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Full text of "The history of the Hooper Mills / by Victor C. Buhl"

The 
History of the Hooper Mills 
by 
Viator C. Buhl 



written for 
TAU BETA PI 
national Honorary 
Engineering Fraternity 



University of Maryland 
1940 



Bibliography 
• • 
History of Baltimore City and County 

J. Thomas Scharf Philadelphia 1801 

History of Baltimore Vol.1 
Clayton Colman Hall 

History of Amerioan Manufactures Vol. l&B 

J. Leander Bishop Philadelphia 1864 

Periodical Files 

Maryland File Room, Central Library of Baltimore 



Personal Int srviewe 

Mr. Joshua Jones, Baltimore 

Former Employee 
Mr. Harriaon Robins, 111 



Whan, in 1300, William Hooper came to 
Baltimore, he realized the fame that had been given 
to the city by the Baltimore Clipper Ships, the 
speediest merchant ships of their day, and was struok 
with the idea of a mill which would supply these vessels 
with material for sails. This was the beginning of the 
great enterprise* 

Later, the deaand presented itself for a wider 
variety of manufacture ootton goods, bo the factory was 
expanded to answer the purpose* With his strongest rival, 
Horatio H. Gambrill, moving southward and nearer to the 
raw material, Mr. Hooper bought his interest in the 
Hooper, Park and Ueadow Mills, in which new machinery 
was installed for new fields of endeavor. 

Coming nearer the present, the new Hooperwood 
Mills were built in the heart of Woodberry and on Jones 1 
falls. Here they stand today, in the second century of 
their progress, as the work of four generations of a 
family which is promising to devalope still further the 
enterprise which had its beginnings so many years ago* 



A History of the Hooper 
Mills 

Within the United States there exist 
approximately seventy- five firms with a life history 
of over one hundred years, during which time the business 
has been handed down from father to son. William S. 
Hooper and Sons Company is one of the three concerns 
in Baltimore enjoying this distinction, and its history 
covers nearly the entire period of Baltimore's textile 
industry. 

For four generations, now, the Hooper family 
has been instrumental in establishing Baltimore as one 
of the world's leading cities In the field of textile 
manufacture. Their plant a at one time olothed the 
ships of almost the entire world with sail, and supplied 
practically all of the cotton duck used in the United 
States. This was, needless to say, Baltimore's leading 
single article of manufacture. 

The Baltimore Clipper Ships, the speediest 
merchant vessels of their day, were rapidly giving the 
oity of their name world wide fame as a shipping center. 
Equipping these vessels with sail had created a large 
and highly specialized industry, and one which, as its 
history proves, had its appeal to the youth seeking 
his fortune in the new world. 

When, in the year 1800, William Hooper arrived 



-3- 

at the harbor of Boston, he soon found hie way to 
Baltimore, where he followed the custom of the time 
by serving an apprenticeship. In his case, of course, 
it was an apprenticeship to a sail-maker whose name was 
Hardest or, and it was not long before the ambitious 
young man had started in business for himself. Taking 
in his former employer as a partner, he established 
the firm of Hooper and Hardest or. In this combination 
we find the beginning of a business of lasting greatness, 
a business which was later to supply the United States 
with from two thirds to three fourths of the country's 
total output of ootton duok, to say nothing of the great 
quantities which were shipped to the far corners of 
the world. 

In 1843 he retired from active -#©*& and 
passed the responsibility of the work to his son, 
William E. Hooper, who, for several years, had been 
learning the trade from his father. It was under the 

math 

guiding hand o<f this man that the Hooper Mills^their 
greatest progress. His ambition was to further the 
interests of the concern, and in two years he bought 
out hie partner in order t! at the business might be 



carried on exclusively in the Hooper name. 

It is often told that he would xw* out 
the Pat apse o river and even down the bay to meet 



-3- 

incoming 6 Upper ships in order that he might secure 
orders for new sails. He often rose before the sun 
with the aim of being the first Ealtimorean aboard. 

During the period when William Hooper and 
hia son were the presidents of the concern other 
mills were being constructed along Jones' falls* The 
location proved to be a suitable one for these mills 
because the stream furnished a great deal of water power 
at a time when steam and electricity were unheard of, 
and because grants of free land were, at that time, 
being given to millwrights. 

