Hadley Company Mills, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north toward the Hadley Company mills, from the corner of Canal and Center Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The caption of the first photo reads “Twelve o’clock at the Hadley Mills,” and it shows a group of workers leaving the Hadley Company thread mill in Holyoke, evidently on their lunch break. The factory is among the oldest in Holyoke, and was built around the late 1840s by the Hadley Falls Company. This company played a major role in turning Holyoke into a prosperous industrial center, including building the dam and canal system, but it was hit hard by the Panic of 1857 and the subsequent recession. The company’s assets were liquidated in 1859, and were subsequently acquired by the newly-established Holyoke Water Power Company.

In 1863, these mills here on Canal Street became the Hadley Company, a thread manufacturer that had no direct connection to its similarly-named predecessor. It was part of Holyoke’s booming textile industry, producing a variety of threads, yarns, and twine, and by 1879 it had an annual output of 727,315 pounds of yarn. Like most of Holyoke’s industries during this time, the company relied heavily on immigrant labor, and many workers lived in the nearby tenement rowhouses on the other side of Canal Street.

The Hadley Company was acquired by the American Thread Company in 1898, at a time when many industries were consolidating into large corporations. This mill was operated as a division of American Thread for the next few decades, but it was closed in 1928, leaving about a thousand workers unemployed on the eve of the Great Depression. At the time, the New England textile industry was in decline, and the nearby Lyman Mills here in Holyoke had closed just a year earlier, leaving a similar number of unemployed workers. However, it would only get worse for Holyoke, which would continue to lose its industrial base throughout the mid- to late-20th century.

By the 1940s, this mill complex had become the home of the Graham Manufacturing Company, which was later acquired by Johnson & Johnson. Today, the former Hadley Company property has a variety of different owners, but many of the historic mill buildings are still standing, including the three in this scene. The building in the center has lost its cupola, and the fence in the foreground is long gone, but otherwise the scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo 125 years ago.

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.


The same scene in 2014:


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.


The same spot in 2014:


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.


The scene in 2014:


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).

Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company

Two workers pose outside of the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company on Front Street in Indian Orchard, Springfield, Massachusetts, in September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.


The same scene in 2014:


The Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company was once a major employer in this neighborhood of Springfield; it was strategically located along the fast-moving Chicopee River, which was a center of industrial development in 19th and early 20th century Massachusetts.  It was also one of the places photographed by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of his efforts to document child labor practices in the country.  Here, two boys pose across the street from the factory.  According to Hine’s caption, they are:

“Alfred Gengreau, 20 Beaudry St., Joseph Miner, 15 Water St. Both work in Mr. Baker’s room. Indian Orchard Mill. Location: Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.”

I tried looking up genealogical information on both boys to see what became of them.  I could not find any information about Gengreau, although based on his name, he was probably a French-Canadian immigrant.  However, I was able to find some information about Miner.  Based on what I was able to gather from census records and other public records, here is what I know about him:

He was born in 1897 to Joseph Sr. and Mary Miner; Joseph Sr. finished school after the second grade and, according to the 1910 census, could not read or write.  They had one other child who had died sometime before the 1900 census, and by the 1910 census the three of them lived in a company-owned housing unit on Water Street, just a short distance to the right of where these photos were taken.  In 1910, Joseph Sr. worked as a crane operator.

Joseph Jr., the one photographed above, was 14 when the photo was taken; according to his 1940 census, the highest grade that he completed was the 4th grade, which suggests he may have been working for some time before 1911. A few years later, he would serve in World War I.  After the war, he married is wife Mabel, and they had two children: Eleanor, born in 1922, and Wallace, born in 1931.  In 1930, Joseph and Mabel were still living in Springfield, paying $18 a month in rent, and Joseph was working as a mechanic.  By 1940, however, their economic situation appears to have improved; Joseph was still employed as a mechanic, but they were listed on the census as being homeowners; their home at 461 Walnut Street in Springfield was valued at $2,500.

By the 1950s, the Springfield city directories indicate that Joseph and Mabel were living on Plumtree Road in Springfield, at the time a new suburban residential part of the city.  Joseph’s occupation during this time was listed as a real estate broker.  All things considered, it’s impressive – he grew up working as a child laborer in a factory, living in company housing, and eventually became a real estate broker who owned a home in a relatively upscale neighborhood.

Joseph died in 1964 at the age of 67, and Mabel died in 1975.  She actually outlived her younger child, Wallace, who died in 1974 at 43 years old.  Joseph and Mabel’s oldest child, Eleanor, died in Springfield in 2009.  It’s likely (although I haven’t researched it) that Eleanor and Wallace had children who still live in the Springfield area, and if so, I’d love to hear from them and see what else they could tell me about the young 14 year old boy in the 1911 photo, because as I mentioned, just about everything I found out is through census records, which only give information on a small piece of a person’s life.

Indian Orchard Mill Workers, Springfield, Mass (4)

One more scene at the Indian Orchard Manufacturing Company from September 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

The scene in 2020:

Like the 1911 photos on the posts here, here, and here, this shot by Lewis Wickes Hine captures a moment of the lives of these young boys who worked full time in the textile mills in Indian Orchard.  Although anonymous faces to a modern-day audience, most of these boys were likely French-Canadian, Polish, or Irish immigrants who left school at around sixth grade (or earlier) to supplement their families’ income.  Many of them would probably go on to fight in World War I, live through the economic hardships of the Great Depression, and have children who would fight in World War II.  Today, many of them probably have grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in the Springfield area.

Through all the generations, though, the scene has stayed pretty much the same – the building, which was built in 1895, still stands, and is still used for industrial purposes, unlike so many other historic mill buildings in New England.  The railroad tracks are still there – perhaps the same rails as in 1911 – although the line, which once extended all the way to Athol, now ends just a few hundred yards short of the factory.