There are probably few who either have not sewn with nor heard of Indian Head, a staple cotton that was part of everyday life for more than 129 years. Mourners have never understood why it went off market; optimists have faith it will return. Unfortunately Indian Head like many of our favorite fabrics – kettlecloth and Quadriga for example, have bit the dust.
In the words of an official of a large textile company — “the big mill groups folded due to attrition, consolidation, market conditions and just plain bad management which rearranged or eliminated these enterprises. Those that survived and continue to prosper are those companies that have focused on a core product where they have large market share .” Indian Head has a long, varied history and many owners long after the mill operations were discontinued.
Because this famous brandname is so intertwined with the history of its locality and mill origins, mill histories and their activities become as important as the fabric they created, modified and discontinued. So their story must also be told as a means to showcase their famous product along side their other acquisitions.
There are also side stories from the various acquisitions of and interactions with mills and manufacturers along the route – Wm. Skinner & Sons, J.L Stifel, Wm. Simpson & Sons, Springs Industries [Spring Mill]s; these textile giants will be the focus of future columns. As an aid to help collectors with identifying approximate dates of their Indian Head sample packets and selvage markings, this column includes a price index based on Indian Head ads, photos of selvage stampings used by mill owners and sample swatch packets which were offered free upon request.
This column raises more questions than provides answers. It should be noted that many facts are still outstanding and that conjecture is indicated where information is sketchy or vague. As new information is received, this column will be appended.. It is hoped that readers who can fill in the blanks with words and photos will help in the reconstruction of the total Indian Head story. What is Indian Head Indian Head did not evolve full blown as the 1920s-50s linen-textured fabric we have come to know.
In fact Indian Head was multiple fabrics, the brandname being given to a linen-textured fabric called cloth in standard or permanent finish, a silky smooth percale and a combed broadcloth. Indian Head was introduced in 1831 as high-quality, sturdy, rough-texture muslin brown cloth [grey, gray, greige or griege goods]. Its sturdiness and quality became world famous and was even used as a medium of exchange for bartering in the Philippines.
It is more than likely that many of the sheets and dress goods under house brandname or no brandname sold in early dry goods stores and commercial catalogs is actually Indian Head cloth which was purchased and converted by many manufacturers.
Magnification of Indian Head weave showing its sturdy even plain weave.
– Courtesy Betty Wilson In fact, Indian Head was was one of most all-encompassing fabrics ever produced: seven widths, an enormous solid color and print range, selection of finishes and multi-usable as sheeting, clothing and home décor.
It is conjecture at this point how long Indian Head remained in this brown cloth capacity — probably sometime until early to mid-1900 for it is around 1915, possibly slightly earlier, that magazine advertising through manufacturer sales agent Amory, Browne & Co. began appearing under the Indian Head name as an all purpose cloth for home and clothing. It coincided with fashion drastically changing from the fluffy sheers and gracious Edwardian styles to more simplistic casual wear which required more durable fabrics and to an emerging large home sewing market.
Also this period is significant as 1916 was the year Nashua Mfg. Co. acquired Jackson Mills which was the creator and owner of Indian Head cloth and trademark. From its earliest advertising on, the company prided itself in its honesty about fabric and up to the very end never failed to make these guarantees: “If any article made of Indian Head fails to give proper service because of the fading or running of Indian Head colors, we will make good the total cost of the garment.” “Always look for Indian Head stamped in dotted letters on every yard of genuine Indian Head.
It is for your protection.” and “Indian Head must appear on the selvage or you are not getting Indian Head.” “If any article made principally of Indian Head cotton fails to give proper service because of fading or running of Indian Head colors or if the fabric shrinks more than 1%, we will make good the total cost of the garment.” [after pre-shrunk option introduced around 1931-32.] As late as 1923, glossaries such as Textile Fabrics by Elizabeth Dyer described Indian Head as a “heavy cotton muslin with more yarns and a smoother finish than many muslins; sturdy, substantial, warm, inexpensive.
