George H. Gilbert & Company

George H. Gilbert Co. Records, 1842-1931.

26 boxes, 126 vols. (36 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 096

In 1841, George H. Gilbert and Charles A. Stevens formed a partnership to manufacture broadcloth and cloaking in Ware, Massachusetts. Ten years later, the partnership dissolved and each partner carried a part of the business into separate establishments. The newly formed George H. Gilbert Company continued making high-grade woolen flannels, for which it developed a national reputation, until 1930.

Records, consisting of correspondence, financial records and cash books, construction contracts, sales lists, production records, and sample books, document the operation of Gilbert and Stevens and later the Gilbert Company for almost a century. The labor accounts (1851-1930), document the phases of the varying ethnic composition of the workforce — Irish, French-Canadian, and eventually Polish — well as the family orientation of the mills.

Historical Note

In 1841, George H. Gilbert and Charles A. Stevens formed a partnership to manufacture broadcloth and cloakings in Ware, Massachusetts. The partners acquired a mill building on the Ware River and expanded in 1846-1847 erecting several new factory buildings and a number of tenements to house the growing population of workers.

The partnership, known as Gilbert and Stevens, dissolved in 1851, with each of the partners taking one of the business products. The newly formed George H. Gilbert Company continued the making of high-grade woolen flannels, for which it developed a national reputation. The company exhibited goods at the London Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851 and at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 among others. The firm, however, remained a family business. In 1850, Lewis N. Gilbert joined his uncle’s firm, establishing himself as a prominent Ware resident and eventually a member of the State Senate in 1877-1878. J.H. Gilbert, the son of George, joined the company in the 1870′s. He eventually rose to be president of the company and stayed until the company closed in 1930. In addition, J.H. Grenville Gilbert helped found the Young Men’s Library Association of Ware, and was also president of the Ware Savings Bank.

In 1860, the Gilbert Co. expanded into neighboring Worcester County, acquiring a mill and building tenements in what came to be known as Gilbertville in the Southwest corner of Hardwick. By the turn of the century, the Gilbert Company employed more than 1,000 people in its two factory complexes.

From the beginning, the Gilbert Company operated under the family (or Slater) system common to rural textile mills. Entire families were recruited for mill employment and kin networks continued to serve as an informal method of labor recruitment into the twentieth century, even as the ethnicity of the workforce shifted from Irish to French-Canadian (1870) to Polish (1900′s).

The company began to experience financial problems in the 1920′s, a full five years before the Great Depression. Woolen manufacturers in the region began to slowly lose business to Southern competitors. A series of wage reductions and three-day schedules for employees could not revive the company as the continued slump of the wholesale woolen market finally caused the company to close its Ware plant in 1929. Shortly thereafter, the company closed its Gilbertville complex, bringing to an end almost 90 years of continuous operation.

The George H. Gilbert Company records were originally acquired by the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts from the custody of the Smith Council of Industrial Studies. In 1984, the records were transferred to the Springfield Public Library from which they were sent to the University of Massachusetts in 1986.

Hardwick was among the five Western Massachusetts towns abolished in 1938 to allow the Swift River Valley to be flooded, thereby creating the Quabbin Reservoir to provide Boston with water.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The records have been arranged into seven series, as follows: Legal and Property, 1844-1879, 1 box, Executive, 1848-1882, 15 boxes, Financial, 1848-1929, 2 boxes and 17 volumes, Sales, 1842-1909, 5 boxes and 1 volume, Labor, 1851-1931, 1 box and 53 volumes, Production, 1846-1930, 1 box and 54 volumes, and Miscellany, 1848-1920, 1 box and 1 volume.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: George H. Gilbert Co. Records (MS 96). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Acquired from Springfield Public Library, 1986.

Custodial history:

The George H. Gilbert Company records were originally acquired by the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts from the custody of the Smith Council of Industrial Studies. In 1984, the records were transferred to the Springfield Public Library from which they were sent to the University of Massachusetts in 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, July 1985.


