Lyman Mills, a textile mill in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was established in 1854 when the Boston-based directors of the Hadley Falls Company (established in 1832) decided to divide the firm into two separate corporations. The textile manufacturing arm was named Lyman Mills. The Hadley Falls Company continued to handle water power, machine shop and real estate operations. Although they were separate companies, Lyman Mills and the Hadley Falls Company had many officers and stockholders in common. George W. Lyman, for example, served as treasurer of both firms.
The Hadley Falls Company, its credit less secure than before the split, did not survive the Panic of 1857. It failed in 1859 and its property was sold at auction. It was succeeded by the Holyoke Water Power Company. Despite economic fluctuations that at times necessitated cutbacks and occasionally a temporary shutdown of one or both of its two mills, Lyman Mills prospered. It produced coarse goods such as shirtings, sheetings and heavy yarn but its greater success came from the manufacture of fine lawns, fancy-dress goods and drills. A third mill was built in 1873, with another expansion taking place in 1891.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Lyman Mills' physical plant stretched for an eighth of a mile along prime mill sites; the company was the largest taxpayer in the city of Holyoke and employed over 1200 people. In addition to American-born workers, Irish immigrants were a large part of the labor force in Holyoke as early as 1850. In 1859 a labor shortage led to the first group of French Canadians being recruited to work in the mills.
Though Lyman Mills escaped the labor wars being fought in places such as Lawrence and Fall River, the directors responded to strikes elsewhere by giving their own workers a small increase. James Burke, who became agent in 1907, was a local man who had worked his way up through the mill ranks. This probably contributed to the relatively good relations between labor in Holyoke and management in Boston.
Lyman Mills continued to earn money for its stockholders even when changes in fabrics and styles required that machinery be remodeled in 1914 and 1915. It survived the post-World War I economic slump in good condition, having successfully kept inventory low and prevented the cancellation of contracts. While the coarse-goods mill was being hurt by southern competition, the fine-goods mill was still profitable when the company was dissolved in 1927.
Liquidation of the firm began in 1927 and was complete in 1936. According to Constance McLaughlin Green in Holyoke Massachusetts: A Case History of the Industrial Revolution in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939), the liquidation of Lyman Mills was not due to lack of profits but instead resulted from the "eagerness of a group of stockholders to realize completely upon the substantial assets of the company...The move was probably initiated by men who had lost money when the Dwight Mills in Chicopee were closed up in 1922. When investigation of the financial status of the Lyman Mills revealed that over $200 could be netted on each $100 par value share of stock, stockholders were anxious to get their money out." (p238n)
The collection is an unusually complete set of company records, from founding to liquidation, and is especially strong in payroll and production records. Of particular interest is a series of papers which concern the importation of labor from abroad in the 1850s. The collection also consists of directors and stockholders records, administrative records, journals, insurance accounts, ledgers, invoices, cash books, property reports and appraisals, and extensive files of correspondence.
The correspondence files include substantial correspondence between Lyman Mills and Minot, Hooper and Company, selling agents. Letters of George Lyman, G.L. Lyman, F.H. Story, J.K. Mills, S.L. Bush, Theophilus Parsons and Ernest Lovering are found in the treasurers' files. Agents' letters include those of William Melcher, Stephen Holman, J.S. Davis. J.W. Lovering, George H. Hills, James A. Burke and Theophilus Parsons.
Included in the collection are records of the Hadley Falls Company as well as papers relating to the Holyoke Water Power Company, which succeeded the Hadley Falls Company; letterbooks of the Deane Power Company (1896-1897) and an account book of the Springfield Canal Company (1833-1846).
NOTE: Samples of cloth manufactured by Lyman Mills were deaccessioned and sent to the Museum of American Textile History in North Andover, Massachusetts.