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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss: 526 1843-1933

Whitin Machine Works additional records

Additional records of the Northbridge, Massachusetts textile manufacturing and textile machinery firm Whitin Machine Works includes correspondence, financial records and labor and payroll records, 1830-1977.

Dates

  • 1830-1977

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Extent

238.50 linear feet (165 boxes, 123 cartons, 233 volumes)

The records relate to the history, development, and growth of Whitin and consist of: general correspondence, comptroller’s correspondence, deeds, agreements, patents, patent research library, meeting minutes, machine and equipment improvement records, reports, studies, proposals, tax records, financial records, payroll records, annual reports, accounts receivable and accounts payable records, cash books, purchase order records, sales journals, sales orders, sales information memos, analyses, and production inventory records. Also included are various business records relating to entities either purchased or operated by Whitin including Whitin Business Equipment Corp. (Whitin BEC), Whitin of Canada, Ltd., Whitin Capital Corp., Whitin Kohorn Company, Harvey-Wells Electronics, Providence Machine Company, Fayscott Landis Machine, Holyoke Machine Shop, Woonsocket Machine Press, Whitinsville Golf Club, and the Blue Eagle Inn.

Biographical / Historical

In 1809, Paul Whitin, was involved with others in establishing a spinning mill, the Northbridge Cotton Manufacturing Company, in Northbridge, MA, Whitinsville being one of several villages of that town. Whitinsville had previously been known as South Northbridge, but was renamed in 1835. Eventually, the Whitins assumed total control of the Northbridge in 1833. In 1815 another small mill was erected with Fletcher family members, but in 1826 Paul Whitin bought out his partners and formed a new partnership with his own sons, Paul Jr. and John C. under the name, P. Whitin & Sons. In that same year, a new Brick Mill for spinning and weaving was built for which Paul Jr. handled the financial affairs while John C. managed day to day affairs and machine repair. Soon after Paul Sr.’s death in 1831, his widow and sole heir, Betsey Whitin, became an official partner in the business with her sons Paul Whitin, Jr., John Crane Whitin, and Charles Pickney Whitin. Later, in 1847, another son, James Fletcher Whitin would join his brothers and mother as a partner; the fifth son, Nathaniel Draper Whitin, a farmer, and a daughter, Margaret, did not become involved in the business. In 1845, a new and much larger factory was constructed, the Whitinsville Cotton Mill, and Charles P. was put in charge.

In the meantime, John C. Whitin, who had been running the machine shop, had developed and built a improved mechanized cotton picker, for which he received a patent in 1832, the first of over 400 patents that Whitin Machine Works would be issued. This superior and lucrative machine, was the basis for the fortunes of the Whitin Machine Works. Due to the resulting increase in the machinery end of the business which was located in the Brick Mill, a new building was erected in 1847 and an addition was added in 1864. From 1860-1863, the brothers also operated the Holyoke Machine Shop in Holyoke, MA. In 1864, P. Whitin & Sons dissolved. The family businesses were divided; Paul Jr. received the Rockdale and Riverdale Mills which were incorporated as the Paul Whitin Manufacturing Co. in 1870; Charles P. received the Whitinsville Cotton Mill and the Brick Mill as well as the East Douglas mill (Douglas Manufacturing Co.); John C. acquired the machine shop and the Northbridge mill; and James F. received the Crown and Eagle Mill of North Uxbridge which had been acquired in 1849 and the real estate and privilege occupied by the Linwood Mill.

John C. obtained a charter to incorporate as the Whitin Machine Works in 1868 and the first meeting of the new company was held in Jan. 1870 with John C. as the principal shareholder. Shortly thereafter, John C. retired, leaving the running of the Machine Works to his son-in-law and treasurer, Josiah Lasell (in charge of business operations) and Gustavus Taft (in charge of products and manufacturing). Together, they managed the company until 1882, when John C. died and Lasell took over the presidency. Lasell died in 1886. In the meantime, the Works continued to expand with buildings added in 1884 (Shop #3), 1899 (Shop #4), 1908 (Shop #5), and in 1923 (Shop #6) the year in which Charles P. Whitin sold his cotton mill to the Machine Works, ending the manufacture of textiles in Whitinsville..

George Marston Whitin, grandson of Paul, Jr., served as treasurer from 1886 to 1920; his wife Catherine was the daughter of Josiah Lasell. E. Kent Swift, the Assistant Treasurer, was elected to succeed George in January 1920; he served as treasurer until 1947 and was also appointed Chairman of the Board in 1946, a position he held until July 17, 1959. Swift guided Whitin through the textile industry’s depression of the 1920s and kept the company fully employed during World War II and the busy post-war period. J. Hugh Bolton was named president in 1946, and served until the early 1960s. Whitin Machine Works, once one of the largest producers in the world of textile machinery and tools merged with White Consolidated Industries in 1966, and operations moved South in 1967. In the early 1980s Whitin merged with the Roberts Co. of Sanford, NC and went into bankruptcy several years later. The company was bought by Derrick Smith shortly thereafter and operated until 2004 when it went into bankruptcy once again. It reorganized as American Performance Industries (API), Sanford, NC but has no connection to the manufacture of textile machine parts.

Other significant landmarks in Whitin’s history include creating an employee village of over 1,500 homes in Whitinsville beginning in the 1890’s; establishing plants in Whitinsville and Charlotte, N.C. (in 1932) that employed over 4500 employees and manufactured over 70 different lines of machinery covering all phases of making yarns from fibers; establishing Whitin International Ltd. in 1953 to serve the international product line and handle licensing; acquiring Fayscott Landis Machine, Dexter, ME in 1947 and 1959; acquiring Harvey-Wells Electronics, Inc., makers of precision instruments and devices in the 1950s; acquiring American Type Founders, Elizabeth, NJ, in 1959; acquiring Foster Machine, Westfield, MA in 1962; acquiring J.D. Ferry, Harrisburg, PA in 1963.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into nine series: Series I. Organization and Administration Records, 1910-1965; Series II. Executive Records, 1920-1963; Series III. Financial Records, 1885-1972; Series IV. Purchasing Records, 1895-1955; Series V. Sales Records, 1863-1966; Series VI. Production Records, 1901-1949, 1962; Series VII. Labor Records, 1879-1977; Series VIII. Subsidiaries Records, 1847-1964; and Series IX. Miscellany, 1885-1958.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Whitin Machine Works additional records were a gift of the American Textile History Museum of Lowell, Mass., in 2017.
The Whitin Machine Works were previously held by the former American Textile History Museum (ATHM) of Lowell, Mass., which permanently closed in 2017. While at the ATHM, the collection was cited as follows: Whitin Machine Works, Whitinsville, MA: Records (1830-1977), MS 0022.563. Osborne Library, American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA. The ATHM acquired the Whitin Machine Works collection in December 1985 as a gift of the ATF-Davidson Company, Whitinsville, Mass.

Related Materials

Whitin Machine Works records, 1843-1960.

Processing Information

Processed: April 2018 By: Baker Library Special Collections Staff
Processing Information There are frequent date gaps in many of the records; additionally, some records are available for certain time periods only. An example of this is in Series I., where there are Board of Directors meeting minutes, 1961-1965, but no Minutes before or after that date.
Link to catalog
Title
Whitin Machine Works. Whitin Machine Works Additional Records, 1830-1977: A Finding Aid
Author
Baker Library
Description rules
dacs
EAD ID
bak00459

Repository Details

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

Baker Library Special Collections 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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