Hexamer General Survey #1410 (1879), "Blantyre Mills, Sevill Schofield."
Blantyre Mills, 1847
4312-4372 Main Street, Philadelphia PA 19004
© Sara Jane Elk, Workshop of
the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).
Perhaps the oldest mill
remaining in Manayunk stands at 4312-4372 Main Street,
fronting along the canal at Cotton Street. Actually a
complex of buildings, the earliest of the structures was
begun in 1847, and represents the second generation in
construction of mills in Manayunk as the machinery was
driven by steam rather than water power. Built by James
C. Kempton as a cotton mill, the earliest portions
probably appear much as they were built, although the
complex represents a succession of construction.
James Kempton began a successful career producing cotton in Manayunk in the 1830s while managing one of Manayunk's first generation cotton mills, one which stood between the canal and the river at the foot of Cotton Street. In 1833 he acquired the large water-powered mill from its owners, John Joseph Borie, Pierre Laguerenne and Jerome Keating, the threesome that had pioneered the production of mechanized textiles in Philadelphia. With the construction of their four-story cotton mill in 1828, fully equipped with 4,500 spindles and 120 powerlooms, Borie, Laguerenne and Keating, had signaled the beginning of large-scale manufactory in Manayunk. 1 Kempton, as had his predecessors, produced cotton cloth. His specialty was a variety of weaves such as checks and stripes. 2 Particular notoriety came his way in 1830, when as the manager, he installed a new powerloom made by Alfred Jenks for the weaving of colored checks. 3 Handloom weavers from across the city in Kensington, opposed to the labor-saving devices which threatened to destroy their livelihood, marched on the mill with the intention of burning it. The intervention of an "armed force" turned the Luddites away before a fire was lit. 4
The erection of the Blantyre Mills in 1847 marked expansion for Kempton, as he built directly across the canal from the earlier mill, which by then he had renamed the Schuylkill Factory. The construction of the new mill increased his holdings to three factories and required a workforce of 600. By 1840, he operated as one of the largest textile concerns in Manayunk. 5 Kempton continued to pick, dye and weave in his mills until 1851 when he retired. Maintaining ownership of his property, he leased the Blantyre Mills to Archibald Campbell and Company, also a manufacturer of cotton cloth. When a fire partially destroyed the mills in 1854, Kempton restored the damage and A. Campbell and Company continued in operation. 6
Archibald Campbell and his brothers, William and John, achieved significant success producing cotton cloth in the mills of Manayunk. By 1857, increased demand for their goods necessitated the expansion into two more facilities; the Schuylkill Factory, which they also leased from Kempton, and the purchase and conversion of the Crompton Steam Mill, a paper mill along the canal north of Green Lane. 7 When Jerome Kempton died in 1862, Archibald Campbell and Company purchased the Schuylkill Factory from Kempton's estate and continued to lease Blantyre Mills from its new owner, Sevill Schofield. 8
J. Leander Bishop described production in the company’s mills:
“14,270 cotton spindles, 1560 wool spindles, and 1236 spindles for doubling and twisting—in all 17,000 spindles and 652 looms... The average product of each loom being about 25 yards a day, the aggregate annual product is over five million yards-consisting of principally of pantaloonery ginghams, striped and plaid osnaburghs, etc. The Cottonades made here include all grades of exclusively fast colors (the demand for low-priced or fugitive colors having almost entirely ceased), and extend to the very best qualities, such as command a higher price than any other in the market.” 9
The firm had a retail outlet located at 425 North 2nd Street in 1855 and at 125 Chestnut Street in 1866, within the textile warehouse district in Center City Philadelphia. 10
At the time of the Hexamer General Survey of 1866, A. Campbell and Company occupied the Blantyre Mills. The survey listed a one-story stone pickerhouse roofed with tin, with an attached one-story stone blacksmith’s shop. Located at the corner of Main and Cotton Streets, a four-story mill built in 1872 now stands in its place, perhaps incorporating the earlier stone structure into the first floor. Twenty feet to the south of the blacksmith shop along Main Street, stood a four-story stone mill with a slate roof. This building still stands and appears much as it did then. Weaving and finishing took place on all four of its floors. Perpendicular to it and on the canal side, a four-story stone with slate roof mill held the steam boilers and machine shop in one portion, with the balance devoted to spinning, carding and weaving. An addition to this mill in 1878 formed the corner of Cotton Street and the canal and is also the portion visible between the mills from Main Street. To complete the 1866 complex, a one-story stone with slate roof Dye House stood along the canal. To the south of it were two frame buildings used as warehouses. These structures were later replaced with stone buildings.
A. Campbell & Company occupied the Blantyre Mills until 1869. Extensive expansion at the Schuylkill Factory and operations at the Crompton Mills evidently provided adequate facilities. In addition, the growth of Sevill Schofield's woolen business may have necessitated more mill space for his enterprise. When surveyed again in 1879, E. Hexamer listed Schofield occupying two floors of the five-story mill along the canal and portions of the other buildings, employing ninety hands (thirty men, forty girls, and twenty boys), producing "blankets, coating and pantaloon stuff and carpet yarn". He rented all of the original four-story mill to Allen and Morris, manufacturers of jeans and doeskins; the fourth story of the canal mill to John P. Holt, manufacturer of cotton and wool yarns; and a one story frame building east of the Main Street buildings to Moses Wright, manufacturer of saddles and harnesses. 11 The axonometric drawing accompanying the Hexamer General Survey depicts the mills much as they stand today.
In 1880 Allen and Morris transferred all of its machinery and production to Sevill Schofield. 12 He continued to operate in Blantyre Mills until hard times in the 1890s brought James Dobson in to manage the business. 13 Dobson consolidated the Schofield mills and operated under the name Imperial Mills. He served as president and Dobson Schofield, Sevill's son, served as secretary and treasurer of the firm. 14 The Imperial Mill complex operated until the Depression, combined with the death of James Dobson in 1927, ending a regional textile dynasty. A series of manufacturers have occupied the mills until they were converted into housing in 1989. Occupants have included the George Flene Soap and Chemical Company in 1929 and as the last industrial owner, Jetronics, a manufacturer of precision machinery.
In 1988 the Mills were purchased by Dover Properties Incorporated for conversion to apartment units. The rehabilitation to the exterior included restoration of the entrances on Main Street, pointing of the stone work and replacement of the windows.
1 Shelton, p. 58.
2 Edwin T. Freedley, Philadelphia and its Manufactures , (Philadelphia, 1857), p. 259.
3 According to Freedley, Alfred Jenks supplied the first textile power-mills in Philadelphia and became the largest producer of textile machinery in the country.
4 Freedley, p. 301.
5 Kempton's third mill was located in Roxborough, the village up the hill to the north.
6 Goshow, p. 106.
7 Goshow, p. 56 and Hexamer General Survey #1027 (1876), "Crompton Mills, A. Campbell & Co."
8 Philip Scranton, Proprietary Capitalism, p. 64.
9 J. L. Bishop, A History of American Manufactures from 1680-1860, Vol. 3 , pp. 53-54, cited in Goshow, p. 56.
10 McElroy, Philadelphia City Directory (1855), p. 76; (1866), p. 125.
11 Hexamer General Survey #1410 (1879), "Blantyre Mills, Sevill Schofield."
12 Lorin Blodget, The Textile Industries of Philadelphia, (Philadelphia, 1880), pg. 1.
13 Scranton, p. 63.
14 Scranton, , pp. 63-64.
Update May 2007 (by Sara Jane Elk):
Hexamer General Survey #6 (1866), 685 (1873), "Blantyre Mills, A. Campbell & Co."