Used for white skirts, petticoats, girls dresses and middies, boys’ suits, men’s nightshirts, aprons, luncheon sets and table covers.” A 1947 Dan River Textile Dictionary reduced the definition to “cotton sheeting with smooth finish for combed percale sheets.” Other glossaries described the cloth as superior quality muslin made of specially prepared yarns, washed and ironed well, completely colorfast and was an all-purpose cloth.
Most glossaries after mid-1960s did not list Indian Head as an active fabric; any reference would be in past tense as Indian Head cloth ceased production in 1962. The Permanent Finish never lived up to expectations and fabric could not compete with the new post-WWII synthetic fibers and blends. There have been many reports of persons seeing bolts or buying fabric in stores up to early to late 1970s but these were warehouse inventory, according to a former Indian Head Mills official, made available through jobbers, other distributors and sales agents.
The famous Indian Head warrior logo and Indian Head name stamped on every yard. Even though long off the market, the Indian Head trademark is as revered as the fabric. When Indian Head was created, most of the populace could not read and it was the custom for persons to designate their businesses by pictures, which we now call trademarks. The directors of Jackson Mills, proud of their new quality fabric which they had named Jackson sheeting, felt a trademark was needed.
Indian Head, a symbol of endearance in the region, was adopted. The sketch was carved on a wooden block and stamped on every bolt. Soon it was discovered that people were asking for the cloth with the Indian Head, remembering the picture rather than the Jackson name. Wisely the company renamed the cloth to match the logo. Textile author George Linton noted in his 1973 Modern Apparel and Textile Dictionary that this popular logo has been counterfeited more than 100 times to date.
Mill History The Nashua Years 1823-1945 through 1948 closing by Textron 1673 Town of Dunstable MA chartered. Area includes Nashua. New Hampshire not a state. 1677 Indian massacres during King Philip’s War end. That event would be the origins of Indian Head logo a few centuries later – it is reputed that when the Indians finally departed several of them carved a crude outline of an Indian warrior’s head upon a large oak as a mark of defiance.
Today this area is called Indian Head and is a tourist attraction of Nashua.
Carving of the Indian Head warrior.
– The Nashua Century 1740 New Hampshire is declared a state; includes part of Dunstable which contains most of the grist mills.
1813 Dunstable Cotton & Woolen Manufactory chartered but never gets off the ground.
1823 The Nashua Manufacturing Company is founded with Mill No.
1. as a cotton textile manufacturer for blankets, coarse and heavy cotton shirting and sheeting, and grows to be the largest in the world.
Daniel Abbot was the leading founder and Daniel Webster was one of the investors. Most of the coarse cloth goes to Shangai for clothing. A finer cloth is printed locally and shipped to South America. Dyeing and printing are done on premises; bleaching is done at mills in Lowell.
1825 Charles Haven forms Indian Head Factory [also called Indian Head Mills].
One of the investors was Adams & Amory, stockholders in Nashua Mfg. Co. Conjecture – as the name Amory figures throughout Nashua and Jackson mill history it could be related t0 selling agent Amory, Browne & Co. which began appearing on Indian Head ads around 1915. Nashua Mfg. builds a water power dam across Nashua River to accommodate new mill and grants it water rights. Complex includes wool house, counting house, store room, lodge, smithy, dye house, machine shop, 11 rental houses, granary and a “bell frey.” 1825 New company produces woolen goods, mainly black, blue and brown broadcloth for men’s work.
Due to unskilled workers and lack of expertise in wool manufacturing, company is unable to compete with imports. 1827 Nashua Mfg. adds Mill No.
2. Produces finer cloth in 28-30″ shirting and 42″ sheeting.
1830 A new firm, The Jackson Company or Jackson Mills, purchases Indian Head Mills to turn it into a cotton factory. Mill is named after townsman Patrick Tracy Jackson who fashioned the Nashua mills district after the Lowell Pattern and Waltham Plan.
