Randolph Manufacturing Company Interior

Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Before we leave the east end of Franklinville, here’s my only interior view of the 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company mill.

It’s the spinning room, but the weave room boss, Oliver York, is the mustachioed gent second from the left.   Mr. York must be visiting for the photographer, either George Russell, the superintendent of the upper mill, or “Jack” Parks (Hugh Parks Jr.), the son of the mill owner, both of whom were amateur photographers at the time.

The spinning room ran the length of the 2nd floor of the longest section of the building, between the stair tower and the river.  The weave room was on the first floor, below, as was common in every factory (looms vibrated, and hundreds of looms running in sync vibrated enough to shake a building down, unless they were situated on the lowest floors).

The spinning frames were manufactured by the Lowell Machine Shop, one of the oldest makers of American textile machinery.  The company began as the in-house machine shop of the Merrimack Mfg. Co. in Lowell, Mass., and later merged with the Saco Mfg. Co. of Biddeford, Maine, to become Saco-Lowell.   These are “ring spinning” frames, a technology invented in the 1820s but not embraced by manufacturers until the 1850s.  Early spinning frames used revolving “flyers” to draw the yarn out into thinner and thinner lenghts, and to build cones on a bobbin, and were called “throstles” because the high-speed whirring sounded like birds.  Ring spinning replaced the flyer with a tiny steel ring, or “traveller,” which slipped over the yarn and created a drag when it ballooned out while spinning.  Doffing full bobbins and replacing the travellers were common jobs in the spinning room.  The buggies in the foreground are full of bobbins.

The machinery is being powered by a system of overhead shafts and pulleys, connected by ropes on the far end to the water wheel and steam engine, and by leather belts to the actual spinning frames.  Hanging from hooks along the center row of wooden columns are metal fire buckets full of sand.  The mill had its own electric dynamo from its construction in 1895, but the single clear light bulbs hanging from individual wires throughout the room are almost lost among all the power shafts and pulleys.  Sprinklers and humidification pipes aren’t yet visible, but would be installed by World War I.

The amount of lint on the floor gives an idea how dusty a spinning room always was, but nothing can show the usual high noise level of the spinning room, or the even more deafening sound of the weave room.  At the time of the photo, obviously, the room would be quiet– all the machinery has stopped, shown by the fact that the pulleys aren’t blurred by motion.

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