Pepperell Mills, Biddeford, 1954

Not available for reproduction or licensing. More info.


This photograph was taken in 1954 of a woman weaver at the Pepperell Mills in Biddeford. The woman weaver is unidentified. She's using a tool especially for tying a broken strands on a weaving loam.

The Water Power Co. began to build up the Pepperell mills in 1848. The company built canals and streets, constructed machinery and erected buildings. Most of the initial work was done by the summer of 1850. By 1870, Pepperell owned three mills and the accompanying buildings in Biddeford and shipped their sheets and blankets to faraway lands such as China, India and Ceylon.

The process of turning cotton into cloth began in the carding room, where spinning mules were used to spin it into thread. Carding produced a fat, loose rope of cotton with fibers arranged on its length.
Spinning was the next step; each time the rope was spun, the thread would become longer and more tightly wound. Next stop was the web drawing room, where hundreds of threads on racks were wound parallel to each other on a large bobbin.

The bobbin of thread was then placed on the back of a loom and woven into cloth, with varying patterns. In the cloth hall, menders would painstakingly take out bad threads and stains and finally use machinery to bundle and press the good cloth before packaging. Working conditions in the mills were less than favorable, but the money was good and the city was a draw for young farm girls.

Please post your comment below to share with others. If you'd like to privately share a comment or correction with MMN staff, please use this form.