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"Cloth from the Mill" advertisement

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The city of Holyoke, Massachusetts, was founded on a stretch the Connecticut River north of the city of Springfield. There, rapids fell sixty feet in a mile and a half. For decades the river had been considered too powerful to harness, but in 1831 inventors built the first wing dam to channel water for industrial purposes. A dam was completed spanning the river in 1849 and the water power became the driving engine for one of Western Massachusetts' largest single concentrations of industry. Holyoke's major industries for the remainder of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries were the manufacture of paper and cloth. Ridgewood Mills was one of a number of textile manufacturers in Holyoke. The winter fashions before World War I required heavy woolen fabrics, but changes in the tariffs in 1913 and state labor laws reduced the profitability of the pure wool mills. Other mills like Ridgewood Mills that specialized in worsted cloth- a much lighter wool - continued being profitable for another generation. The Great Depression of 1929-1940 virtually eliminated the textile industry in Holyoke.


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