Jackson was a brother in law of Francis Cabot Lowell and helped him to found the Boston Mfg. Co., also known as the Waltham Co., to establish the first power loom in America in 1814. Nashua Mfg. finances first adequate structure for Jackson Mills and in an agreement with Jackson lets the new mill use its machine shop tools to reorganize machinery for manufacturing cotton cloth.. 1831 Jackson Mills creates Jackson sheeting.
However, as the name Jackson predjudices the sale of any goods due to the unpopularity of President Jackson, company renames fabric Indian Head cloth and adopts the Indian Head logo from a tree carving.
1833 Jackson makes brown cloth in sheeting in one width only –first known sample with the Indian Head stamp was 36″ wide. Yankee clipper ships carried Indian Head to cloth-hungry Far East and South Sea countries such as China, India and Philippines and to South America.
1835 Jackson adds second mill; now has total 11,000 spindles, 385 looms and would continue to have good leadership.
1836 Nashua Mfg. Co. opens Mill No.
3. Company now has 32,000 spindles, 710 looms with annual production of 9.3 million yards annually or 44 yards per loom per day – carded, spun and woven at 50 times faster than hand labor.
1837 Name of town of Dunstable MA is changed to Nashua 1839 Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co. introduces Pequot sheets. Peqot Mills would become part of the Indian Head family more than a century later in 1955.
1844 Nashua opens Mill No.
4. 1846 Mill workers strike over deplorable working conditions and wages which leads to enactment of 10-hr working day.
1850 Of 1060 mill workers, 835 are women. Influx of the Irish as mill workers.
1853 Until this time all Nashua mills operate separately and independently of each other, produce own grade of work and have separate financial systems. Due to economy, all mills are now combined under one operation.
1856 Mill No. 1 burns and is immediately rebuilt. Space between mills enclosed until a continuous building of 1,000 ft. is obtained 1857 Nashua reincorporates as a city.
1871 Nashua Mfg. and Jackson now served by same agent who was a former Nashua Mfg. superintendent..
1871 Jackson produces line of heavy cotton adapted to the eastern market, mostly to China. Encounters continual trademark piracy from the English and Canadian which signifies the high regard for Indian Head cloth.
1871 Sheldon’s Weekly Dry Goods Price List includes Indian Head in its brown cloth section and available in four widths – 30″, 36″, 40″ and 48″.
1885 Jackson maintains system for tracking every pound of cotton from picker to finishing room to insure quality of best fiber, economy and efficiency.
Also maintains it own meterological station to insure best use of water power through monthly government reports on atmospheric phenomena, pressure, termperature, humidity, motion, precipitation and electric effects anywhere on earth.
1895 Jackson producing 19 million yards annually with 35,720 spindles and 1,212 looms.
1897 Nashua Mfg. now producing more than 100 kinds and grades of cotton flannels and blankets.
Nashua Mfg. Co. around 1900.
– The Nashua Century 1915 Bloodiest and most intense strike begins began in dye house over higher pay and longer lunch time. 600 strikers close down mill. Over the next two weeks, demands are made and rejected. Mill owners in no hurry to settle things as their warehouses are full of goods ready to ship; workers are getting hungry. Nashua Mayor James B. Crowley calls in the National Guard to back up police as strikers begin throwing rocks and starting fights.
Women defy an approaching freight train by sitting on the tracks as train comes around the bend toward the millyard to pick up a shipment. Train stops as the women refuse to get up, and police rush to the scene. Backed by the militia, they order strikers to disperse but to no avail. Then soldiers advance with their bayonets and police with their clubs. Strikers begin throwing rocks, and in the ensuing melee one striker is shot and eight or nine others are severely beaten.
Papers as far away as New York City carry stories of the brawl, the shooting and subsequent accounts that the mayor himself had clubbed one of the striking women. A few days later strikers vote to unionize, ending the strike. Strikebreakers also affect Jackson Mills operations.