Additional Information

Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Language
English.


Series Descriptions
1844-1879

Includes contracts with masons, carpenters, painters, and suppliers of materials for the construction of mill buildings and tenements, principally in Ware (1844-1847) and in Gilbertville (1860-1861). Among the local contractors used were Edward Estey, Lorenzo Fairbanks, Anthony Collins, Eaton & Davis, Thomas Bixley, and Samuel Sprague. Two folders on employee matters document recruitment, labor contracts (particularly for supervisors and skilled hands), and the legal problems of employees. One folder of insurance material contains sketches of property and buildings and surveys of the values of property, machinery and stock. Also contained in this series is a folder of correspondence between Charles Stevens and Artemus Lee concerning the proposed route of the Boston and Maine Railroad through Ware and Hardwick (1851), documents concerning the purchase of the mill in Gilbertville (1860), a legal opinion on damage caused by a dam on the Ware River, and the purchase rights to use a patented machine (1866).

1849-1882

Routine business correspondence of the company from 1849 to 1882. Among the topics are sales, shipments, orders, insurance, employment opportunities, and purchases of machinery, supplies, and wool. Among companies for which there is considerable correspondence are Davis and Farber (North Andover), the Rodney Hunt Co. (Orange), Renfrew Manufacturing Co. (Adams), and Litchfield and Co. (Southbridge). Also there is considerable correspondence with commission agents, including Farnham, Gilbert and Co.; Faulkner, Kimball and Co.; and the Troy Wool Depot.

1848-1929

Includes early bills and receipts, company cash books (1854-1859, 1882-1900), petty cash books, an early receipt book, two volumes of wool purchases (1849-1851), and ledgers from the first and last decades of the George H. Gilbert Co.

1842-1909

Lists of sales of flannels and cassimeres from the Gilbert and Stevens partnership (1842-1853), orders (1862-1863 and 1904-1909), and sketches of sales by Farnham, Gilbert, & Co. (1866-1877), the commission agents used by the Gilbert Co.

1851-1931

Four volumes of early labor accounts (1851-1863, 1872-1884) documenting monthly and weekly wages in the various departments, thirty-four volumes of weavers’ accounts spanning 1874 to 1928, scattered volumes of accounts for labor in the “burling” and “drawing-in” departments, five volumes of wage payment books (1908-1911), one box of miscellaneous labor accounts for transportation with Barney Snow and repair work, and one volume of paymaster notices, which detail the names and rates of pay for new employees (1918-1930).

1846-1930

Time books spanning 1885 to 1930, production cost calculations (1889-1905), working estimates of expenses (1889-1905), three volumes of production order samples (with the cloth stapled into the volume), one box of department expenses (1917-1930) and stock inventories (1846-1850), nine volumes of weave-room production records (1879-1895), and three volumes of yarn prices (1904-1909).

1848-1920

Includes advertisements and by-laws from various companies, exhibit forms and correspondence, and some material concerning the personal finances and activities of Charles Stevens and the Gilbert family. Also included is a stationery sample book which, in addition to samples of letterhead and forms used by the company, contains notices posted in the factory and tenements concerning company rules and regulations.

Contents List
Series 1. Legal and Property
1844-1879
Contracts for Buildings and Supplies

