Monday, December 14, 2009

More Machinery and a Paper Industry Mystery

A few years ago, I had a call out of the blue from the caretaker of the mansion in Lenox, Mass., of the late Milos Krofta. Fred had found out that I was interested in papermaking and paper history and suggested he had something that might fit both categories.

He sure did. First, a bit of history. Milos Krofta was a brilliant engineer and entrepreneur originally from Yugoslavia. He became involved in the paper industry there and was in charge of three mills as a young man. With the outbreak of World War II, his mills were confiscated by the Italians and Germans. In 1945, the remaining mill was again confiscated, this time by Communist Russia. When he learned that he was to be arrested as a capitalist enemy of the people, he fled to Trieste and freedom.

For six years, Krofta operated successfully as a consultant in Switzerland and Italy. In 1951, when the war in Korea erupted and the Italian Communist Party made great political gains, the Kroftas immigrated to the United States.

OK, back to Lenox. In Krofta's basement, there was a papermaker's dream: a complete mini paper mill. There was (sorry while I fall into paper-speak) a Voith cycle beater, an automated headbox pulp delivery system, a hydraulically assisted vat, a 100-ton hydraulic press, a pilot plant calender and a drying system that used hot oil - yikes! This stuff was so large, that it had to have been assembled in-place. It was marvelously over-engineered.

I made all sorts of calls to see if I could get anyone to take these machines out of the basement to save them, but alas, they were too big. They are now scrap.

But I did save one thing, and I could use your help solving a bit of a mystery. Here's the machine:

Here's some of its insides:

Here's the identifying label:

So, I know it's a micro paper machine. I sort of guessed that before seeing the label, as there are some recognizable elements inside the machine, albeit quite a bit smaller.

So, what's its history? Did it every work? Are there any others in existence?

So many questions, but one thing is certain: I will get this thing making paper. I'm sure it won't be any time soon, but it will make paper. I could sure use some help.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Excellent Machinery Along The Paper Trail

I've always had a soft spot for machinery, ever since my parents took us kids on a string of factory tours many years ago. So you can imagine that a place like Crane & Co. in Dalton, which makes stationery and currency paper and a bunch of other stuff using machinery that probably can't be found many other places, holds a continuing fascination for me.

Crane stationery arrives at the store in boxes. One probably takes boxes for granted. They hold your stationery; big deal. They're really not worthy of further consideration. After all, they're just boxes.

Oh Yeah?

Check out Crane's Box Machine:

Did you see the guy in the blue shirt about 3/4 of the way through the video? He's an Adjuster. Yup; Crane's Stationery Factory has a staff of Adjusters. They Adjust machines. They are really good at what they do. I am seriously envious that they get to spend all day Adjusting Machines.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tragic News: Egremont Inn a Total Loss

It's a very sad day here on The Paper Trail.

Earlier today, an historic building in Western Massachusetts was destroyed following an early morning fire, according to local reports. There is no doubt that The Egremont Inn was as important to the region's papermakers through their history here as it was to the local economy - until today.

No one was hurt in the fire, but now more than 225 years of history, dating back to the Revolutionary War, have literally gone up in flames.

Fire and heavy smoke poured out of the building, which is in a national historic district.

According to WTEN in Albany, NY, firefighters say when they arrived on scene the flames were in one room on the bottom of the building and quickly spread from there.

Authorities say it is a complete loss, and because of the intensity of the fire, the effort to put it out is far from over.

"We're putting plenty of water on that," said Great Barrington Deputy Fire Chief Edward McCormick. "The building is too dangerous to allow our firemen to enter the building. That's probably what we're going to be doing for the rest of the day."

Firefighters say the cold weather is not making fighting the flames any easier.

In fact, because of all the water being used on the building, there is the danger of ice forming on the ground around where the firefighters are moving and the hoses freezing, as well.

The inn originally opened as a tavern in 1780.

Video from today's disaster can be seen here.

E.D. Jones - The World's Millwright

One of the most fascinating stories from The Paper Trail is that of Edward Dorr Griffin Jones, or E.D.Jones, as he and his business would come to be known around the world.

Just as early papermakers would locate their mills within easy distance of printers, it became the practice along the Housatonic River for businesses that serve the interests of papermakers to situate themselves close to their customers.

