Abstract

Based in Ware, Massachusetts, a nationally known family business that made high-grade woolen flannels. Includes employee recruitment documents, labor contracts, labor accounts, wage payment books, contracts and insurance material about the property, buildings, machinery, and stock, business correspondence, bills and receipts, company cash books, and lists of sales and orders. Also contains personal records of finances and activities of Charles Stevens and the Gilbert family, production records, department expenses, stock inventories, forms, advertisements from various companies, and notices posted in the factories and tenements concerning company rules and regulations. Charles A. Stevens was George H. Gilbert's original partner.

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English
Special Collections & University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries
154 Hicks Way
Amherst, Mass. 01003-9275
413-545-2780
George H. Gilbert Co. Records
1842-1931
26 boxes and 126 volumes (36 linear ft.)
Call no.: MS 96

Background on George H. Gilbert Co.

In 1841, George H. Gilbert and Charles A. Stevens formed a partnership to manufacture broadcloth and cloakings in Ware, Massachusetts. The partners acquired a mill building on the Ware River and expanded in 1846-1847 erecting several new factory buildings and a number of tenements to house the growing population of workers.

The partnership, known as Gilbert and Stevens, dissolved in 1851, with each of the partners taking one of the business products. The newly formed George H. Gilbert Company continued the making of high-grade woolen flannels, for which it developed a national reputation. The company exhibited goods at the London Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851 and at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 among others. The firm, however, remained a family business. In 1850, Lewis N. Gilbert joined his uncle's firm, establishing himself as a prominent Ware resident and eventually a member of the State Senate in 1877-1878. J.H. Gilbert, the son of George, joined the company in the 1870's. He eventually rose to be president of the company and stayed until the company closed in 1930. In addition, J.H. Grenville Gilbert helped found the Young Men's Library Association of Ware, and was also president of the Ware Savings Bank.

In 1860, the Gilbert Co. expanded into neighboring Worcester County, acquiring a mill and building tenements in what came to be known as Gilbertville in the Southwest corner of Hardwick. By the turn of the century, the Gilbert Company employed more than 1,000 people in its two factory complexes.

From the beginning, the Gilbert Company operated under the family (or Slater) system common to rural textile mills. Entire families were recruited for mill employment and kin networks continued to serve as an informal method of labor recruitment into the twentieth century, even as the ethnicity of the workforce shifted from Irish to French-Canadian (1870) to Polish (1900's).

The company began to experience financial problems in the 1920's, a full five years before the Great Depression. Woolen manufacturers in the region began to slowly lose business to Southern competitors. A series of wage reductions and three-day schedules for employees could not revive the company as the continued slump of the wholesale woolen market finally caused the company to close its Ware plant in 1929. Shortly thereafter, the company closed its Gilbertville complex, bringing to an end almost 90 years of continuous operation.

The George H. Gilbert Company records were originally acquired by the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts from the custody of the Smith Council of Industrial Studies. In 1984, the records were transferred to the Springfield Public Library from which they were sent to the University of Massachusetts in 1986.

Hardwick was among the five Western Massachusetts towns abolished in 1938 to allow the Swift River Valley to be flooded, thereby creating the Quabbin Reservoir to provide Boston with water.

Contents of Collection

The records have been arranged into seven series, as follows: Legal and Property, 1844-1879, 1 box, Executive, 1848-1882, 15 boxes, Financial, 1848-1929, 2 boxes and 17 volumes, Sales, 1842-1909, 5 boxes and 1 volume, Labor, 1851-1931, 1 box and 53 volumes, Production, 1846-1930, 1 box and 54 volumes, and Miscellany, 1848-1920, 1 box and 1 volume.