1844-1861
Box 1:1-5
Employee Matters

1848 (1860-1879)
Box 1:6-7
Insurance

1847-1851
Box 1:8
Legal Opinion

n.d.
Box 1:9
Patent Permission

1866
Box 1:10
Property Purchase (Gilbertville)

1860
Box 1:11
Railroad Correspondence

1851
Box 1:12

Series 2. Executive
1849-1882
Correspondence

1849-1856
Box 2:1-8
Correspondence

1857-1862
Box 3:9-16
Correspondence

1863-1867
Box 4:17-23
Correspondence

1868-1869
Box 5:24-28
Correspondence

1869-1871
Box 6:29-34
Correspondence

1871
Box 7:35-40
Correspondence

1872-1873
Box 8:41-46
Correspondence

1873-1874
Box 9:47-53
Correspondence

1874
Box 10:54-58
Correspondence

1875
Box 11:59-64
Correspondence

1875-1876
Box 12:65-69
Correspondence

1876-1877
Box 13:70-74
Correspondence

1877
Box 14:75-79
Correspondence

1879-1881
Box 15:80-85
Correspondence

1882
Box 16:86-88

Series 3. Financial
1848-1929
Bills and Receipts

1848-1850
Box 17:1-5
Bills and Receipts

1851-1861
Box 18:6-13
Cashbook B

1854-1859
Box 18:v. 1
Cashbook C-G

1882-1900
Box 18:v. 2-6
Petty Cash

1897-1910
Box 18:v. 7-10
Petty Cash

1921-1924
Box 18:v. 11
Receipt Book

1851-1859
Box 18:v. 12
Wool Purchases

1849-1851
Box 18:v. 13-14
Ledger

1851-1864
Box 18:v. 15
Ledger

1920-1929
Box 18:v. 16-17

Series 4. Sales
1842-1909
Sales of Cassimeres

1842-1853
Box 19:1-25
Sales of Flannels

1843-1853
Box 20:26-52
Orders

1862-1863
Box 21:53-54
Sales Sketches

1866-1870, 1874
Box 22:55-59
Sales Sketches

1875-1877, 1897
Box 23:60-63
Orders

1904-1909
Box 23:v. 19

Series 5. Labor
1851-1931
Labor Accounts

1851-1863
Box 23:v. 20-21
Labor Accounts

1872-1884
Box 23:v. 22-23
Weavers Accounts

1874-1910
Box 23:v. 24-55
Weavers Accounts

1922
Box 23:v. 56
Weavers Accounts

1928
Box 23:v. 57
Drawing-in Accounts

1898-1916
Box 23:v. 58-64
Burling Accounts

1929-1930
Box 23:v. 65
Wage Payment Books (mills #1-3, weave sheds, B & C

1908-1911
Box 23:v. 66-70
Miscellaneous Labor Accounts
Box 24
Transportation

1858-1862
Box 24:1-3
Labor Prices

1861
Box 24:4
Accounts with John Goodwin

1882-1883
Box 24:5
Accounts with R.T. Lee

1924-1931
Box 24:6
Repair Shop Accounts

1922-1930
Box 24:7
Paymaster Notices

1918-1930
Box 24:v. 71

Series 6. Production
1846-1930
Time Books

1885-1930
Box 24:v. 72-107
Production Cost Records

1889-1905
Box 24:v. 108-109
Working Estimates

1889-1896
Box 24:v. 110
Production Order Samples

1877-1878
Box 24:v. 111-113
Department expenses (includes: Dyehouse, Dyestuffs, Yard Supplies, Repair Shop, Finishing, Postage, Weave Room, & Engine Room)
1917-1930
Box 25:1-9
Stock Inventory

1846-1850
Box 25:10-14
Weave-Room Production Records

1879-1895
Box 25:v. 114-122
Yarn Prices

1904-1909
Box 25:v. 123-125

Series 7. Miscellany
1848-1920
Advertisements (other companies)

1857-1877
Box 26:1
By-Laws (other companies)

1868
Box 26:2
Centennial Exhibit Forms

1875-1876
Box 26:3
Construction Specifications

n.d.
Box 26:4
House Specifications

1853
Box 26:5
London Fair Exhibit Forms

1851
Box 26:6
Personal Expenses – Charles Stevens

1848
Box 26:7
Personal Finances – Gilbert Family

1959-1962
Box 26:8
Personal Matters

1869-1876
Box 26:9
Stationery Sample Book

c1890-1920
Box 26:v. 126
Shipping receipts
Box 26:10
Shipping receipts
Box 26:11

Subjects

  • Textile industry--Massachusetts
  • Ware (Mass.)--History

Contributors

  • George H. Gilbert and Co

Types of material

  • Account books
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