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Textile Machine Works records

1896-1969
 Collection
Accession: 1904

Abstract

The Textile Machine Works began as a braiding machines repair and replacement company for German imported equipment, but they began building their own braiding machines in late 1892. The Textile Machine Works was founded by Henry Janssen (1866-1948) and Ferdinand Thun (1866-1949) on July 5, 1892, in Reading, Pennsylvania. This collection includes administrative and financial records of the parent company and major subsidiaries from 1900 to 1968. There is additional material relating to employee relations and the establishment and operation of the Wyomissing Polytechnic Institute.

Dates

  • 1896-1969

Creator

Extent

7 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Textile Machine Works began as a braiding machines repair and replacement company for German imported equipment, but they began building their own braiding machines in late 1892. The Textile Machine Works was founded by Henry Janssen (1866-1948) and Ferdinand Thun (1866-1949) on July 5, 1892, in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Both Thun and Janssen were born in Barmen, Germany, in 1866. Thun came to America in 1886 and worked as a bookkeeper. He returned to Germany in 1889 to study the making of braids and trimmings. In 1889, he returned to America as superintendent of the Sutro Brothers' braid manufacturing plant in New York. He again met Henry Janssen, who had joined the Castle Braid Company in Brooklyn the previous year. The two men moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, and organized the Textile Machine Works in 1892.

Initially, the company did repair and replacement work for braiding machines, which were then almost exclusively imported from Germany. However, the imposition of the McKinley tariff of 1890 created a protected niche that Thun and Janssen were able to occupy. The company built its first braiding machine in late 1892, and in 1896 Thun and Janssen moved their operation to a larger suburban site in nearby Wyomissing. The growing electrical industry was consuming ever greater quantities of braided coverings for wire and cable. Thun and Janssen set up their own battery of braiding machines and organized the Narrow Fabric Company on January 2, 1900.

Soon afterward, the Textile Machine Works assembled the first American full-fashioned knitting machine. Production increased from about 100 per year in 1912 to over 1,000 a year by 1926, as the market for full-fashion hosiery expanded. However, because sales of the machines had initially been weak, Thun and Janssen set up an experimental hosiery factory to further test and perfect their product. In 1906, it was incorporated separately as the Berkshire Knitting Mills under the management of one of their associates, Gustav Oberlaender (1867-1936). The plant became the largest full-fashioned knitting mill in the world.

Labor relations at the Textile Machine Works were characterized by paternalism, as Thun and Janssen constructed company housing and a company store for their employees. To train mechanics, they established a separate educational department in 1927 known as the Wyomissing Trade School. Its scope widened, and it was incorporated in March 1933 as the Wyomissing Polytechnic Institute, eventually becoming a fully-accredited junior engineering college. Other community services included a dispensary, library, insurance, health and benefit associations.

With the growing substitution of artificial for natural fibers after World War II, the Textile Machine Works began a long decline. It continued to produce machinery for a shrinking cotton and silk market. It finally closed its doors in 1982.

Scope and Contents

The records of the Textile Machine Works include minute books of the parent company and major subsidiaries from 1900 to 1968. Also included are sales books from 1892 to 1906 and financial statements from 1917 to 1944. The collection documents the establishment and operation of the Wyomissing Polytechnic Institute and contains records on apprenticeship training. Records on the company town include tenant house record sheets and material relating to the Wyomissing Park Association and Wyomissing Water Company. There are also personnel records cards circa 1930 to 1950, copies of job descriptions, and records relating to World War II government contracts.

Access Restrictions

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

Related Materials

Partners : a history of the development of the Wyomissing industries, circa 1936 (TS1425.W99 P3), Published Collections Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Separated Materials

Textile Machine Works photographs (Accession 1986.241), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum & Library

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Textile Machine Works records
Status:
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Encoded by Angela Schad

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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