York Manufacturing Company Strike Papers
Papers, 1832-1854, include handwritten documents and printed ephemera relating to the women's strike and early labor organizing activities pertaining to the York Manufacturing Company mill in Saco, Maine.
- Creation: 1832-1854
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Historical Note - 1841 Strike
In 1841, nearly 500 female factory workers walked out of Saco’s York Manufacturing Company and paraded up Main Street, chanting and singing. They gathered in a local church, formed a committee, and sent the factory owner a document articulating their complaints about wages, housing, and paternalistic rules.
After a few days of fruitless negotiations with the company, Samuel Batchelder told the workers that if they did not return the next day, they shouldn’t bother coming back at all. A half dozen went back to work but the majority of the young women proved loyal and sought work elsewhere.
A week after the Saco strike, on April 6, a public meeting was held, chaired by Captain John Spring. Capt. Spring, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a successful merchant. At the meeting, a committee of 11 leading men in the village was appointed to investigate the “unpleasant disturbances among females” at the factory. Although they directed the committee to “take into consideration” the complaints of the workers, the citizens who assembled were primarily concerned that the village not be deemed “hostile to manufactories.”
A second meeting, on April 8, placed full confidence in the committee and resolved to “cordially invite capitalists to invest their money here … and pledge our support.” The citizens denied having anything to do with the “internal arrangements” made by the company, but wished “prosperity to the Corporation.”
Although the operatives failed to win concessions, the Saco strike proved that women, despite their status as second-class citizens with few rights, had the collective power to bring a mighty corporation to a standstill. (excerpted from the WayBackMachine; https://web.archive.org/web/20220209144910/https://mainernews.com/radical-mainers-the-maine-women-who-took-on-the-mighty-york-manufacturing-company/; accessed 8/2/2023)
Historical Note - York Manufacturing Company
Thomas Cutts and Josiah Calef established the Saco Iron Works, later Saco Manufacturing Co. which made cask hoops, cut nails and brads and other iron products. In 1826 the company erected a huge seven story cotton mill, the largest in the United States. After a disastrous fire in 1830, the business was reorganized as the York Manufacturing Company, and Mill #1 was opened in 1832.
The York erected four more mills in the next twenty years and ran eight mills by the turn of the century. The establishment of the Laconia Mills (1844) and Pepperell Mills (1850) in Biddeford made the combined mill district one of the largest cotton milling complexes in the country, employing as many as 9000 people. The success of the cotton mills brought allied industries to Saco: the Saco-Lowell Shops manufactured spinning and weaving machinery, and Garland Manufacturing made loom harnesses and other leather products. After becoming part of Bates Manufacturing in 1945, the York Mills were closed in 1958. (excerpted from https://www.sacomaine.org/community/mill_district.php; accessed 7/21/2022)
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from Dewolfe and Wood.
- Guide to the York Manufacturing Company Strike Papers
- The Factory Women’s “Turn-Out” of 1841
- No Additional Box Or Folder List For This Small Collection
- Elizabeth Russell
- July 2022
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for uncoded script
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.