American Printing Company (Fall River Iron Works) - Expansion


Fall River profited well from the American Civil War and was in a fine position to take advantage of the prosperity that followed. By 1868, it had surpassed Lowell as the leading textile city in America with over 500,000 total spindles. The American Print Works was set to open a new factory in 1867, when a disastrous fire occurred. It was a major setback for the company, as the final arrangements for insurance were in the process of being completed when the fire happened. However, the American Print Works was soon rebuilt in 1868, bigger and better than it was before.

A few years later during 1871 and 1872, a most dramatic expansion occurred within the City of Fall River, when 15 new corporations were founded, building 22 new mills throughout the city, while some of the older mills expanded. The city's population increased by an astounding 20,000 people during these two years, while overall mill capacity double to more than 1,000,000 spindles. The main product of these mills was print cloth, the vast majority of which, passed through the American Print Works.

By 1876 the city had 1/6 of all New England cotton capacity, and one-half of all print cloth production. "King Cotton" had definitely arrived. The "Spindle City" as it became known, was second in the world to only Manchester, England.

However, the 1870s would be a trying time for the textile industry, beginning with the Panic of 1873. The American Print Works failed in 1879, a result of the uninsured losses suffered in the 1867 fire, and was reorganized as the American Printing Company 1880.

At its peak in 1876, the Iron Works employed 600 men. However, just a few years later in 1880, the Iron Works property was divided among shareholders and production of iron ceased soon after, as a result of increased competition from other companies closer to the mines.

In 1887, M.C.D. Borden, son of Col. Richard gain control of the company's stock, and tore down the old buildings of the iron works, and began the construction of several huge new cloth-producing mills, adjacent to the American Printing Company. These new mills would be known as the "Iron Works Division" of the APC.

Three huge warehouses were also built along the lower portion of Anawan Street, to store the many copper printing rollers required for the production of print cloth, as well as to store customer's orders until they needed them. Mill Number 7 was built in 1905 further up on Anawan Street, and still stands today. The Narrows Center for the Arts occupies one of the former warehouse buildings.

In 1917, the American Printing Company was capitalized at $2,000,000. The Fall River Iron Works, the cloth-producing division of the company and had a huge capacity of 485,288 ring spindles and 12,702 looms. The print works had the capacity to print 125,000 pieces per week.

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