1915 As country grows and the number of home sewers increases, Nashua begins to see importance of home market and advertising in national magazines directed to women, stressing attractiveness and utility of Indian Head.
1915 One of the first magazine ads appears for Indian Head cloth with Amory, Browne & Co as sales agent. 5 widths are available – 27″, 33″, 36″, 40″, 44″ in white only, 12.5¢ to 25¢/yd. Indian Head only words words stamped. Free doll dress for 14″, 16″ and 18″ dolls.
Note: This ad in detail and reference to any other ads will appear in photo gallery at end of column.
1916 Nashua Manufacturing Company merges with the Jackson Mills Company just in time to gear up for WWI production. More than half the mills’ output during the war years goes for military use. Nashua registers Indian Head trademark with U.S. Patent Office; is No. 538 on the Federal Trademark Register
Nashua and Jackson mills merge.
-The Nashua Century 1922 Wages cut at mill due to falling national textile sales, causing another strike lasting from February to November when wage hike is granted.
1922 Increased selling effort to home dressmaker intensifies. 27″ width dropped; 63″ added, still 5 widths available. White and 12 fast colors. Free booklet Girl Who Loves Pink provides swatch and full color range.
1922 Stamped pillowcase tubing in 40″, 42″ and 45″ widths available with 8 color patches for appliqueing or embroidering. Ads claim fabric is soft against the skin yet is woven so tightly as to hide the stripes of pillow ticking.
1923 Selected art and embroidery cloth is given a Belfast linen finish — a self-ironing finish for cotton developed by the Deering Millikin Research Corp.
Conjecture: This finish could be a precursor to the soon-to-be- introduced Permanent Finish in 1926.
1923 6 colors added. Ads note that all colors conform to the Textile Color Card Association; free booklet still offered.
Indian Head Belfast linen finish shown in Herrschners 1923 catalog.
– Courtesy Shirley McElderry 1926 A banner year: A second finish, mercerization, is introduced; called Permanent Finish which adds luster and a more pronounced linen-like finish.- “This extra looks makes fabric look even more like linen, lighter and not quite so dense; makes fabric slow to wrinkle and slow to muss.” Permanent Finish is added to selvage stamping but only to fabric given that treatment.
2 more colors added which makes 20 colors available in 36″ width. 2 more widths added, 18″ and 72″.
1926 At some unknown date Nashua acquires The Tremont and Manufacturing Company [formed from the merger of Tremont Mills and Suffolk Mills in 1871.] This company closes its doors and sells the facility in 1926 although the mill continues to operate under various owners and ends its days in the textile industry as the Wannalancit Mill until its final closing in 1981.
Conjecture – possibly Nashua was one of the new owners either at this 1926 date or at a later date.
1928 Another banner year. Ads announce dress prints and 7 additional colors and free sample packets of 51 dress prints and 27 colors plus a new booklet Sew and S o for 10¢. Booklet provides history of Indian Head and current fashions to be made from Indian Head, emphasizes fabric now offered in 2 finishes – standard and Permanent Finish dress prints and that prints are changed twice a year to keep in fashion.
Cover of Sew and So booklet, 1928, tells the Indian Head story. 1929 Amory, Browne & Co. does not appear on any subsequent advertising; wording denotes that Nashua Mfg. Co. is sole agent with sales offices in New York City.
Conjecture – agent may have gone out of business or been absorbed into Nashua or Nashua may have formed its own agency working through another agency.
1929 Another free booklet Pick Winning Colors offered.
1931 Ads appear for three Indian Head fabrics: standard cloth, percale and broadcloth. Packets available. See 1934.
1932 Ads introduce availability of pre-shrunk cloth. Customers now have options of Permanent Finish Shrunk or standard finish cloth. Selvage stampings would indicate cloth finish. At some point, probably in the 1940s, Sanforized would replace Shrunk.