One of the first of these, the Washington 
Manufacturing Company, was ereoted in 1810, Owned by 
Mr. Thomas FUlton and having a capitol of $100,000., 
it was one of the eighty-seven cotton mills in the 
country and is said to have been the finest cotton 
goods factory in the state of Maryland. With two 
hundred and eighty-eight spindles working, the stock 
shares were priced at $53. 

In 1834, Horatio N. Gambrill and David Carroll 
purohased the factory and proceeded to rebuild and 
enlarge it for the purpose of the manufacture of 
cotton duck. So successful was this venture that 




Jones' Falls, 
located in Woodberry in northeast 
Baltimore, were the baaio reason 
for the selection of Yfoodberry for 
the sight of the Hooper Mill. 



-4- 

lir. Gambrill bought a tract of land owned by a Mr, 
Weodberry, and replaced the existing flour mill with 
a more modern plant for the production of mora duel:. 
This took place In the year 1834, Thie mill marked the 
first use of steam, in this part of the country, for 
manufacturing purposes, and the result was that the 
capltol had been doubled by 184 5. 

Two years later the Laurel Mill was bought from 
a Mr* Jenkins, and soon the first of the three Mt. 
Vernon Mille came into existence. Hers the five thousand 
spindles produced -orer eighty thousand pounds of cotton 
a month, or 960,000 pounds a year. 

The second lit. Vernon Mill was erected in 
18 53, and Its five thousand spindles employed one hundred 
and fifty men. Two years after the opening, the 
energetic pioneers branched out into another field of 
endeavor- that of the manufacture of seine netting. 
This too beoame quite a large industry, and was set up 
in thw new Park Mill, which had been built especially 
for this purpose. 

In 1853, the Ifhite Hall Mill, which Mr. 
Gairbrill had bought in 1832, was burned to the ground. 

Clipper 

On this sight, the Olyo e * Mill, one of great capacity, 
was erected, and was in operation within six months 



r 




i ecteeeettei 




THE lit. VERNON MILL, 
the groat « Bt ri»al to the Hooper Mill, 
and once owned by Horatio N.Gambrill 



-5- 

after the fire. Mi s fortune in the same form visited 
the eite once again, however, and this great plant 
Buffered the same fate as had ita predecessor. Not 
to be discouraged by the double destruction of their 
plant, the workers, this tlme A and succeeded in doubling 
its former capacity. 

Previous to 1848, William E. Hooper had added 
another accomplishment to hie record, and had become one 
of the city's largest cotton buyers. This material he was 
forced to acquire by way of Norfolk, 

When Gambrlll and Carroll began their manufacture 

UoodttorrY 

of cotton duck in W o odbur y, they were supplied with their 
raw material by the Hooper Mills, and the output of 
the rival concern was then put into sales competition 
with similar goode from Western Europe* 

In December, 1848 Mr. Hooper purchased the rights 
of copartnership in this rival concern and also added 
the Park, Washington, and Clipper Mills to his collection, 
buying them outright feom Horatio N. Gambr ill. 

During the Civil War, the Hooper concern 
neglected its cotton duck industry in favor of the manu- 
facture of ootton thread. Per a tine, it appeared that the 
usefulness of the cotton mills might be put to an end, but 
yhs pries of ootton fell rapidly, and the new crop of 
raw material which had come from the south began to arrive 
at tfoodberry Mill, where it was **p» into thread and 



-6- 

sold for the manufacture of olothing articles, 

then the great industrialist died, in 1873, 
he passed the helm of the activities on to hie eldest 
eon, James £. Hooper* 

Keeping the mills equipped with nothing but 
the latest and most modern machinery, Mr. Hooper has 
guided the organization to new and greater heights. 
As he expressed it, "Production is speeding up with ever- 
increasing force. To survive, one must march abreast of 
the times? 

