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Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co. records

1935-1961
 Collection
Accession: 1440

Abstract

Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company began operation in 1831 as a cotton cloth manufacturer in Rockford, Delaware. After the Civil War, the company concentrated on finishing cotton cloth. In later years it became famous for its Ban-lon artificial fiber but eventually withdrew from manufacturing in favor of licensing its processes and trademarks to other companies. The records consist of miscellaneous correspondence and reports, possibly from W. Ralph MacIntyre (1897-1984), president. The records include research reports and notebooks on dyeing, bleaching, printing, and finishing of fabrics.

Dates

  • 1935-1961

Creator

Extent

11 Linear Feet

Historical Note

Joseph Bancroft (1803-1874) began manufacturing cotton cloth at a small mill in Rockford, Delaware, just north of Wilmington, on March 25, 1831. The mill was built to take advantage of the Brandywine River's water power, and Bancroft adopted the traditional British spinning and weaving technology for use in his operation. The firm expanded steadily during the 1830s and 1840s as it began to produce cotton for both the Philadelphia and New York markets. In the late 1840s, Joseph Bancroft brought his two sons, William Bancroft (1825-1928) and Samuel Bancroft (1840-1915), into the business, assuring that the company would remain a family enterprise. During the Civil War, when the American market was largely closed to English imports, the Bancroft firm, like most other U.S. textile companies, prospered. After the war, the company developed a new bleaching process and began to concentrate on finishing cotton cloth. The firm was incorporated as the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company on October 1, 1889.

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 cotton 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 (1910-2004). 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 Contents

The Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company records consist of miscellaneous correspondence and reports, possibly from the files of W. Ralph MacIntyre (1897-1984), president of the company from 1947 to 1963. The records include research reports and notebooks on the dyeing, bleaching, printing, and finishing of fabrics, particularly waterproof, mildew-proof, creaseproof, and fireproof finishes and the flameproofing of Army clothing. There is also correspondence with representatives of Bancroft-Brillotex Textil do Brasil, S.A. in Brazil.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

These records are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at askhagley@hagley.org

Related Materials

Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company records (Accession 736), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Bancroft Family papers (Accession 1115), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company memoranda books (Accession 1400), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company licensing records (Accession 1359-II), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Bancroft Family miscellany (Accession 1672), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Joseph Bancroft letterbook (Accession 1708), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Bancroft Family Business papers (Accessions 1736 and 1745), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Bancroft Mills miscellany (Accession 2448), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Bancroft, Eddystone, Simpson miscellany (Accession 940), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co. records
Status:
Author:
John Beverly Riggs
Date:
1978
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400