Organization of the Collection
Series descriptions

Includes contracts with masons, carpenters, painters, and suppliers of materials for the construction of mill buildings and tenements, principally in Ware (1844-1847) and in Gilbertville (1860-1861). Among the local contractors used were Edward Estey, Lorenzo Fairbanks, Anthony Collins, Eaton & Davis, Thomas Bixley, and Samuel Sprague. Two folders on employee matters document recruitment, labor contracts (particularly for supervisors and skilled hands), and the legal problems of employees. One folder of insurance material contains sketches of property and buildings and surveys of the values of property, machinery and stock. Also contained in this series is a folder of correspondence between Charles Stevens and Artemus Lee concerning the proposed route of the Boston and Maine Railroad through Ware and Hardwick (1851), documents concerning the purchase of the mill in Gilbertville (1860), a legal opinion on damage caused by a dam on the Ware River, and the purchase rights to use a patented machine (1866).

Routine business correspondence of the company from 1849 to 1882. Among the topics are sales, shipments, orders, insurance, employment opportunities, and purchases of machinery, supplies, and wool. Among companies for which there is considerable correspondence are Davis and Farber (North Andover), the Rodney Hunt Co. (Orange), Renfrew Manufacturing Co. (Adams), and Litchfield and Co. (Southbridge). Also there is considerable correspondence with commission agents, including Farnham, Gilbert and Co.; Faulkner, Kimball and Co.; and the Troy Wool Depot.

Includes early bills and receipts, company cash books (1854-1859, 1882-1900), petty cash books, an early receipt book, two volumes of wool purchases (1849-1851), and ledgers from the first and last decades of the George H. Gilbert Co.

1842-1909

Lists of sales of flannels and cassimeres from the Gilbert and Stevens partnership (1842-1853), orders (1862-1863 and 1904-1909), and sketches of sales by Farnham, Gilbert, & Co. (1866-1877), the commission agents used by the Gilbert Co.

1851-1931

Four volumes of early labor accounts (1851-1863, 1872-1884) documenting monthly and weekly wages in the various departments, thirty-four volumes of weavers' accounts spanning 1874 to 1928, scattered volumes of accounts for labor in the "burling" and "drawing-in" departments, five volumes of wage payment books (1908-1911), one box of miscellaneous labor accounts for transportation with Barney Snow and repair work, and one volume of paymaster notices, which detail the names and rates of pay for new employees (1918-1930).

Time books spanning 1885 to 1930, production cost calculations (1889-1905), working estimates of expenses (1889-1905), three volumes of production order samples (with the cloth stapled into the volume), one box of department expenses (1917-1930) and stock inventories (1846-1850), nine volumes of weave-room production records (1879-1895), and three volumes of yarn prices (1904-1909).

Includes advertisements and by-laws from various companies, exhibit forms and correspondence, and some material concerning the personal finances and activities of Charles Stevens and the Gilbert family. Also included is a stationery sample book which, in addition to samples of letterhead and forms used by the company, contains notices posted in the factory and tenements concerning company rules and regulations.

Collection inventory
Series 1. Legal and Property
1844-1879

Contracts for Buildings and Supplies
1844-1861

Box 1: 1-5
Employee Matters
1848 (1860-1879)

Box 1: 6-7
Insurance
1847-1851

Box 1: 8
Legal Opinion
n.d.