The most prominent in the valley was E.D. Jones, who set up shop in East Lee on Greenwater Stream a tributary of the Housatonic and home to several small mills. According to "The Jones Story" (1966) by Dwight E. Jones (no relation): "Every indication pointed to an association with Bradford M. Couch whose shop was located along the Greenwater stream, on the opposite side from what now is the East Lee Inn. The exact working relation which he had with Bradford Couch is not clear, i.e. whether Couch, who was about twenty-six at the time, had started a shop earlier; whether they were partners or whether he simply used the Couch shop for headquarters and to get some mill work done or timber that was to be installed in paper mills. In any event, from accounts passed down by word of mouth, E. D. Jones spent much of his time in these first years with his own tools doing millwright work in the paper mills."

The dam that powered E.D. Jones' millwright shop.

Jones was not the first to set up a service shop. There were several others up and down the Housatonic, so Jones had to excel in areas that others could not. He found his first major toehold building overshot waterwheels, largely constructed of wood, with the exception of the shaft; assembled in Jones' shop then taken down to be transported to and mounted in place on the main drive shaft of the mill.

In 1856, Couch sold his interest in the shop to Jones. Around this time, there was continued expansion in the paper industry, not only on Greenwater Stream, but on other waterways as well. "For a time it seemed that paper mills sprung up like mushrooms, all up and down the streams in Lee, Tyringham, Stockbridge, Housatonic, Great Barrington, and there were times when men, seemingly bemused by the lure of this industry, erected little "one family" mills on their farms and went headlong into the business, knowing little or nothing about it and prospering little or none," writes author Jones.

Most would come to rely on the services of E.D. Jones. And because so many did, in 1866, Jones sold his shop to two of his journeymen and moved his operation north to Pittsfield. In the 1880s, two of Jones' sons joined the business, which was now associated with iron founders Wm. Clark & Company, and building complete paper mills and, interestingly, school houses and freight elevators. The business was incorporated in 1896.

A wagon dumping jack made by E.D. Jones

The end of an era passed in 1905 with the death of E.D. Jones, but the foundation which he laid would prove solid for the future.

Stay tuned for Part II of the Jones story.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Paper Town: Lee, Mass., on The Paper Trail

Papermaking has been the economic backbone of Lee, Massachusetts, as well as other towns along the Housatonic River, for more than 200 years. At one time, there were 25 paper mills in Lee. The first successful American paper from wood pulp was made here, along with many other industry firsts. In 2008, Schweitzer Mauduit, the largest local employer of paper makers, closed the doors of its four Lee mills, and Mead Westvaco closed one, leaving only one mill running. It is still running.

The Eagle Mill on the Housatonic River in Lee, Mass. The mill closed in 2008, after making paper for more than 200 years.

The history of this great industry in this small New England town is being documented on film by Judith Monachina, a Lee native, and whose family worked in the Lee mills.

"This documentary will be a look at how a small town with a deep history of papermaking envisions its future, and it will give the community a way to look at its past," said Judith.

The documentary tells the story of this papermaking tradition, and the Paper Mills Documentary Project includes students from the Lee Middle School in the process. Students are learning the papermaking heritage of their town as teachers find ways to incorporate local history and papermaking into the curriculum.

Employees of Lee's Columbia Mill in the 1870s.

To date, this project has been supported by Mass Humanities, Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, High Meadow Foundation, and generous individuals.

Be sure to visit the Paper Town website to learn much more.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dard Hunter's Giant Footprint On The Paper Trail

The first paper along the Housatonic River was made by hand in 1801 by Zenas Crane in Dalton, Mass. After the introduction of papermaking machinery in the 1800s, the art of handmade paper quickly came to an end. There is no record of when and where the last handmade paper was made along The Paper Trail, but its return is well-known among paper historians and those involved with the paper and book arts. Actually, the only reason there are paper and book artists in the United States is because of the curiosity and tenacity of Dard Hunter.

I won't go into any great detail about Hunter - the story is long and rich, and I'll help you get to the best sources in a minute. Suffice it to say that Dard Hunter (1883-1966) was an American Renaissance man. He was not only a designer in the Arts & Crafts Movement in the early decades of the 20th century, but also a private press printer, paper historian and author, collector and museum director. His travels around the world helped uncover and pass along the indigenous traditions of papermaking throughout the world. He was bound and determined to reignite interest - artistically and commercially - in handmade paper in the United States.

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It was in Lime Rock, Conn., where he and his partners set up what they hoped would become the first commercial mill along the banks of the Salmon Fells Kill in an abandoned factory that once made railroad wheels. He brought not only all the equipment he would need from a handmade paper mill in England, but an entire English papermaking family as well.

Papermaking commenced in 1930, but the dream of a real mill never came to pass for Hunter. The mill languished for years, finally closing for good in 1950. The buildings were swept away by the flood of 1955, well-remembered by many residents of the area.

Hunter's career is well worth exploring. There is even an organization called The Friends of Dard Hunter. Here are some links to pursue the story.

