holds this year, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving also kicks off the holiday shopping season. Guess where I'll be on Black Friday? Right here at the Museum where you will be able to find unique Easton gifts! Put us on your list of places to shop, and while you are doing that, remember to shop our many local shops for great gifts. When you shop locally, you support the businesses and people who are part of our community and who give back to our community in many ways.
Thank you for supporting the Shaws Supermarket Give Back Where It Counts program! Thanks to your purchase of a reusable bag, we will receive a donation of $86 from Shaws. Members Ken and Gloria Nykiel made a generous matching donation which is very much appreciated!
As we continue to take a look at the products manufactured by the Easton Machine Company to support the lace making industry in the United States, it is important to note that prior to mechanizing these processes, lace making was labor intensive and expensive. The machinery produced in Easton for the lace making industry helped to make lace more affordable for everyone.
Cotton fiber, like most natural materials, needs treating to get a nice look to it. That treatment may include bleaching to whiten the material, or dying to impart color to a material. When either treatment is applied to a fabric, that fabric must be properly dried before it can be readied for use or sale. The Easton Machine Company made improvements to the age-old process of hand stretching fabric on a frame for drying. Their improved lace drying frames used special needles placed along opposite rails to delicately hold the lace, but allow for stretching the fabric to properly dry. One important innovation by the Morses was a gear driven mechanism that would gradually separate the frame rails to stretch the fabric. A few turns of a handle from either end of the frame produced the desired result, saving the labor of several people on each side manually pulling individual sections to get the right tautness when stretching the material to be dried. The Easton Machine Company frame was sold according to the largest needed size and could easily be adjusted to fit varying sizes of finished sheets of fabric, allowing any lace manufacturer the flexibility to produce different sizes of fabric sheets without having to purchase several different frames. Pictured here is one of the frames in its unused state (note the long lace fabric in the floor ready to be stretched), and a photo of the frame in use. Note also the apparatus in the ceiling. These "wafters" were also produced by the company, and they provided air flow to help dry the fabric below. Another image shows the gearhead used to do the adjusting. Pipes along the floor probably supplied heat by hot water to help dry the fabric.
As a side note, space was needed to produce these frames, and the old mill used to manufacture machinery was too narrow and small to provide the space to build these frames. It was also being used to build the Morse car as well as repairing other makes of cars. The growth of the lace-making machinery business brought about the need for a better facility, so in 1912 Mill #2 was completed. We know it better at the Crofoot Gear building on Central Street, nearly opposite the old Mill #1 building. The photos of these lace drying frames were taken inside that new plant.
Look for information on our Black Friday sales early next week!
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving,
Hello everyone! Today is a fine day in Easton, with warm sunshine highlighting the remaining colors of fall. We might see a little snow later though, and even a few flakes before Thanksgiving might signal the beginnings of a long winter.
Last week I introduced you to a lace making machine made by the Easton Machine Company. A paper I found in the sales book added a little background to the company's investment in textiles. Officially begun in 1904, the Easton Machine Company was an off-shoot of the former Morse Thread Company. After making cotton thread for more than fifty years, the company sold off its line of thread products. Around 1878 a new factory was built of brick next to the former wood thread factory. According to the paper I read, the company ventured into other textile products and machinery around 1880 (the sale of the thread business resulted in the Morse family receiving a yearly payout from the buyer with a promise not to compete in the thread industry). Lace machinery seemed to be the focus from the start, as there were a number of lace producers in America who had to import nearly all of their machinery from European manufacturers. Clearly there was a market and business opportunity for someone who could produce machines and parts, and repair existing machinery. Alfred B. Morse saw that need and met it head on.
Have you purchased material from a local store for a project? Not that long ago, someone at the counter would measure your yard of material by holding the fabric bolt in front of them and with the other hand, take hold of the fabric and stretch the arm out. The distance from the bolt to the end of the arm was roughly a yard, and this was a quick, though somewhat inaccurate way, to get your yards of fabric. Of course, if your measurer had long arms, then you probably received the benefit of a few extra inches with each pull. On the other side of that of course, someone without a long reach might leave your yards of fabric a bit on the short side. Currently, a yardstick is built into the tables used in fabric stores to measure a customer's order correctly.
Morse provided a solution to such a problem with his mechanical lace measuring machines. Using an attached dial counter that measured up to 144 yards of material at a time, or any portion thereof, one could be sure that their order would be accurately measured. This provided
that the customer was assured they got their money's worth as well as making sure the retailer was not wasting expensive material and losing money! The two models offered by the company were a hand powered model run by a simple cranking mechanism - perfect for the mom and pop retailer so common in many small towns - and a powered model that might be used by a large retailer or wholesaler. The powered model could be either run from a leather belt or by an electric motor. A foot pedal was used to control speed and turn the machine on or off.
Unfortunately, I do not have a price sheet for any of these machines, and one wonders what these might sell for back in 1914. Lace, being rather expensive, deserved to be measured and sold accurately!
Have an historic week,
Greetings from frosty Easton! A good frost finally made an appearance in town over the last two days, necessitating an extra few minutes to run the windshield defrosters before hitting the road.
Don't forget that Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. Set your clocks back 1 hour tonight!
Thank you to all who supported us through the Shaw's Bag Program. I do not yet have the final number of bags sold, but I will let you know how we did.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a look at an under the radar industry that once existed in South Easton. The Easton Machine Company, located originally in the former Morse Thread Mill at 7 Central Street, built a number of specialized machinery - one being the Morse Car. However, the company also specialized in building machines with highly complex movements, something that Alfred B. Morse was a genius at designing. More than knowing machinery, he had a great vision and understanding of a science called mechanism, or how parts interact and function as a unit to produce a finished product.
At some time in the early 1900's, Morse designed machinery to produce various lace materials, and he was one of the first, if not the first, in America to produce those machines for the textile industry. By 1912 the business grew enough to deserve its own building, and at that time, the former Crofoot Gear Building at 20 Central Street was constructed.
Today's image comes from a book given to us by Alfred Morse, grandson of Alfred B. Morse. in the 1990's. It is a photo of a Model KJ Jacquard Loom built by the Easton Machine Company. The 160 bar references the number of interchangeable "cards" that determined the pattern being produced. First introduced more than 100 years ago, Jacquard refers to the process used to create the lace and not the product itself. A good history of this can be found at the link below. Our book is dated 1914 and was probably used by salesmen to show machinery to prospective customers. I do not know how many machines were made, or if any survive today. Take a few minutes to appreciate how much ingenuity and movement went into making something so beautiful as lace!
Until next time,
Anne Wooster Drury