American Woolen Company Graphics

Collection Number: 6510 G

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library


American Woolen Company Graphics
Collection Number:
6510 G
American Woolen Company
0.3 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
A collections of textile machinery graphics from the American Woolen Company.
Collection material in English


The American Woolen Company was established in 1899 under the leadership of William M. Wood and his father-in-law Frederick Ayer through the consolidation of eight financially troubled New England woolen mills. At the company's height in the 1920s, it owned and operated 60 woolen mills across New England. It is most known for its role in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912.
The American Woolen Company was the product of the era of trusts. Overproduction, competition and poor management had brought the New England textile industry to its knees by the 1890s. In particular, family trusts, the main shareholders of many of the mills, insisted on receiving high dividends instead of making necessary capital improvements. Frederick Ayer, successful Lowell merchant, purchased the Washington Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and hired his son-in-law, William M. Wood to run it. Wood had already successfully turned around a bankrupt mill in Fall River. With Ayer's financial backing, Wood brought together various under-performing mills in the aim of reducing competition and increasing prices. He convinced investors to permit profits to be reinvested into new plants and machinery.
In 1901, the company purchased the failing Burlington Mills in Winooski, Vermont, and restored their profitability. These mills closed in 1954.
In 1905, the American Woolen Company built the largest mill in the world, the Wood Mill in Lawrence, followed by the neighboring Ayer Mill in 1909. The Ayer mill's 22 foot diameter 4-sided clocktower is only a foot smaller than Big Ben and purportedly only second to it in size in the world (among chiming 4-sided clocktowers).
On December 11, 1946, an elevator dropped 35 feet at the American Woolen Company Foxcroft Mill in Maine, and the cables and other items crashed through the elevator car's roof. Two people were killed and 10 others were injured.
Following the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, the AWC was forced to increase wages. The company reached its apogee in the 1920s, when it controlled 20% of the country's woolen production. Most of these mill operations had started as 100% water-powered, but added coal-fueled steampower in the late 1800s as demand exceeded what could be provided by water alone. However, even though technology was continually updated, these unionized New England mills were unable to compete with non-unionized Southern mills able to produce staple woolen products, such as blankets, more cheaply. Additionally, fashions changed with the introduction of polyester and rayon, and demand for worsted wool plummeted by the mid-1920s. The two world wars were a boon to the AWC, keeping the company prosperous into 1945. American Woolen Company ranked 51st among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.

American Textile History Museum Collection.

American Woolen Company

Form and Genre Terms:


Access Restrictions:
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Restrictions on Use:
This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.
Cite As:
American Woolen Company Graphics #6510 G. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
5131: Sidney A. Wolff Arbitration Files
5583/4: Archives Organization File (AOF) Part 4. Corporate and Organizational Publications
6046: Archives Union File (AUF)
6501: Alfred Rotondo Papers
6502 P: Amelia Olenio Collection of American Woolen Company Photographs
6502 PUBS: Amelia Olenio Collection of American Woolen Company Publications
6510: American Woolen Company Collection
6510 PUBS: American Woolen Company Publications
6510/001: American Woolen Company Records
6524/002 P: ATHM Textile Industry Photographs
6524/004 G: ATHM Textile Industry Graphics
6566 G: Charles T. Main, Inc. Graphics


Box 1 Folder 1
Box 2 Folder 1
Box 3 Folder 1
Box 4 Folder 1