Joseph Bancroft & Sons, predecessors, and subsidiaries' records1813-1961
Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company began operation in 1831 as a cotton cloth manufacturer in Rockford, Delaware. After the American Civil War, the company concentrated on finishing cotton cloth, purchasing the Kentmere Mills adjoining their original site in 1895 and a third plant for manufacturing at Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1910. The company acquired another textile firm, the Eddystone Manufacturing Company, in 1925. This collection comprises records from both the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company and the Eddystone Manufacturing Company, along with records from several predecessors and subsidiaries. The Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company records trace the firm's history from 1831 through 1961, with the Managing Director's letter books, in particular, giving a very detailed picture of the company's operations. The records of the Eddystone Manufacturing Company and its predecessors are relatively complete and offer a good picture of a medium-sized textile firm that was typical of the mid-Atlantic states.
588 Linear Feet
Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company
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 producing cotton for the Philadelphia and New York markets. In the late 1840s, Joseph Bancroft brought his two sons, William (1825-1928) and Samuel (1840-1915), into the business, assuring that the company would remain a family enterprise. During the American Civil War, when the American market was largely closed to English imports, the Bancroft firm, like many 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 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 manufacturing 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 (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 its "Ban-Lon" brand, which became popular for outerwear, swimsuits, sweaters, and hose. "Ban-Lon" and "Everglaze" were the company's mainstays 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 parent firm's name 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 the 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.
Eddystone Manufacturing Company
William Simpson (1812-1888) began a textile mill in partnership with John Halliday (1810-1875) at the Falls of Schuylkill near Philadelphia in 1836. Born in Manchester, England, to Scottish parents, Simpson came from a family with a long association with textile printing. The family immigrated to Philadelphia in 1818, where John later became apprenticed to a wood block cutter and printer. He eventually went into business for himself in 1836, when, with his brother-in-law John Halliday, he purchased a small factory at the Falls of the Schuylkill and began printing silks. In 1837, after a financial panic, Halliday gave up his share in the business.
In 1842, Simpson partnered with Duncan McGregor (dates unknown), and they expanded the plant and started printing calicos. Although the partnership was initially successful, McGregor left the business in 1845 after the firm's debts had grown. Simpson continued as sole owner, and business conditions had greatly improved by 1848. In the late 1860s, his physician ordered Simpson to take a long sea voyage in hopes of improving his ill health. While he was away, his wife Maria Seville Simpson (1811-1897), continued running the firm.
After Simpson returned in better health, he brought in his two oldest sons, Thomas Simpson (1843-1884) and William Simpson, Jr. (1846-1896), into the business, forming the partnership of William Simpson & Sons in January 1869. The plant, by this point, was highly successful and known as "The Washington Print Works."
As plans began to form for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia of 1876, Simpson needed to move the business away from the Falls of the Schuylkill, as the Fairmount Park Commissioners intended to condemn and purchase the property to expand the exposition site. In 1872, the firm secured a site on the Delaware River at Ridley Creek, and the new plant built there was named "The Eddystone Print Works," after Thomas Simpson had seen the Eddystone Light off the coast of England. The Eddystone location offered plenty of open space for a large, steam-powered factory, in contrast to the constricted water power site at the Falls. Production began in 1874, and the Washington Print Works plant was dismantled in 1875.
In 1874, the firm formed a separate sales company under the name William Simpson, Sons & Company with all three partners and additional members. In 1877, William Simpson & Sons formed The Eddystone Manufacturing Company, Limited, to handle production. The original members of this new 20-year limited partnership were William Simpson, Maria Seville Simpson, Thomas Simpson, Thomas's wife Elizabeth Molten Simpson (1849-1908), William Simpson, Jr., and William's wife Emma Cordelia Morgan Simpson (1849-1919). William Simpson passed away in 1888, and in 1892, the parent firm of William Simpson & Sons dissolved due to the ill health of the remaining members. The sales company continued with organizational changes until acquired by Joseph Bancroft Sons & Company in 1947.
As the initial partnership term was coming to an end, the stockholders decided to form a corporation under the name The Eddystone Manufacturing Company, Inc., incorporated in 1895. The corporation operated until Joseph Bancroft and Sons Company acquired it in 1925. It became the Print Works Division of Joseph Bancroft Sons & Company in 1929. The corporate organization was maintained as a shell company until 1959.
The company expanded its product line several times to offer wide goods, percales, and draperies in 1896; custom printing in 1909; wash goods in 1915; and plissé and printed warps in 1922. The firm introduced its "Fast Color" line of dyed and printed cottons in 1924 and its "Everglaze" permanent glazed finish in 1937. Rayon processing began in 1929.
The other companies and persons represented in this collection each have separate historical or biographical notes at the record group level of this finding aid.
Scope and Contents
This collection comprises records from both the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company and the Eddystone Manufacturing Company, along with records from several predecessors and subsidiaries.
The Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company records trace the firm's history from 1831 through 1961. However, the pre-1865 records are quite fragmentary, consisting largely of real estate records and day books. Later records are found in Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company licensing records (Accession 1359).
Board of Directors and Executive Committee minute books and reports date from 1889, while records of the Operating, Advisory, and Real Estate Committees date from 1910. The Managing Director's letter books are virtually complete from 1862 to 1917 and give a detailed picture of the company's operations. The collection also includes sales, purchasing, and receiving records. Production records include expense analyses, cost books for labor and supplies, time books, wage records, and payroll sheets. There is considerable documentation on the company's paternalistic approach to labor relations, the operation of its company housing and store programs, as well as efforts by the Textile Workers Union of America to organize the mills in the 1930s and 1940s.
Records of subsidiary companies include those of the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of Pennsylvania and the Kepton Housing Company, operating cotton mills and company housing in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Arrestox Company was formed to manufacture and market new products developed by Bancroft's Research Deptartment. The Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of New York, Inc., Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of Canada, Banco, Incorporated, Rockford Company, and the Albert D. Smith & Company, Inc., were all sales companies.
The records of the Eddystone Manufacturing Company and its predecessors are relatively complete. They offer a good picture of a medium-sized textile firm that was typical of the mid-Atlantic states.
The records of the William Simpson family and their partnerships include partnership agreements, minutes, account books, sample books, family estate papers, a sketch of the life of William Simpson, Sr., a memo on firm history, and a typed copy of the 1836 letter of John Halliday to William Simpson, Sr., regarding the purchase of property at the Falls of Schuylkill.
The administrative records of the Eddystone Manufacturing Company include incorporation papers, charters, bylaws, directors' minutes (1877-1959), executive committee minutes (1943-1957); president's reports (1927-1933), reports of sales representatives (1934-1943) and treasurer's reports (1877-1903, 1927-1955). There are also deeds, mortgages and agreements, trademark and patent papers, and papers relating to the sale of the Eddystone & Delaware River Railroad Company. The production and labor records include payroll and salary books (1877-1937), payroll and time records (1892-1947), and miscellaneous employment records (1910-1958). There are statements of the amounts and costs of production and machinery and repair records. The correspondence and related records include a 1930 report on the consolidation with Bancroft and the files of Vice President Frank Bromley, which include customer and special correspondence, with production reports, orders, memoranda, etc. There are also dispensary report cards (circa 1928-1942) and patent and trademark material relating to "Everglaze ."Sales and shipping records include mill orders, sales books, and documentation of production costs compared to sales value. The miscellany includes design books for dress goods (1914-1916), a small number of fabric samples, historical articles and clippings about the company, and an employee's quarterly (1929-1931).
Records of the Eddystone & Delaware River Railroad are primarily accounts and records of car service. Records of Sharpless, Braun & Co are limited to account books. The records of the Cherry Creek Run & Oil Creek Oil Company, a part of the early petroleum boom in northwestern Pennsylvania, are limited to a stock certificate book.
This collection is divided into nineteen record groups. 1-12 are those of Joseph Bancroft & Sons (JB&SCo.), and 13-19 are those relating to the Eddystone Manufacturing Company (EMC). The record groups are: 1. John Bancroft (1774-1852) ledger, 1839-1842 2. John Bancroft, Sr. (1852-1933) papers, 1889-1930 3. Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co., Inc. records, 1842-1955 4. Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co. of Pennsylvania, 1849-1961 5. Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co. of New York, 1959-1961 6. Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co. of Canada, 1949-1955 7. Arrestox Company, 1928-1933 8. Banco Company, 1943-1959 9. Brandywine Granite Company, 1894-1913 10. Kepton Housing Company, 1910-1941 11. Rockford Company, 1903-1909 12. Albert D. Smith & Company, Inc., 1946 April 13. William Simpson [firm] and William Simpson & Sons, 1851-1895 14. William Simpson, Sons & Company, 1874-1954 15. William Simpson and family personal papers, 1873-1921 16. Eddystone Manufacturing Company, 1857-1962 17. Eddystone and Delaware River Railroad Company, 1899-1927 18. Sharpless Braun & Company, 1882 19. Cherry Creek Run & Oil Creek Oil Company, 1865 January-1874 May
There is a detailed description in each record group's scope and content note.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Language of Materials
Joseph Bancroft and Sons Company photographs (Accession 1969.025), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
The records in this collection are compiled from multiple accessions received during 1963 and 1964 relating to the Bancroft, Simpson and Eddystone textile firms, together with items for certain related businesses. These accessions (0410, 0457, 0467, 0479, 0625, 0695, and 0736) were all arranged and described within a single finding aid.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Joseph Bancroft & Sons, predecessors, and subsidiaries' records
- John Beverly Riggs
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- 2022: Encoded and revised by Angela Schad