Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Pasted Graphic
"Horner Bros.' Carpet Company." (1892), Hexamer #2524.

Quaker Lace Company
, 1894
Northwest Corner of 4th Street and Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19133

Carmen A. Weber, Irving Kosmin, and Muriel Kirkpatrick, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

In 1894, Joseph H. Bromley purchased the Horner Brother Carpet Company mill, constructed in 1880 and situated on the northwest corner of 4th Street and Lehigh Avenue. The Horner Brothers Company possessed twenty-one Nottingham lace curtain looms. Bromley added more looms, equipment, and skilled labor with the help of Sir Ernest Jardine of Nottingham, England and the Lehigh Manufacturing Company began production, rebuilding one of the Horner mill brick buildings along 4th Street and adding several stories to the brick building along Lawrence Avenue. By 1896, approximately one hundred and eight Nottingham lace curtain looms were operating in the mill. 1
In the early twentieth century, the firm expanded by constructing additional facilities at 22nd Street and Lehigh Avenue and incorporated under the name Lehigh Manufacturing Company in 1905. At that date the complex at 4th and Lehigh consisted of an office building mid-block, with the mill buildings on either side and to the rear of the block. The terra cotta detailing was added later. The mill on the corner of 4th and Lehigh contained a packing area on the ground floor, with spooling on the second floor, and drafting, design, and other storage areas on the upper floors. The four story brick building behind this mill held facilities for beaming and reeling, as well as drying and storage. The one story brick building behind the office, with its sawtooth roof, provided an ideal space for mending. The Jacquard looms for making lace were on the second through fourth floors of the Lawrence Street building, with finishing, bleaching, and drying operations on the first floor.
2 Today the looms stand unused on the second floor, while the finishing and other operations continue to be conducted on the first floor and the design department operates in the office building. 3
Quaker Lace was incorporated in 1911. Eighty looms operated at the 4th Street mill, with 46 looms and 48 Levers lace machines operated at the 22nd Street mill. In 1925, the 22nd Street building was sold to the Quaker Hosiery Company, and operations shifted to the 4th Street mill. John Bromley was elected President of the firm in 1926. The company first added tablecloths to their line in 1932.
4 During World War II, Quaker Lace made camouflage nets for the military. With the drop in demand for lace curtains after the war, the firm made tablecloths almost exclusively, a product they still produce and for which they are famous.
The business changed in the late 1960s with the invention of knitting machines capable of making lace. The older Jacquard looms in the 4th Street mill ceased operation in 1987. Quaker Lace maintains a plant in Maine that still weaves Nottingham lace on the older looms, as well as a newer plant with more modern knitting machines in Lionville, Pennsylvania.

1   Quaker Lace Company, "Dates in Quaker History," Typescript 1983, (copy on file, Philadelphia Historical Commission).
2   Associated Mutual Insurance Company, Index No. 1228, Survey No. 6548, surveyed and drawn by W. L. Blossom, (Philadelphia, 1903, copy on file, Philadelphia Historical Commission).
3   Interview with Richard Fees, Director of Design, (May 17, 1989).
4   Quaker Lace Company.
5   Richard Fees, (May 17, 1989).

Update May 2007 (by Torben Jenk):
Soon after being sold by the Bromley family, the building was destroyed in a spectacular fire and then demolished. Now the site of the Julia De Burgos Middle School.

See also:
Hexamer General Survey #1538 (1881) "Horner Bros.' Carpet Mills."
Hexamer General Survey #2524 (1892) "Horner Bros.' Carpet Company."