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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:442 1854-1927 L986

Lyman Mills records


Records of Lyman Mills, a Holyoke, Mass., manufacturer of cotton textiles, 1833-1936.


  • Creation: 1833-1936
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1854-1927


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some materials may be stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact for more information.


201 linear feet (964 volumes, 235 boxes, 81 cartons)

The collection is a fairly comprehensive set of company records from founding to liquidation, and is especially strong in payroll and production records including over 200 volumes of complete payroll records from 1850 to 1928, registers of employees from 1849 to 1899, time books of the various mill departments from 1852 to 1898, rent rolls and tenement records from 1850 to 1927, and accident notices from 1889 to 1927. The collection also includes a series of documents concerning the importation of women to work in the mills from 1853 to 1859. There are letters, indentures, receipts for passage paid, and advertisements of packet lines, as well as lists of immigrants. There are also directors and stockholders records, administrative records, journals, insurance accounts, ledgers, invoices, cash books, property reports and appraisals, and extensive files of correspondence.

The majority of its workers were women and girls. At the turn of the century, Lyman Mills stretched for an eighth of a mile and employed 1200 people, many of them Irish and French Canadian immigrants. The mill was noted for its good labor relations, giving employees small raises to avoid the strikes occurring in Lawrence, Fall River, and other textile manufacturing centers in Massachusetts. Lyman Mills was liquidated in 1927 while still profitable by investors anxious to realize a profit on the company's substantial assets.

The correspondence files include substantial correspondence between Lyman Mills and Minot, Hooper and Company, selling agents. Letters of George Lyman, G. L. Lyman, F. H. Story, J. K. Mills, S. L. Bush, Theophilus Parsons and Ernest Lovering are found in the treasurers' files. Agents' letters include those of William Melcher, Stephen Holman, J. S. Davis. J. W. Lovering, George H. Hills, James A. Burke and Theophilus Parsons.

Included in the collection are records of the Hadley Falls Company as well as papers relating to the Holyoke Water Power Company, which succeeded the Hadley Falls Company; letterbooks of the Deane Power Company (1896-1897) and an account book of the Springfield Canal Company (1833-1846).

Historical Note:

Lyman Mills, a textile mill in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was established in 1854 when the Boston-based directors of the Hadley Falls Company (established in 1832) decided to divide the firm into two separate corporations. The textile manufacturing arm was named Lyman Mills. The Hadley Falls Company continued to handle water power, machine shop and real estate operations. Although they were separate companies, Lyman Mills and the Hadley Falls Company had many officers and stockholders in common. George W. Lyman, for example, served as treasurer of both firms.

The Hadley Falls Company, its credit less secure than before the split, did not survive the Panic of 1857. It failed in 1859 and its property was sold at auction. It was succeeded by the Holyoke Water Power Company. Lyman Mills prospered, despite economic fluctuations that at times necessitated cutbacks and occasionally a temporary shutdown of one or both of its two mills. It produced coarse goods such as shirtings, sheetings and heavy yarn, but its greater success came from the manufacture of fine lawns, fancy-dress goods and drills. A third mill was built in 1873, with another expansion taking place in 1891.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Lyman Mills' physical plant stretched for an eighth of a mile along prime mill sites; the company was the largest taxpayer in the city of Holyoke and employed over 1200 people. In addition to American-born workers, Irish immigrants were a large part of the labor force in Holyoke as early as 1850. In 1859 a labor shortage led to the first group of French Canadians being recruited to work in the mills.

Though Lyman Mills escaped the labor battles being fought in places such as Lawrence and Fall River, the directors responded to strikes elsewhere by giving their own workers a small increase. James Burke, who became agent in 1907, was a local man who had worked his way up through the mill ranks. This probably contributed to the relatively good relations between labor in Holyoke and management in Boston.

Lyman Mills continued to earn money for its stockholders even when changes in fabrics and styles required that machinery be remodeled in 1914 and 1915. It survived the post-World War I economic slump in good condition, having successfully kept inventory low and prevented the cancellation of contracts. While the coarse-goods mill was hurt by southern competition, the fine-goods mill was still profitable when the company was dissolved in 1927.

Liquidation of the firm began in 1927 and was complete in 1936. According to Constance McLaughlin Green in Holyoke Massachusetts: A Case History of the Industrial Revolution in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939), the liquidation of Lyman Mills was not due to lack of profits but instead resulted from the "eagerness of a group of stockholders to realize completely upon the substantial assets of the company... The move was probably initiated by men who had lost money when the Dwight Mills in Chicopee were closed up in 1922. When investigation of the financial status of the Lyman Mills revealed that over $200 could be netted on each $100 par value share of stock, stockholders were anxious to get their money out." (p238n)

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series A.Administrative records, 1848-1936
  2. Series B.Journals, 1854-1933
  3. Series C.Ledgers, 1850-1928
  4. Series D.Cash books, 1854-1933
  5. Series E.Insurance, 1884-1925
  6. Series F.Notes payable and receivable, 1858-1928
  7. Series G.Trial balances, 1865-1899
  8. Series H.Bills, 1850-1853
  9. Series K.Purchase and supply records, 1852-1928
  10. Series L.Production and employment records, 1849-1927
  11. Series M.Production records, 1854-1928
  12. Series N.Sales records, 1858-1927
  13. Series O.Forms, circa 1880s- circa 1890s
  14. Series P.Correspondence, 1854-1928
  15. Series R.Samples, n.d., 1879-1930
  16. Series S.Stephen Holman papers, n.d., 1847-1858
  17. Series T.Deane Steam Pump Company, Holyoke, Mass., 1896-1897
  18. Series U.Milo T. Crum, 1881-1885
  19. Series W.Springfield Canal Company, 1833-1846

Physical Location



Gift of Lyman Mills, 1928, 1930, 1933, 1958


Samples of cloth manufactured by Lyman Mills were deaccessioned and sent to the Museum of American Textile History in North Andover, Massachusetts.



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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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