1934 Indian Head silky percale prints appear in catalogs. Free swatch packets available for percales and Finesse.
Conjecture – Finesse feels like and resembles broadcloth and might be a brandname for its broadcloth.
1934 Dawn Glo trademark registered for cotton piece goods.
Conjecture – Indian Head was advertised as cloth, percale and broadcloth fabrics in 1931 – might percale and broadcloth be Dawn Glo or Finesse?
Dawn Glo and other trademarks acquired by Nashua during the 1930s-40s.
1937 30 colors now available.
1939 Purrey trademark registered for wool, cotton and synthetic blankets.
1940 President Robert Amory’s hires James Robison just out of Harvard Business School as sales trainee would mark the beginning of a long association in which Robison would revitalize Indian Head, lead company from small textile mill to an international multi-million dollar conglomerate and become an industrial corporate leader. Amory would leave in 1947 to become an official and board member of Springs Mills [now Springs Industries].
Conjecture: it is possible that this Amory might be related or connected to past Amorys.
1940 Tara trademark registered for a wool, cotton and synthetic blankets.
1942 Purrey by Nashua trademark registered for wool, cotton and synthetic blankets.
1943 Winsum trademark registered for double-napped warms sheets and blankets.
1943 Welwyn trademark registered for virgin wool blankets.
1944 Glenlon trademark registered for wool and cotton blankets.
1944 After about a 2-year absence of advertisements, ads appear with message that “Indian Head cloth will be back in your favorite stores when our looms can be released from vital war needs.
Though production is temporarily stopped, our laboratory research development continue so that after the war you will have an even better Indian Head Cloth.” 1945 Ad campaign continues with “A look at the future; Indian Head coming soon.” 1945 Textron, Inc acquires Nashua Mfg. Co. Short strike yields another wage raise and fringe benefits.
1945 Vallon by Nashua trademark registered for wool, cotton and synthetic blankets.
1945 Penton trademark registered for wool, cotton, rayon, synthetic and regenerated fiber blankets.
1945-46 Ads now state that “New supplies of Indian Head will be ready as soon as war restrictions are lifted.” and “You will be glad you waited for Indian Head cloth.” 1946 Snowco trademark registered for cotton blankets.
1948 Black Monday. Textron closes Nashua Mills for good and moves South. It is said that since then no company has had as deep a hold on life in Nashua, and no strike has ever caused as much agony in the Gate City as did the millworkers’ strikes.
Mill remembered by many workers as a place with thundering power looms and spinning machines in a grand, five-story, red brick factory buildings, with their imposing clocktowers rising above the old neighborhood along the downtown reach of the Nashua River.
A sales sample [headend] of Pequot unbleached sheeting in 1947. Wholesale to manufacturers ranged from 45¢ to 79.5¢ yd depending on width. Pequot at this time was a division of Indian Head Mills Inc.
– Courtesy John Madrid The Textron Inc. Years 1945-53 “From yarn to you, it’s Textron all the way” 1945 Textron Inc. begins in 1923 as Special Yarns Corporation, later changes its name to Atlantic Corp.
Its major line of business is making parachutes during WWII. After the war, Atlantic seeks diversification as the boom in textiles ushers in a period of growth. Begins making lingerie, blouses, bed linens and other consumer products. To reflect this expansion, changes name to Textron Inc. [Tex =textiles+tron =synthetics such as Lustron.] 1945 Textron purchases The Nashua Mfg. Co. to meet the growing demand for post-war fabrics. Indian Head is a popular seller. By 1949, Textron’s sales reach $67.8 million.
1949 Sanforized now appears on selvage; replaces Shrunk.
Conjecture – this may have happened earlier in the decade.
This 1947 holiday magazine [unknown] ad doesn’t state whether pajamas are made of Indian Head percale and which of Texton’s other acquired ready-to-wear companies were the manufacturers.
