The Woolen Industry of the Midwest

The Woolen Industry of the Midwest

Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The Woolen Industry of the Midwest
    Book Description:

    Through the study of a regional industry, the book illustrates the impact of an expanding national market on a previously isolated market, offering new insights into a pioneer industry in the West and into the business methods and procedures of the time. The book discusses the growth of a myriad of small processing and manufacturing plants which drew raw materials from, and geared production and sales to that local economy, enjoying as they did, protection from eastern competitors who were saddled with high freight rates. The book demonstrates that once urbanization occurred in the region, bringing it into the national market, the local industries declined rapidly, disappearing in less than a generation. Perceptive, challenging, the book opens new possibilities for the study of manufacturing on the regional level.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6258-4
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER I The Eastern Background
    (pp. 3-17)

    Between the first American colonization and the Civil War the manufacture of woolen textiles along the Atlantic Coast shifted largely from home to mill, from handtools to machines, from a function of self-contained living to commercial enterprise. To bring about that transformation millions of men and women, working singly and collectively, generated a capacity to buy finished goods while, at the same time, a few others applied an accumulated knowledge about wool, men, and machines to change the methods of woolen production. In other words, the American people, through cultural borrowing and their own ingenuity, effected fundamental alterations in both...

  5. CHAPTER II Wool Manufacturers Enter the Middle West
    (pp. 18-34)

    Historians continue to debate numerous aspects of American economic development, but few deny the rapidity of settlement in the West. While many eastern towns suffered heavy population losses after 1830, several once-isolated western villages blossomed into major cities in less than twenty years. Chicago’s population, for example, doubled twice in the ten years after 1847 and by the late fifties the city was already destined to become the center of midwestern transportation. The agents of cities, counties, states, and railroads bombarded the Atlantic Coast and Europe with promotional literature aimed at potential immigrants, and each assured the prospective settler that...

  6. CHAPTER III The Marketing of Wool in the Middle West
    (pp. 35-53)

    Sheep moved westward with each advance of settlers, and as small farms filled the Middle West after 1850, woolgrowing became an important aspect of the region’s economy. With expansion of the eastern woolen textile industry, midwestern farmers found in wool a commodity which could withstand transport charges over long distances. Within a few years, both eastern and western businessmen established permanent wool-houses in the region, many local produce traders specialized in wool, agents of eastern woolen mills made annual visits to the Middle West to procure raw material, and a host of rural storekeepers accepted wool from farmers in payment...

  7. CHAPTER IV Quests for Wool and Workers
    (pp. 54-72)

    In the normal course of their search for raw material, the small woolen mills of the Middle West became important agents and buyers in the region’s wool market. The brokers and commission houses, organized to collect and ship raw wool to the textile factories of the East, served midwestern mills by allowing them to reduce fleece inventories, thus freeing capital for other purposes. In 1870 the woolen mill at Morenci, Michigan, consistently placed an order at least once a month with the woolhouse of Thomas McGraw at Detroit.¹ By dealing with several wool merchants, mills could compare prices, and the...

  8. CHAPTER V Production and Sales in the Local and Regional Market
    (pp. 73-95)

    The midwestern internal market developed rapidly after the Civil War, and by the early 1870s wool manufacturers of the region found it unnecessary to order minor mill supplies from firms located along the Atlantic seaboard. The Watkins Mill in Missouri, for example, purchased chemicals and dye stuffs from Chicago and St. Louis, cotton bagging for woolsacks from Kansas City, and belting used to drive power equipment from St. Joseph. Further north in Michigan, the Stone-Atwood Company found these and other items readily available in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    Although frequently used supplies proved locally abundant, textile...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER VI The Impingements of a Nationalizing Market
    (pp. 96-110)

    In the long run, manufacturers commanding large capital resources can normally adjust production and distribution to compensate for changes in market demand, labor supplies, and raw material sources. Plants can be expanded or relocated, workers recruited from other regions, and shifts in consumer demand countered by adaptation of product lines. However, small firms possessing limited capital and only slight manufacturing and marketing advantages over other companies in an industry face the danger of extinction when unforeseen forces quickly transform the economic status quo. From the 1880s to 1920, midwestern woolen mills struggled to survive as fashion affected consumer preferences, improved...

  11. CHAPTER VII The Struggle for Survival
    (pp. 111-131)

    The economic and social undercurrents of urbanization compelled most midwestern wool manufacturers to abandon their business sometime during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Progress exacted its toll and within two generations vacant mills dotted the countryside, providing older residents with memories of an era when country stores were the center of trade, sheep abounded in the area, and horses provided transportation. In the thirty years after 1870 the midwestern woolen industry suffered an average of twenty-three mill failures per year. The region’s 881 factories in 1870 dwindled to only 183 by 1900, and all but a few of...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 132-142)
  13. Index
    (pp. 143-152)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 153-153)