Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company engineering sketches1912-1966
A small sample of engineering sketch sheets from a large Wilmington, Delaware, cotton textile and textile finishing firm.
- Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co (Organization)
1 Linear Foot
Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company was incorporated in Delaware on October 1, 1889 as the successor to the partnership of Joseph Bancroft & Sons. Joseph Bancroft (1803-1874), and English Quaker, had established at cotton textile factory on the Brandywine Creek at Rockford, in the northwestern corner of present-day Wilmington in 1831. The business remained in the Bancroft family for 130 years.
The company purchased the Kentmere Mills adjoining their property on the east in 1895 and concentrated manufacturing there, while the old Rockford property was devoted to bleaching, dyeing and finishing. In 1910, the Bancrofts purchased a third plant at Reading, Pennsylvania, and incorporated the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of Pennsylvania on May 28, 1911. Subsequently, all manufacture was concentrated at Reading, with the Wilmington facilities devoted to bleaching, dyeing and finishing. In the spring of 1925, the Bancrofts purchased a controlling interest in the Eddystone Manufacturing Company, another cotton manufacturer, and secured 100% control in 1929. The Eddystone Plant was converted entirely to the printing of cottons and linens, and a rayon finishing plant was installed there in 1930.
As new synthetic yarns came into use, Bancroft expanded into those fields. In 1936, it established its Research Department at Wilmington under Dr. Arnold L. Lippert. Its first success was trademarked as "Everglaze," originally the production of a durable finish on glazed chintz, but later used to create permanent-press fabrics. Bancroft began a program of licensing its patents and trademarks in 1938. In 1953, it purchased the rights to a process for crimping yarn from Alexander Smith, Inc. and successfully applied it to nylon to create "Ban-Lon," which became popular for outerwear, swimsuits, sweaters and hose. "Ban-Lon" and "Everglaze" were the mainstays of the company in its later years.
Around 1947, Bancroft acquired two additional companies, Wm. Simpson, Sons & Co., a converter, and Albert D. Smith & Company, Inc., which had been Bancroft's sales agent for book cloth, window shade cloth and industrial fabrics, and which they also manufactured on their own account. However, Bancroft remained primarily a finishing company, and as such, found it harder to compete with large, vertically-integrated textile companies. It liquidated its manufacturing operations at Reading in 1957.
By 1960, the Research Department, which handled both research and licensing of products and trademarks developed by Bancroft, was the only viable part of the business. The company considered changing the name of the parent firm to Joseph Bancroft & Sons Research Company and spinning off the manufacturing units to a new subsidiary for a tax loss. When this proved too risky, the entire business was sold, and Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Head Mills, Inc., of Massachusetts in September 1961. With continued erosion of the Northeastern textile industry, the plant became increasingly unprofitable. Indian Head Mills, Inc., became a conglomerate called Indian Head Inc. in 1966, and the finishing plant was put up for sale in 1972. It was purchased by the Wilmington Finishing Company, composed mostly of Bancroft department heads, on June 4, 1973. Indian Head Inc. sold the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company, which by now was reduced to the licensing operation, to Beaunit Corporation in February 1975. Finishing at the Rockford site ended in 1981, and the plant was redeveloped as a condominium complex.
Scope and Content
The records consist of a single carton of sketch files salvaged from the office of the Engineering Department prior to the reconfiguring of the factory complex into a condominium community. They are mostly equipment parts drawn by company employees and others submitted by outside vendors.
This collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
These materials were salvaged from the abandoned factory site by the Historical Society of Delaware and later transferred to the Hagley Museum and Library because it owns the preponderance of Bancroft records.
- Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Joseph Bancroft & Sons engineering sketches
- Rainer Naus & Christopher T. Baer
- September 2016
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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