The ordinary hosiery of that time which was of cotton and wool, was in plain and rib styles. The rib hose was knitted in long double lengths which after being cut into proper lengths of the stocking were transferred to other machines where the foot was made. The machines for footing were of two styles, a rotary frame, which was a large hand frame driven by power, and a more modern machine made by Walter Aiken at Lake- N. H.
Because of the inability of these machines to take care of the excess product it was given out to men who had previously manufactured hosiery of their own account. They had shops adjoining their dwellings and employed from four to six workers who knitted the feet or ”footed” as it was called. The yarn and legs of the stockings were furnished by the mill and the footed hose and waste material returned.
The feet of the hose were in two parts, a sole and instep. It was necessary to join these together along the sides and across the toes, as well as close the bottom of the leg. Part of this work was done on looping machines at the mill, but the greater part was sent outside to be done by needle work. Much of this footing was sent to Portsmouth, N. H., Elliot and Biddeford, Maine, to be distributed among farmers’ wives and daughters. This hand work was gradually superseded by footing, heeling and seaming machines and later by the automatic seamless knitting machines. In fact, so rapid has been the hosiery machine development that during the past thirty years modern mills require new machine outfits every five years.
The late Mr. Amory A. Lawrence often told the story of how Ipswich Hose stopped the great Boston fire of 1872. The office of Lawrence and Co., selling agents of the mill, was at 13 Chauncy Street, and Mr. Lawrence was junior partner of the firm. During the height of the fire, when the tired firemen were drenched to the skin, Mr. Lawrence called a number into the office and gave each one two pairs of dry Ipswich stockings. The news spread and many more firemen came in for dry foot wear. Suddenly flames were seen in the elevator shaft and the firemen, appreciating their gift, turned with renewed vigor and put the fire out. This chart shows that 13 Chauncy Street stands out as a corner in the fire area as if some super effort were made to protect that building.
In 1869 Mr. Lawrence purchased the Gilmanton Mills at Belmont, N. H., and they were run with common management but under two separate corporations until about 1909 when they were combined into one mill. This served as a department of the Ipswich Mills until 1921 when it was sold to certain local interests.