Customers came to the houses to buy the stockings or to order ones especially made. It was a business that one could carry on at home, and so the lives of the ”Stockingers’, must have been very pleasant, situated as they were in comfortable homes in a lovely town, a ready market for all they could do, and the respect and friendship of their neighbors, a decided contrast to the turbulent riotous scenes they had known in England when even their very lives were in danger and when want and hardships were their daily lot.
This life and method of business would be ideal today, typical of a work of which Ruskin and Morris dreamed, and some of the elderly men of Ipswich will tell you that they sometimes sigh for a return to the old life, but it is inevitable that every industry that serves the daily needs of mankind must grow to great proportions if it is to survive.
There are of course, many examples of the hosiery of 1822 still treasured in the Museums as well as in the homes of America and they give ample proof that good articles of wearing were as common then as now. Silk hosiery was probably made by hand or imported, but there is in the rooms of the Association for the Preservation of Antiquities in Boston a pair of long white stockings that belonged to Dr. Samuel Savage of Barnstable, Mass., that might have been knitted on the old type of hand frame in one of the little stocking mills of Ipswich.
Through the courtesy of Mr. George Francis Dow we are able to present a photograph of one of these stockings on this page. It is made with a fine even stitch and indicates that the Doctor was a very active and energetic gentleman, for it has seen hard wear and has been darned with great skill at both the heel and toe. Who knows but what it may have been knitted at this little mill, which was photographed during a ramble around the old town in the vain search for a ”hand frame.” Certainly at one time Ipswich hosiery was produced here, doubtless at first the entire stockings and later ”footing” for the great mill. Now the hand frames have long since gone and the little mill is empty and silent for Ipswich hosiery is made in quantity and quality never dreamed of beneath this humble roof. But the workers who wrought here were artisans of the highest order and by their genius helped to found the industry that bears the name of the town they loved and honored.
There are many Ipswich folk who can tell the visitor many interesting stories of the old days.
It is easy to smile at the fashions of sixty years ago, but what would the people of 1860 have had to say about the fashions of 1922? We can imagine that they would have done more than smile at some of the new ideas the designers of women’s dress have developed. Of one thing we may be sure, a belle of 1860 was beautifully dressed and took the keenest interest in whatever went to make up her costume.
There was a tendency to dress more to fit one’s position in society than there is today. “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” the leading women s magazine of that period, is filled with advice on dress and information regarding the selection of appropriate and becoming wearing apparel. So much material was required in those days and every skirt, cloak, mantilla, and talma could be of such rich goods that perhaps it is just as well that women of today wear less.
Hosiery is almost never mentioned in books on the styles of this period, probably because it was so little seen, although we know that the finest of silk and other material was used in knitting the handmade stockings.