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York Manufacturing Company Strike Papers

Identifier: SpC MS 1820-sc

Content Description

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

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access.

Conditions Governing Use

Rights assessment remains the responsibility of the researcher. No known restrictions.

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;; 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; accessed 7/21/2022)


1 folder

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.

Repository Details

Part of the Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Repository

5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States