Box 1: 9
Patent Permission
1866

Box 1: 10
Property Purchase (Gilbertville)
1860

Box 1: 11
Railroad Correspondence
1851

Box 1: 12
Series 2. Executive
1849-1882

Correspondence
1849-1856

Box 2: 1-8
Correspondence
1857-1862

Box 3: 9-16
Correspondence
1863-1867

Box 4: 17-23
Correspondence
1868-1869

Box 5: 24-28
Correspondence
1869-1871

Box 6: 29-34
Correspondence
1871

Box 7: 35-40
Correspondence
1872-1873

Box 8: 41-46
Correspondence
1873-1874

Box 9: 47-53
Correspondence
1874

Box 10: 54-58
Correspondence
1875

Box 11: 59-64
Correspondence
1875-1876

Box 12: 65-69
Correspondence
1876-1877

Box 13: 70-74
Correspondence
1877

Box 14: 75-79
Correspondence
1879-1881

Box 15: 80-85
Correspondence
1882

Box 16: 86-88
Series 3. Financial
1848-1929

Bills and Receipts
1848-1850

Box 17: 1-5
Bills and Receipts
1851-1861

Box 18: 6-13
Cashbook B
1854-1859

Box 18: v. 1
Cashbook C-G
1882-1900

Box 18: v. 2-6
Petty Cash
1897-1910

Box 18: v. 7-10
Petty Cash
1921-1924

Box 18: v. 11
Receipt Book
1851-1859

Box 18: v. 12
Wool Purchases
1849-1851

Box 18: v. 13-14
Ledger
1851-1864

Box 18: v. 15
Ledger
1920-1929

Box 18: v. 16-17
Series 4. Sales
1842-1909

Sales of Cassimeres
1842-1853

Box 19: 1-25
Sales of Flannels
1843-1853

Box 20: 26-52
Orders
1862-1863

Box 21: 53-54
Sales Sketches
1866-1870, 1874

Box 22: 55-59
Sales Sketches
1875-1877, 1897

Box 23: 60-63
Orders
1904-1909

Box 23: v. 19
Series 5. Labor
1851-1931

Labor Accounts
1851-1863

Box 23: v. 20-21
Labor Accounts
1872-1884

Box 23: v. 22-23
Weavers Accounts
1874-1910

Box 23: v. 24-55
Weavers Accounts
1922

Box 23: v. 56
Weavers Accounts
1928

Box 23: v. 57
Drawing-in Accounts
1898-1916

Box 23: v. 58-64
Burling Accounts
1929-1930

Box 23: v. 65
Wage Payment Books (mills #1-3, weave sheds, B & C
1908-1911

Box 23: v. 66-70
Miscellaneous Labor Accounts


Box 24
Transportation
1858-1862

Box 24: 1-3
Labor Prices
1861

Box 24: 4
Accounts with John Goodwin
1882-1883

Box 24: 5
Accounts with R.T. Lee
1924-1931

Box 24: 6
Repair Shop Accounts
1922-1930

Box 24: 7
Paymaster Notices
1918-1930

Box 24: v. 71
Series 6. Production
1846-1930

Time Books
1885-1930

Box 24: v. 72-107
Production Cost Records
1889-1905

Box 24: v. 108-109
Working Estimates
1889-1896

Box 24: v. 110
Production Order Samples
1877-1878

Box 24: v. 111-113
Department expenses (includes: Dyehouse, Dyestuffs, Yard Supplies, Repair Shop, Finishing, Postage, Weave Room, & Engine Room)
1917-1930

Box 25: 1-9
Stock Inventory
1846-1850

Box 25: 10-14
Weave-Room Production Records
1879-1895

Box 25: v. 114-122
Yarn Prices
1904-1909

Box 25: v. 123-125
Series 7. Miscellany
1848-1920

Advertisements (other companies)
1857-1877

Box 26: 1
By-Laws (other companies)
1868

Box 26: 2
Centennial Exhibit Forms
1875-1876

Box 26: 3
Construction Specifications
n.d.

Box 26: 4
House Specifications
1853

Box 26: 5
London Fair Exhibit Forms
1851

Box 26: 6
Personal Expenses - Charles Stevens
1848

Box 26: 7
Personal Finances - Gilbert Family
1959-1962

Box 26: 8
Personal Matters
1869-1876

Box 26: 9
Stationery Sample Book
c1890-1920

Box 26: v. 126
Shipping receipts


Box 26: 10
Shipping receipts


Box 26: 11
Administrative information
Provenance

Acquired from Springfield Public Library, 1986.

The George H. Gilbert Company records were originally acquired by the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts from the custody of the Smith Council of Industrial Studies. In 1984, the records were transferred to the Springfield Public Library from which they were sent to the University of Massachusetts in 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, July 1985.

Acknowledgments

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: George H. Gilbert Co. Records (MS 96). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms
Subjects
  • Gilbertville (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century--Sources.
  • Textile manufacturers--Massachusetts.
  • Ware (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century--Sources.
Names
  • George H. Gilbert Co.