1950 Post-war strong advertising campaign re-introduces Indian Head as the All-Purpose Cotton home sewing market; national distributors acquired. All-Purpose Cotton stamping appears in selvages.
1950 Textron finds that an integrated operation of spinning, weaving, finishing, cutting and sewing garments and then merchandising is not as practical as first thought. All cloths liquidated except for Indian Head.
1952 Massive advertising campaign introduces Idea-of-Month Series for home sewing projects. Retailers stocking All-Purpose Cotton are provided with exhibits, displays of projects made from advertisements, counter literature and instruction booklets which includes time and cost of project assales aids to allure customers.
1952 Facing yet another decline in demand for textiles Textron begins diversification to acquire businesses in unrelated industries while using textile operations as an earnings base.
1952 Use of Sanforized dropped in Montgomery Ward catalog description. Word does not seem to appear in future Ward catalogs although shrinkage percentage is the same 1%.
1953 By 1953, Textron sees its future solely in the automotive market and other industrial sectors and sells the Indian Head Division to the Division’s vice president, James Robison, who forms Indian Head Mills Inc. Textron. The Indian Head Mills Inc.
Years 1953 -1966 1953 In February Indian Head Mills Inc is formed. Sale includes Nashua finishing plant, Cordova Mill, Ala. and Indian Head brand name; Nashua Mfg Co. becomes Indian Head Mills Inc.
1953 Robison’s credo as CEO is legend in the business world. His one basic company policy for Indian Head is that if both parties didn’t benefit from the deal, he didn’t want to do it – “Integrity: play it straight, forthrightly and honestly; admit mistakes and correct them; we will not welsh, weasel, chisel or cheat and we will not be party to any untruths, half truths or unfair distortions.” 1953 Company aims for finished goods and heavier cloth production inspired by increased home sewing segment. Selling and merchandising will be major areas of profitable business and company needs to meet that demand.
1953 Indian Head Mills stamping appears in selvages.
1953 New general sales manager Peter Scotese expands lines to sell; company acquires Ameraton Wool and Stevens Linen Associates line of linen towels and other domestics. A decade later Scotese will become CEO of Springs Industries.
1953 Re-introduction in the spring of All-Purpose 54″ cotton in colors is well received.
1954 Cloth production at Cordova Mill has 30,000 spindles and 936 looms for weaving of canton flannels and cotton textiles. New machinery added. Chief product is All- Purpose Cotton.
1954 In a five-year commission finishing agreement with J.P. Stevens & Co. Inc., company transfers all finishing operations to Stevens modern plant at Cheraw SC from the leased Nashua outdated plant. Cuts down shipping cloth from Alabama to New Hampshire.
1954 Company is appointed exclusive selling agent for over-the-counter trade [OTC] for complete line of synthetic and imported silk fabrics of Schwarzenbach Huber Co.
1954 Sales agreement with Electric Parts Corp of Chicago expands to include special line of promotional electric blankets marketed under the Nashua trademark.
1954 Combed Indian Head broadcloth available in 16 colors, 12 solid colors in 54″ and new dots, stripes and polka dots.
1954 54″wide printed cloth is introduced for drapes and tablecloths in advertising campaign in women’s magazines. Store Events Inc. handled demonstrations for home sewers, sewing contests and fashion shows in every state. An Xmas tablecloth promotion results in strong acceptance by 25,000 retailers.
1954 A Famous Personalities advertising campaign for features celebrities wearing clothes made of All- Purpose Cotton in all parts of the world. Another ad campaign featured America’s prettiest school teacher and her students in Indian Head dress than had been laundered 30 times. Bendix Corp. washers tied into the ad.
1955 On Feb. 19, Company merges with and into Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co. which assumes all asets and liabilities of Indian Head Mills and changes its name to Indian Head Mills Inc. Naumkeag is owner of Pequot Mills and maker of Pequot sheets.