Friends of Dard Hunter

Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking

The Crane Insider Blog

Dard Hunter Studios

Ohio University Libraries

By His Own Labor, Biography of Dard Hunter

Following are photographs from the Lime Rock Mill. I am indebted, as always, to Cindy Bowden, director of the Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking in Atlanta, for these photos.

Dard Hunter

The Lime Rock Mill

The papermaking Robertson family from England

Cotton rags being sorted for papermaking

This beater was used to turn rags into pulp; hence the term, beaten to a pulp!

Papermaking in progress

Our next installment will explore the connection between the first hand papermaker and the last, along The Paper Trail.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Rising Paper Mill of Housatonic

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to climb in the pickup and take a field trip to a beautiful little village in the Housatonic valley. The destination that day was the Ramsdell Public Library in lovely downtown Housatonic. Built in 1908, the first floor houses the library collection and the second floor the theater. The theater room also houses the collections of the Great Barrington Historical Society. And within that collection are the archives from the former Rising Paper Mill.

My host for the visit was Gary Leveille, vice president of the Historical Society. He and local historian Bernard Drew have been working away at organizing and cataloging the Rising archives, which are contained in 20 boxes. As much as I wanted to ruffle through each and every box of payroll records, paper samples, photographs and marketing materials dating from 1899, I had to hold myself in check until a later date.

And that's just as well, because Gary was kind enough to show me the most treasured part of the collection - a painting of the Rising Paper Mill complex by Yvonne Twining Humber. It is a magnificent painting and is far superior and much more interesting than any photo I could have taken to present to you today.

Here is a link to an article about her very distinguished career.

The Rising mill today is owned and operated by the Hazen Paper Company of Holyoke, Mass., which specializes in film and foil laminations, gravure printing, specialty coating, and rotary embossings. Hazen products enjoy wide acceptance for use in luxury packaging, bookbinding, lottery and other security tickets, tags and labels as well as for photo and fine art mounting.

We'll have an opportunity to dive deeper into the history of the Rising Paper Mill and the hamlet of Housatonic at a later date. Next up: Dard Hunter and the Lime Rock Mill.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some Good News Along the Paper Trail

We learned from the Berkshire Eagle yesterday that two senior managers at the MeadWestvaco plant in Lee are negotiating to purchase the facility from its parent company and keep it running as it does now with its 122-member work force.

According to the Eagle, "MeadWestvaco General Manager Patricia Begrowicz and Vice President of Sales and Business Development Christopher Mathews confirmed Friday that they are presently in negotiations with the parent company to buy the the Willow Mill, the former Laurel Mill building and the finished goods warehouse, all located in South Lee, from MeadWestvaco Corp."

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Here's a link to the full story.

The First Stop Along the Housatonic Paper Trail

The Housatonic Heritage Paper Trail explores the rich history and social legacy of the paper industry which has relied on the waters of the Housatonic for more than two centuries. As one of the lead researchers, I will keep you up-to-date on what we find along the way.
Peter Hopkins

Last week, I attended an "Out & About" gathering of members of the Connecticut League of History Organizations and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area at Herman Melville's Arrowhead home in Pittsfield, Mass. We were treated to an informative presentation by Betsy Sherman, director of the Berkshire County Historical Society, which is housed at Arrowhead, and a lively tour of the house and the history associated with it.

So one might ask, "All well and good, Peter, but what's this got to do with paper?"

In 1855, Melville penned The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids. The Tartarus focuses on a fictional visit to Devil's Dungeon paper mill by a seedsman in need of paper. The story is a very dark accounting of Melville's feelings about factories and the working conditions therein, especially for women.

"Suddenly a whirling, humming sound broke upon
my ear. I looked, and there, like an arrested
avalanche, lay the large whitewashed factory.
It was subordinately surrounded by a cluster of
other and smaller buildings, some of which, from
their cheap, blank air, great length, gregarious
windows, and comfortless expression, no doubt
were boarding-houses of the operatives."

And, it's pretty much downhill from there.

We surmise that Melville based his view of paper mills on those in Dalton, as history records that in February of 1851 he wrote to his friend Evert A. Duyckinck, on paper watermarked "Carson's Dalton MS" that he had just made a sojourn to the mill to pick up "a sleigh-load of paper. A great neighborhood for authors, you see, is Pittsfield."

Several other famous 19th-century authors made the Berskshires their home, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton. As we explore further the relationship between paper and this beautiful valley, we'll see if there are Paper Trail connections with them as well.

The view from Herman Melville's writing desk
at Arrowhead. Mt. Greylock, the highest
point in Massachusetts, is in the distance.