Home Collections Women at Work: Manual Labor Outwork

Allen-Lane Company Collection
Mss 761 1853-1941
Includes payrolls of nineteenth- and twentieth-century New England textile mills, as well as stockholder records, family records, and information on knitting outwork.

Baker, B.N. & A. Collection
Mss 773 1837-1857 B168
Records, from 1837 to 1841, of payments to women for producing clothing with materials supplied by a local merchant in Bakersville, Connecticut.

Thomas Bennett Collection
Mss:11 1792-1831 B472
Account book of a Connecticut farmer and toll bridge owner, 1792-1831. Bennett had accounts with several women who wove cloth for him.

Nathaniel Bradley and Company Collection
Mss 77 1827-1886 B811
Records of a company that manufactured palm-leaf hats.

Aaron Claflin Collection
Mss 641 1839-1845 C583
Aaron Claflin manufactured shoes, boots, and palm-leaf hats.

Albert W. Crafts Collection
Mss 77 1824-1879 C885
Collection of a manufacturer who produced palm-leaf hats.

J. A. Frye Shoe Company Collection
Mss 641 1867-1903
Ledgers of a Massachusetts shoe manufacturer record payments to women shoe workers.

William Lamb Collection
Mss:9353 1836-1841 L218
Diaries of an inmate at the House of Industry in South Boston, Massachusetts, 1836-1841.

Mixter-Knight Collection
Mss 455 1833-1847 B987
Includes records of payments to women who produced palm-leaf hats.

Northbridge Cotton Manufacturing Company Collection
Mss 442 1814-1848 N872
Accounts with women who wove cloth for the company.

Dexter Whittemore & Son Collection
Mss 77 1809-1868 W624
Records of a company that manufactured palm-leaf hats.

Francis W. Winn Collection
Mss 44 1710-1938
The ledger of a woolen textile mill and general store in Dexter, New York, records payments for piecework to women weavers.

William H. Witherle Collection
Mss 77 1806-1892 W
Records of payments to women for knitting mittens with yarn supplied by a local merchant.

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Advertisement of Dexter Whittemore & Son seeking palm-leaf hat producers, ca. 1840.

Dexter Whittemore ran a general store in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. A large part of his business involved the manufacture and sale of palm-leaf hats. He imported palm-leaf and then distributed the material to local women, who braided it into hats and bonnets. The relationship worked well for all parties. Whittemore acquired a finished product without the overhead of a factory. The work also suited the agrarian lifestyle of the women who made the hats. They were able to do their work at home during the winter when there was much less work to do on the farm.

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Letter from Roxana Stowell to Dexter Whittemore, June 1835.

Roxana Stowell was a friend of the Whittemore family and also one of his hatmakers. In 1835 she wrote to Whittemore asking him for instructions on braiding bonnets:

Mr. Whittemore I should like to know how you turned your hats if you sold them. We should like to braid a few for you this season if you want them and we can find out what kind you like. Will you write and let us know the price and shape of your hats. Be particular so that we can know how to braid a very few for you if we should think it is best. We have been, and are now braiding but the time for selling them is almost over for this season, as we cannot sell any except custom hats. We have sold them from 25 to 50 cents apiece. We shall not probably braid a great number but we wish you to write as soon as you receive this and let us know about this and be very particular….

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