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Beacon's Beginnings

I am on my way to attend the Center for Independent Documentary/Kopkind Filmmaker Retreat for one week in Guildford Vermont, to work on Blanket Town.  

Photo Courtesy of the Swannanoa Valley Museum

Since I am going to be in New England, I've decided to visit New Bedford and Lowell MA, researching the early days of the textile industry. While the focus of Blanket Town is on the Beacon mill that operated in Swannanoa, NC, Beacon Manufacturing Company started in New Bedford Massachusetts.

New Bedford provides a fascinating case study of America’s cycle of industrialization and it's decline, first establishing itself as the whaling capital of the world in the 1700’s. Whaling flourished in New Bedford, making it one of the richest cities in the United States. According to the American Whaling Museum by 1857 New Bedford was home to 329 whaling vessels, valued at more than $12 million dollars, which employed more than 10,000 men. A short 15 years later, as the whaling industry declined, New Bedford emerged as a center for textile manufacturing.

Photo Courtesy of the Swannanoa Valley Museum

By "1907 New Bedford was home to 25 textile manufacturing companies operating two million spindles in 50 separate mill buildings, with 14 additional mills under construction." - American Whaling Museum

Beacon Manufacturing emerged during this time of growth, starting operations in 1905. But the industrial boom of New Bedford was relatively short lived, as textile manufacturing shifted to the south. Beacon built their second mill in Swannanoa in 1925, shuttering it's New Bedford operation in 1933.

Photo Courtesy of the Swannanoa Valley Museum

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