Not sinoe power was first applied to the looms 
have there been such radical changes made with costly 
equipment. Ho longer is the cotton duck made exclusively 
for sails, and no longer does the William S. Hooper and 
Sons Company produce exclusively cotton duck. From all 
over the country come orders for their products, which 
include cotton dryer felts, cider press cloth, stretched 
belting duck, cotton yarns, oil press and biscuit duck, 
coal bags, laundry nets, and many other such articles 

to 

which are basic to e very-day life as well as A the workers 
in other industries. From this list, we may easily see 
that at the present time, sail duck, the product for 
which the concern first gained repute, plays only a 
small and somwwhat Insignificant role • 



_7- 

le find, then, that the change has been in the 
machinery which does the work and the time consumed 
to do it, but that neither the high standard of quality 
nor the distinctive methodology has been altered. 

Let ua examine the iaaide of the mill as far 
as we are allowed to see. Our greatest poiat of interest 
is the process leading up to the actual waevin g of the 
cloth. 

First, there is a r e oi e vi p g department, where 
the cotton baled in Taxas is opened, cleaned, and made 
ready to work with. There is next an adjoining structure 
in which the cotton is carded in endless lightly rolled 
laps, from these the raw material Is caught up and spun 
into threads of many different sizes. 

The largest building is reserved for weaving. 
Immense looms, small looms, and every concievable size 
in between, are arranged in seemingly endless rows. The 
hugs machinery which seems to occupy as much space as 
a fairly large home is a noiselessly vibrating affair 
which performs the actual task of weaving the thread into 
cloth. 

For weaving a two hundred and forty inch roll 
of cotton duck in one machine go separate threads which 
are supplied by 18,000 spools. Needless to say, all of 
these threads are moving simultaneously. 

Looking now at the labor side of this great 



-8- 

industry, we find a rather unique situation. The 
early factories of Baltimore were operated by staffs 
which consisted of from fifty to seventy- five percent 
women and children, most of them boye and girls 
whose ages averaged from six to twelve years of age. 
These youngsters attended mainly to the task of holding 
and adjusting the flrameB, while the machines were 
manned by the women of the force. This left only the 
heavy work, such as hauling bales, etc., to be done 
by the male employees. 

In the Hooper Mills, however, we find quite 
a different story. James £. Hooper was one of the 
worst enemies that the advocates of child labor had, 
and he refused to employ them in this fashion. We also 
find that fewer women were working in his plants than 
was the case with rival concerns. 

In pas Ring we might mention that the average 

or 

working day of the time was something like twelve o-f 

thirteen hours, and the pay was correspondingly low. 
As a matter of fact, the average man employed was payed 
only about twelve dollars a month. 

As already mentioned, James Hooper was bitterly 
opposed to these universally aocepted conditions., and 
did all in his power to better those of hie workers. He 



-9- 

was one of the first Maryland advocates of tha regulation 
of child labor, and, in 1873, ran for the state 
legislature in order that he might at least initiate 
legislation along these lines. 

Although nothing was legally done at this time, 
the various mills consented to the polioy of ceasing 
to employ any girl under twelve years of age. It was 
not, however, until 1880 that any state regulation of 
this evil was entered in the statute books. 

Dismissing the. .labor situation from our mind, 

now, we find that the opening of the present century 

found Mr. Hooper entering into a combination with the 

Mt . Vernon-Woodberry groups and other large interests 

Co-tfon 
to form the Mt. Vernon-Woodberry^Duck Assoc i at ion, of 

which he was president. A year later, however, he became 

opposed to the policies adopted by the group and with- 

drew, building the B opowoo - d- Mill number one. 

In 1908, when Jamejr Hooper died, his interests 
passed to his eldest Son, another William E. Hooper, 
who, in 191? sold his interests to hie brothers, Bobert 
and James Hooper. 

Also about this time, A Hoopers sold the Clipper, 

M* *</**' 

Park, Woodberry and M e do w Mills to the Woodberry Got ton 




Hooperwood Mills, 
loo at 3d at Druid Ridge Drivs, th.es© recently 
constructed mills are, at the present time, 
the sole posession of the William X, Hoop ac 
and Sons Company, 



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and Duck Company and built the sec«nd and third 
Hopperwood Mills. 

These were built in the heart of Woodberry, 
just below Prospect Hill in Druid Kill Park, where 
we find them today. 

Thus we find that the long, Tar led, and rather 
unique history of the Hooper Mills is brought up to the 
present time, and is now being run under the guiding 
hand of James Sdward Hooper, the son of the late Robert 
P» Hooper,