Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Silk Roads, Other Roads: Textile Society of America 8th Biennial Symposium, Sept. 26–28, 2002, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.


Copyright 2002 by the author(s). Used by permission of TSA.


Haskell Silk Company founder, James Haskell, was a native of the Cape Anne, area of Massachusetts. In this locale his early career included service in numerous public and business capacities, not least as agent for The Rockport Steam Cotton Company, and as a State Senator. He was a man experienced in politics, finance and textile production. He moved to Maine in 1858 when he acquired the cotton mill at Saccarappa Falls, Westbrook. Under his management the mill, renamed The Westbrook Manufacturing Company, flourished and expanded.

In 1874, his elder son, Frank Haskell, assumed the role of agent. At the same time James took advantage of, by now, well developed machine twist-making technology and launched into the youngest branch of the textile industry—silk. The Haskell Silk Company was established as a twist maker in 1874 and incorporated in 1876. Family money financed the venture forming a closely held corporation, more like a family partnership. This undoubtedly contributed to the Haskell Silk Company's long term stability—something unusual in the volatile silk industry. In business for more than 50 years (1874-1930) Haskell is one of the few U. S. silk companies with a history spanning the rise and demise of industrial silk manufacture in America.

Of many small New England silk twist mills established at this time Haskell, in Maine, was the most northerly situated. Nevertheless, the Westbrook silk mill was one of the most successful. In competition with much larger twist makers, Haskell held its own in the market place. Haskell twist making progress is detailed in the previously published paper by this author: Transitions and Expansion: The Haskell Silk Company's Switch from Thread Manufacture to the Production of Yard Goods 1880-1882.