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,
Curator: Frank Meninno