Franklin Paper Company, Holyoke, Mass

The Franklin Paper Company on Middle Water Street, seen from across the waste canal in Holyoke, sometime in 1936. Image photographed by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

The scene in 2017:

Long known as “Paper City,” Holyoke was once among the world’s leading producers of paper, with several dozen paper mills located along the city’s extensive canal system. One of the first of these paper mills was the Franklin Paper Company, which was established in 1866 by prominent industrialist James H. Newton and his father-in-law Calvin Taft. With Taft as president and Newton as treasurer, the company initially specialized in producing collar paper. Disposable paper collars enjoyed a heyday in the 1860s and 1870s, but they were also uncomfortable, easily damaged, and also toxic, since the paper was bleached using arsenic. As a result, cellulose soon replaced paper in detachable collars, and by the late 1870s the Franklin Paper Company switched to producing writing paper, as well as paper for books and envelopes.

The Franklin Paper Company was located here along the third level canal, and was served by a railroad spur that ran along Water Street. In the foreground of this scene is the waste canal, which emptied excess water from the canals into the Connecticut River, and on the left side is a short railroad bridge over the canal. The first photo was taken in 1936, when the Franklin Paper Company was still in operation 70 years after it was established. The photographer was Lewis Wickes Hine, a prominent photographer and social reformer who, several decades earlier, had traveled around the country documenting child labor conditions. By the 1930s he was doing similar work, documenting the effects of the Great Depression, and he took a number of photographs during his 1936 visit to Holyoke. His original caption reads:

Mt. Holyoke [sic], Massachusetts – Scenes. A very old independent paper mill, wood pulp, not rags, continuing site and ownership in relatively straight line, once connected with a wood pulp mill near to Hoosie [sic] Tunnel; the type of near-to-mill transportation; the canal; glimpse of most modern mill type in background. Franklin Paper Company. Farr Alpaca – No. 4, 1936

More than 80 years after Hine’s Depression-era visit to Holyoke, the city has undergone significant changes. Most of the major paper companies have since relocated, as have most of the city’s other industries, and today Holyoke faces high poverty rates and many vacant, deteriorating factory buildings. The Franklin Paper Company is long-gone, but the buildings themselves are still standing on the right side of the photo, although the one-story building in the foreground has partially collapsed. Otherwise, not much has changed in this scene, and the canal is still there, as is the railroad bridge on the left side.

Hanging Around the Saloon, Chicopee Mass

A group of workers hanging around outside of the Cyran & Gierlasinski Cafe on Grove Street in Chicopee, on June 29, 1916. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

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The scene in 2014:

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Social reformer and photographer Lewis Wickes Hine visited Chicopee several times in the 1910s, documenting child labor conditions in some of the city’s factories.  The first photo here shows a group of workers hanging around a saloon at the end of the workday.  It’s probably safe to assume that the cafe was Polish; the names of Cyran & Gierlasinski leave little room for doubt.  By the late 1800s, Chicopee had become an industrial center, and many of the workers were immigrants, either French-Canadian or Polish.  To this day, many Chicopee residents are of French-Canadian and Polish ancestry, some of whom are probably the descendants of the men in the 1916 photo.  Today, the Cyran & Gierlasinski Cafe might be gone, but the Polish influence is still present; the site is now the parking lot for the main offices of the Polish National Credit Union.

Kibbe Brothers Candy, Springfield, Mass

Kibbe Brothers candy factory on Harrison Avenue in Springfield, in October 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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I have previously featured a number of photos from Lewis Wickes Hine of the National Child Labor Committee, when he traveled around the country documenting child labor conditions in the early 1900s.  His work includes several Springfield companies, one of which was Kibbe Brothers Company, a candy company that had been in Springfield since 1843.

For many years, the company operated out of a building at the corner of Main and Harrison, but in 1890 they moved about a half a block down Harrison Ave, where this 1910 photo was taken.  This photo is rare among Hine’s photos in that it doesn’t feature any photos, but it does show the “Girls Wanted” and “Boys Wanted” signs in the window next to the main entrance.  Based on the other photos that Hine took of the factory workers, many of them were 14 to 15 years old, which was apparently the minimum working age at the time.  In some of the captions, he mentions that they made between $3.50 and $4.00 per week, which in 2014 dollars would be about $86 a week.

According to Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), the factory employed about 350 people and produced over 12 tons of candy each day, which was shipped as far as California.  However, the company was out of business by the mid-1930s, probably a victim of the Great Depression.  Today, part of the lot is occupied by the headquarters of Hampden Bank, and the rest of it is a parking lot and parking garage.

Dwight Manufacturing Company, Chicopee Mass (9)

A group of boys at the Dwight Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts, in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The same scene in 2014:

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Like the 1911 photos in this post and this post, the first photo here was taken on modern-day Route 116 in Chicopee by Lewis Wickes Hine for the National Child Labor Committee.  His caption reads:

“Stanislaus Matthew, 30 Cabot St., (left hand boy). Warren Butman, Nonotuck St. Has worked in spinning room since Monday. Location: Chicopee, Massachusetts.”

Dwight Manufacturing Company, Chicopee Mass (8)

Another scene outside of the Dwight Manufacturing Company factory in Chicopee in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The same spot in 2014:

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These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the ones in this post, just turned slightly to the right.  The 1911 one was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of the National Child Labor Committee, and his caption reads:

“Stanley Sypeck, Jasimine St., W. Springfield. Works in the Dwight Mfg. Co., 6 months in spinning room. Location: Chicopee, Massachusetts.”

Based on census records, it is unclear who exactly this boy was, but the address gives some clues.  “Jasimine Street” likely refers to what is listed as “Jasmin or Morgan St” in this map from the 1912 Atlas of Hampden County.  The Jasmin name was evidently archaic, because today it is known only as Morgan Road.  In the 1910 census, it is named Morgan Street, and there is a “Sypek” (note spelling) family living there.  The census lists 15 members of the extended family, including not just one but two Stanleys.  It gets even more complicated, though, because one Stanley is listed as being 22 and the other as being 5.  Clearly, the boy in the photo taken just a year later is neither 23 nor 6, and although census records are certainly not infallible, it still leaves open the question of which Stanley this boy is.

The other possibility, of course, is that Stanley isn’t his real name; as Hine mentions in his caption to the photo in this post, the boys will often use fake names in the event of trouble.  Either way, he likely lived in the house of 15 Sypeks on Morgan Road.  The census indicates that they lived on Morgan Road, probably near the corner of Piper and Morgan, although the exact house number is not listed.  Either way, it was probably a single-family home, which means working at the factory was probably quieter for the young Stanley than being at home.

Dwight Manufacturing Company, Chicopee Mass (7)

Two boys standing on Springfield Street in Chicopee, next to the Dwight Manufacturing Company building, in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The 1911 photo was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine of the National Child Labor Committee, and was part of his efforts to document child labor conditions in the United States.  Here, these two boys are posing in front of the old covered bridge on what is now Route 116 in Chicopee.  The bridge over the Chicopee River is gone, as is the bridge that replaced it, and the road itself is substantially busier than the dirt road of 1911.

According to Hine’s caption, the boys are:

“Peter Pluta (right hand boy), 2 Bertha Ave. Works in spinning room. Two years there Henry Fritz (left hand), 56 Cheever St. Has worked in spinning room two or three months. Location: Chicopee, Massachusetts.”

I did try looking these boys up through census records and other documents, but Peter Pluta and Henry Fritz were not exactly uncommon names in Chicopee in the early 1900s.  However, it is likely that they were either immigrants or children of immigrants from Poland (Pluta) and Germany (Fritz).