When you mention textile mills, most people think about weaving. It is in many cases the last manufacturing process creating a woven product. Although there are many, many previous processes before weaving it is the most commonly recognized process. Let’s spend a day in a cotton sheet weave room.
In the early days of the Pepperell Mills, 1850, a good weaver could manage 4 or 5 looms at once. As time and technology improved, 1970, a good weaver could manage upwards of 70 looms at once. They were paid by the amount of product they produced. A good weave could make good money which enticed many to work as weavers for 40 years or more. The weavers were usually petite women who could move easily around the crowded looms. In a cotton weave room the working conditions were not easy. To keep the threads from breaking they needed to be flexible so they would not break in the weaving process. To keep them soft, the humidity needed to be about 95% which required a temperature of 115 degrees in the workplace. This had to be maintained at all times during the work day.
The cotton products made prior to 1927 were sold in bulk where the buyer did the coloring, printing, and any other specifications. The purchase of a Bleachery in Lewiston in1927 now gave Pepperell the ability to make white and colored products.
Blankets came to Pepperell in 1927 to replace some of the cotton products that they no longer being made. Located in the Laconia division, this was the first time Pepperell actually made a retail product on which they put their name, Lady Pepperell. Blanket weaving used material other than cotton alone and therefore did not require 115 degrees and 95% humidity. The work environment was not as harsh and many times required ventilation to reduce the temperature and humidity.
In general, after 1926, Pepperell division wove cotton products and the Laconia division woven blanket products.
This incentive pay scheme also applied to the loom fixers or mechanics whose job was to keep the looms running and free from breakdown. Because of the high importance of keeping the looms running and the technical skill needed, the loom fixer job many times was handed down to the next generation in the family upon retirement. The practice turned out to be a great resource for the next generation of loom fixers.