Manager N. B. Gordon Tends to the Union Cotton and Woolen Manufactory in Mansfield, Massachusetts, 1829
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Manager N. B. Gordon Tends to the Union Cotton and Woolen Manufactory in Mansfield, Massachusetts, 1829

by N.B. Gordon

Large factories such as the Lowell textile mills, with their thousands of employees and imposing structures, were the exception in the United States’ early industrial development. More commonly, small manufactories sprang up throughout the northeastern United States wherever a fast moving stream was available to provide water power. N. B. Gordon was the general manager as well as the chief mechanic and mill agent at the Union Cotton and Woolen Manufactory, a small textile company in the southeastern Massachusetts town of Mansfield. His work diary chronicled the everyday difficulties he faced in keeping the mill operating, including such problems as broken machines and too little water to power the mill. Highly independent employees caused him headaches, too.


[January 3] Extreme cold day.—One weaver sick.—4 looms stoped

[January 5] One weaver sick 4 looms stoped.—Water wheel froze up this Morning.—Took untill 8 o clock to start it....

[January 14] Looms all in operation Turned the corner Loom took _ day.—little rain.

[January 16] Fine warm day.—Almira Lovell absent this day & also to be tomorrow, to bury her grandmother.—P.M. went to Mr. Carvers to get Harness made.

[January 17] Spinning cleaned.— Nany & Betsy White absent 3/4 of the day, Loviza & Alpheus Lovell all day to a funeral....

[January 26] All hands present.—Sent a load of goods to Boston

[January 30] Went to Sharon by request of Mr. Turner, to see 4th reservoir, absent 5 hours All hands to day.—Mr Gilbert arrived from Boston.

[January 31] All hands.—Fixed & filled the safety Hogshead in the Spin* & weaver room.

[February 2] All hands—little short roping....

[February 13] All Hands.—Short of filling & short of roping.— Roping short on account of Beater being out of repair.—One old spinning frame stoped 1/2 day

[February 15] Lords Day.—1/2 of it spent in the factory covering & repairing sising [sizing - stiffener applied to the warp] rollers.

[February 17] N° 4 weaver absent 1/4 day Short of fillg & roping the cause of the roping being short is mostly owing to cold weather.—One old sp frame stoped all da[y]

[February 18] N° 5 weaver absent 1/4 day Short of filling, Mule spinner Lame [a mule was a kind of spinning machine] .—Roping come up with the spinning A.M.

[February 21] Snow storm continued with increased violence, Blocking up the roads & even the river Got in some of the hands and hoisted about 9 o clock, but had not water to get speed with only 1/2 the card room 12 Looms, Dresser & mules Pond at night down 15 or 16 in....

[February 26] Violent rain storm last night.—No stirring out without wading half leg deep, 5 of the hands got in on sled about 9 o clock.—No. 4 weaver sick— Large Cog wheel to the gate broke this P.M. Repaired it in part

[February 27] N° 4 weaver sick.—Cold—Finished repairing cog wheel.—Spent a good share of the time for 10 da[ys] past in the machine shop; making gudgeons to yarn beams & Iron pins for cards in all, worth as Pawtucket folk charge $20.

[March 5] All hands.—Some short of filling.

[March 9] All hands.—Filling short.—Loom spring Broke.

[March 11] Roller hook to Loom broke N° 5 weaver absent.— Finished working the G cotton....

[March 23] N° 4 weaver absent 1/2 day N° 5 & 6—1/4 da[y] each.—a job repairing dresser.—Extreme cold.— Lovells children did not get in untill 1/2 past 7 A.M. on account of water in the road

[March 24] Mr Thayers party last night broke up 3 o clock morning hands in consequence come in late & one, N° 6 weaver not untill noon.—H. Kingman commenced repairing the old looms

[March 25] One of the Speeders out of order, part of yesterday & part of today.—roping short.—One old spinning frame stoped all day—All hands....

[March 31] All hands.—Sally Leonard took the Dresser @ 15/ Mary A. Leonard @ 12/—Schuyler Skinner left the mules in a dirty state. Isaac Flagg left for home Evening Morse cleaned the old mule

[April 1] Taped the 65 Gal. Oil cask.—Morse took the mules.—All hands.—Mr Gerry here

[April 4] Short of Roping.—one old spinning frame stoped all day, Prudence wove part of the day.—The new spinning stoped an hour or two for want of sp. Bobbins.—Warper stoped till middle P.M....

[April 19] Went to Norton after weavers.

[April 21] N° 5 & 7 Looms stoped—no weavers.—New spinning badly tended.

[April 23] One weaver Short.—Kingman altering creel to mules.

[April 24] One weaver short.—Kingman building bobin shelf to mules

[April 25] Kingman finished mules.—repairing bobbins & help raise water wheel.—One weaver short, sp cleaned....

[May 4] Old spinning stoped, spinner absent without leave. One of the looms turned.

[May 5] Mary A. Leonard began on the old spinning. Maria Williams & Almira Drake three looms each Kingman 1 1/4 da[y] turning Loom Patty Thomas tended spooler & warper.—Training Card Room & Mules stoped 1/2 the day

[May 8] Dresser & Warper, yesterday & to day stoped equal to one day for want of Beams.

[May 11] Two of the new sp frames stoped P.M. Simeon Thayer went out sick.—1/3 of the day repairing pulley to mule....

[June 8] Since last Wednesday the mules have been very troublesome, by the bands running off as was supposed.—The real cause has this P.M. been found to be done by the back Piecer Lewis Kingman, throwing them off & at last cuting the spindle & one of the main bands.—The weavers from the above cause have not had fillg, for more than 1/2 the day For Boldness & Cunning the above tricks surpass all description

[June 9] All hands. Mules run well

[June 13] Filling Short.—Mule spinners quit work at 3 o clock & went to Dedham.

