The machine-made hosiery was not fine enough to suit the more fastidious ladies of 1860 and therefore we find them refusing to purchase the stockings. This attitude on the part of the buying public had its effects on the development of the industry and for some years the manufacture of hosiery at Ipswich was carried on in but a small way.
The woman of fashion preferred the imported article or else the product of her own needles, the machine being insufficiently developed to produce a fine texture.
In the years from 1860 to 1870 we read of another step forward in the manufacture of hosiery at Ipswich. In 1863 several progressive citizens of the town organized a company and built a mill for the making of yarn, which business was carried on successfully for about five years.
At the end of that time the directors of the company decided that instead of simply making yarn for other people to knit hosiery they could, by putting in machines carry on the whole process themselves. So in 1868 the additional equipment was installed, and the making of hosiery begun, and the factory system developed.
That able historian of Ipswich, the late Rev. Thomas W. Waters, states that the most skilful workers earned twelve dollars a week. We are to infer that this was a high wage, but most anyone will admit that a dollar, like the hosiery, could be stretched further in those days than now.
Of course the machines in this plant were run by power, but the company also furnished work to three additional small shops whose proprietors each employed a few skilled operatives who worked on hand frames.
It was also in these years of the great Rebellion that ”Manning’s Mills” at Willowdale, near Ipswich, turned out over 55,000 pairs of socks for the army.
It is interesting in any account of the history of hosiery to note the change of styles in other articles of wearing apparel and in turning back the pages of history to 1860, we come to the time when the textile manufacturers of the day must have had to work overtime to supply material for the dresses of the fair sex.
It was the heyday of crinoline and voluminous dresses whose wearers had to watch their step to avoid collisions and who were always meeting with mishaps when they attempted to pass through a narrow door or crowded aisle.
In the old print reproduced on this page a gallant of the period is about to give a young lady of fashion what was then “a wonderful time,” a boat ride on the lake. Just how she will get her skirt into the boat and whether there will be room for both the swain and the skirt are matters for conjecture.
As she steps daintily into the boat she modestly displays just a bit of plain white hose in what was a very daring bit of exposure for that day.
In 1868 the mills at Ipswich had expanded beyond their capital facilities, and Mr. Amos A. Lawrence, then of the firm of Lawrence & Co., of Boston purchased the Ipswich Mills from the Heard family for $70,000 transferring them to the Ipswich Mills Company.
Mr. Lawrence wrote in January, 1868, as follows:
”I am starting up my mill at Ipswich again, which has been stopped for a few weeks. This attempt to manufacture cotton stockings by machinery, so that they can be sold at $1.50 per dozen, has caused me to lose not less than $100 a day for eight hundred days—$80,000—yet I am not discouraged though I feel the loss very much.” The company had been unfortunate in its Superintendent and the losses had been so great that Mr. Lawrence was on the verge of abandoning the enterprise, when a young Nottingham manufacturer, Mr. Everard H. Martin was chosen Superintendent, and for many years he well assisted in the transitional stage of stocking manufacturing.