Lonaconing Silk Mill history
The Cumberland Alleghanian, reported on February 7, 1907, that construction workers walked out over a wage dispute. When they returned, a 40' section of the chimney collapsed, injuring one worker. Finally, construction of the mill and installation of equipment was completed by April 1907.
The material that entered the mill came from various countries, including Japan and China. Raw silk and Douppinni, an expensive silk used in wedding gowns, were thrown at the mill in its early years. The throwing process consisted of twisting and winding silk into a yarn that was later used for knitting and weaving purposes. Operators spent their shifts replacing empty spools, and removing filled ones. A most common occurrence was the breaking of the silk thread as it was twisted and wound onto the 4 inch bobbins. Operators would tie the broken strands together with a special "silk knot." Workers reported being busy when a "bad batch" of silk was being run, as the thread broke frequently. Other employees steamed, dyed, and stretched the silk. The processed silk was shipped from Lonaconing on bobbins, quills, or cones. The plant did not manufacture cloth or clothing.
The supply of raw silk decreased sharply during World War II, since the United States was at war with Japan, a major supplier. The mill used the remaining raw silk to produce parachute thread for the war effort. It also began running synthetic material, such as rayon. After the United States defeated and occupied Japan, the factory was able to run raw silk again. Silk was not run at the same rate; synthetics had become the material of choice in the post war era.
The opening of the Klotz Throwing Company had a major impact on the town of Lonaconing and began to repay the community's investment within the first year of operation. In 1922, the mill was injecting over $100,000 into Lonaconing's economy annually. The mill provided stable employment, offsetting periods of stagnation in the local deep mining coal industry. Residents looked upon the mill as a place of secure employment. In fact, the mill proved to be so prosperous that the Klotz Throwing Company decided to construct an addition to the facility in 1916. Production at the mill increased after the addition was completed. During the 1920s, the mill seemed to enjoy the general prosperity of the time period. Payroll ledgers for September 1920 lists 359 employees and a $8,491 payroll.
Despite general prosperity, labor disputes occurred. According to Wes Duckworth, former superintendent, mill employees struck in 1921. The strike lasted for about two weeks and caused some employees to seek jobs in Pittsburgh and nearby Cumberland. A meeting held to settle the dispute became rowdy when a woman struck Mr. Sloan with her pocketbook. When the strike ended some of the former workers returned to the mill. There were reports of other labor disturbances. Ed Nolan and Burt Rowan remembered a strike before they were employed at the mill. "There was a wildcat strike when I was in the 9th
Mill Superintendents 1907-1957
Left: Empty spool.
Below: Dye tubs in the basement of the Lonaconing Silk Mill.
Allegany High School, Oral history project
Allegany High School, Cumberland
28 cms x 22 cms
Anne Failing, Erin Degyansky, Chris Jewell, Amber Sallerson, Dan Whetzel and Mike Lewis
Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing, Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing Silk Mill; Silk mills, History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1907-1957