[June 15] Sally Williams not in untill 6 o clock (Morning) No fillg weavers come in after Breakfast Extra repairs on Loom worth $1.

[June 16] All hands.—Went to Norton after Harnesses.— Water down 10 inches.

[June 17] Pond filled but 5 in last night Shut down at 4 o clock Lost 1/4 of a day, Pond down 13 inches went up to reservoir....

[June 20] Pond filled since yesterday noon 6 in.—Run all day Pond at night, down 12 1/2 in. [. . .] Factory stoped 3/4 of a day this week for want of water, being the 1st

[June 24] Pond filled but 2 1/2 inches last night.—Did not hoist this day Repairing Mule drums, Harnesses, Looms & Temples.

[June 25] Pond full to within 3 in this morning.—Tolman Reservoir gate hoisted 1 hole yesterday All hands, water down at night 15 inches.—Went Doct Pecks Foxborough with Mrs Gordon....

[June 30] Water plenty. All hands Fine showers.

[July 3] Water plenty.—All hands Breakers out of Cotton after 8 o clock, out 1 day

[July 4] Water plenty. Morning Cotton arrived.—All hands A.M.—P.M. Factory

stoped to celebrate da[y] ....

[July 13] Loviza Lovell out, mother sick A.M. Went wilh Thomas to help survey Dawson reservoir P.M. in the Factory.

[July 14] A.M. went again as above, water failed at Noon, Loviza Lovell out. P.M. Went to Norton to Pratts & Bates Factories.

[July 15] Factory stoped.—Jobing in the Factory part of the day Winslow’s put in dam this day

[July 16] Run the factory this day.—One Breaker tender & N° 7 weaver out.

[July 17] Factory stoped water short Went with Mrs G. to Norton & then to town. Repairing harnesses & making out pay Roll

[July 18] Run the factory.—1 Breaker tender & N° 7 weaver out. [. . .] Factory stoped 2 1/2 days this week for want of water.

[July 20] Run the factory.—1 Breaker tender out all day.—1 Drawing tender out 1/2 the day.—N° 7 weaver out 1/2 the day & N° 3 all day.—Pond out & dismissed the hands.—Notified Mr Stone thai the pond would be kept to the old mark 2 days (viz) 21st & 22d....

[July 27] Pond full. Hoisted. A M 8 Looms stoped P.M. 5 stoped old spinning frames, stoped 1/4 the day.

[July 28] Worked untill noon 7 Looms stoped.

[July 29] To[ok] down 6 main drums to repair.

[July 30] Went to Easton for cuplings for drums.

[July 31] Repairing Drums

[August 1] Repairing Drums No waste weighed this week Factory stoped 4 1/4 days could have worked 1 1/2 day if the drums had been rep

[August 3] Finished & put up the 6 drums

[August 4] Pond full,—Hoisted.—Fine rain this day—N° 3 & 6 Looms stoped being 5 Looms

[August 8] Four Looms stoped.—Pond out at 4 oclock & shut down Fine shower at night.—The past 4 weeks Factory stoped 10 1/4 days—1 1/2 day by my absence to R Island, & 1 1/2 day while repairing Drums, the 10 1/4 da[ys] for want of water. Short of weavers....

[August 20] Pond 1 in over.—All well 2 Iron jobs on Looms.

[August 22] N° 5 weaver quit at noon. N° 6 weaver sick.

[August 24] 5 weavers only,—Almira Lovell out sick....

[September 4] Looms all in operation 3 & 4 spinning frames in operation, had to wait for the spooler and warper. Mule spinner out 3/4 of the day, his piecers lounging about all this time.—Card room stoped P.M. Sam fixing to throw off spinning bands. Lovell and Wilbur wheeling in wood.

[September 7] 3 girls & William King spinning. Kept only part of it in operation.—Went with Mr Thomas to see Esq Boyden respecting reservoir.

[September 17] Repairing Drums & plastering

[September 18] Put up drums, cleaned stove funnel & sundry jobs

[September 19] Went to Sharon to attend a referrance on complaint of William Tolman

for flowage Factory stoped 4 days this week 2 days water too low

[September 21] Started Factory, old spg. stoped.—New Card Man New Mule Spinners

and 1 new weaver....

[October 14] Water Low, factory stoped. Repairing Rollers & spooler

[October 16] Muster Day.—Water low. Factory stoped. Spinning & new mule cleaned.—covered the spooler cylender

[October 31] One Spinner short.—Speeder girl absent—Fine rain this day, with very strong wind from N. E.

[November 2] New spinner in to day, a raw hand, one frame stoped

[November 6] N° 2 weaver absent.—Quarterly meeting, shutdown at candlelighting, time to be made up by over working hereafter....

[November 24] All hands.—Prudence tending 4 sp. frames.—This day repaired &

dressed 7 old harnesses.—Abigail C Fuller left weaving

[November 27] N° 4 Weaver not in untill noon. No 5 sick & no weaver to N° 6 Looms.—

Need 9 qts varnish.— Killed the hog Wt. 409 Ibs.

[November 30] Full compliment hands.—Geering to the last head of the old Drawing

gave out at noon

[December 1] All hands.—Went to Taunton to get new geering for Drawing Card room help kept the full supply of roping with only half the drawing

[December 7] Nancy Williams started her frames about 9 o clock

[December 25] All hands. Warm day, no fire in the spinning room

[December 31] Williams boy absent 1/2 day Absent to an auction 3 or 4 hours.

Source: "N. B. Gordon, Diary (1839–1845)" Gordon Papers, Baker Library, Harvard University, in New England Mill Village, 1790–1860, Gary Kulik, Roger Parks, Theodore Z. Penn, eds., (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1982), 284–94.