1955 General expansion program begins to increase production facilities and broaden merchandising program for finished cotton fabrics. Four new brands under the Indian Head trademark are introduced – Zephyr-Set, a light weight, linen like crease resistance cotton for apparel to be marketed to the style-manufacturing trade, 25 colors, $1/yd; Talent-Set, crease resistant, fine combed, 31fast colors, $1/yd; Decorator-Weight, heavy weight for home furnishings, 48″, $1.70/yd; and Sport-Set for use in sports wear for the manufacturing trade.
1955 Based on good reception of decorator table cloth, company conducts another large ad Xmas campaign with ads and editorials in women’s, home service and fashion magazines, farm journals, pattern books and Sunday supplements. Tying in were Oneida Community Silverware, Singer and Trimtex notions. 5,500 stores display promotionals with free Party Center instruction booklets, cost information sheets — $2.98 tablecloth, party center runners and napkins $1.90, and Singer demonstrates sewing techniques. 54″ available in 15 colors at $1.49/yd; 36″ in 39 colors 89¢, prints 98¢.
Plant in Cordova, Ala., built in 1897, produces all of the unfinished cloth.
– Modern Textiles May 1955
Beautifully handmade tablecloth and napkins used for in-store promotional display to introduce 54″ stamped tablecloth sets to X-stitch and hem. Closeup of cross stitching shows fine workmanship.
– Courtesy Indian Head Mills Inc. archives
Closeup of X-stitch
Mid-1950s tablecloth is an example of a manufacturers account — fabric is sold to mfg. which produces item. Label denotes the company is the maker of item, not Indian Head.
-Courtesy Sharon Stark
Closeup of label
J.L. Stifel was an important Indian Head acquisition in 1957. Ad for its famous Miss Stifel Indigo Cloth in McCall’s magazine, December 1917.
– Courtesy Shirley McElderry 1956 Products are reviewed.
Lines at this time includes OTC cotton fabrics, Pequot sheets, mitten flannel for glove industry and unfinished cloth to merchant converters. Commission lines [non-company products] includes wool blankets, electric bed coverings and linen towels. All-Purpose Cotton continues to be most important of all varieties of cotton sold, representing 45% of company sales. Best sellers in that brand are 36″ white and 44 colors, 36″ prints, Talent-Set and Decorator Weight.
Company notes that fabrics are sold in 28 foreign countries – one third to 12,000 retail outlets, one third to 100 wholesale merchants and one third to manufacturers of apparel, fashion and home industries. And that it is one of few companies to sell finished OTC. Most manufacturers sell output regularly to OTC, a common practice whereby finishers dump large cotton OTC whenever inventories exceed cutters’ requirements. Known as distressed merchandise, they sell much lower than regular goods.
1956 Spring promotional planned similar to the Xmas campaigns feature a Café Curtain Carnival as 50% of curtains on market are this style. Emphasizes they are quick to make needing only scissors, saucer for scallops and All-Purpose Cotton. Full-page, four-color ads are in all major publications; free literature at stores. Tying in are Tide, Singer, J.Wiss & Sons Shears, Trimtex tape and Coats & Clark thread.
Text from full-page 4 color ad for the failed Café Curtain Carnival project.
1956 Sales campaigns not showing profitable results and are scaled back. Tablecloth sales data reveal they are a failure with a loss of $100,000 plus time and labor. There is an excessive 54″ inventory. This affects plan for café curtain projects. Retailers not happy about tablecloth experiences and are reluctant to participate, citing spring is a time for cotton dumping and their lower prices will be competitive.
Promotion is canceled and revised to hold a 125th Anniversary Sale in June for the 54″ width excess. Prices lowered from $1.49 to 98¢; 74,000 yards sold. Prices then raised to a new regular selling price of $1.29. However this had little impact on profits, $16,000 compared to $179,000 for the previous year.
Sadly, the company determined that promotion losses revealed that All-Purpose Cotton was losing its position in the retail OTC to lower priced but just as good cotton and low-priced broadcloths and to the inroads of other fabrics and fabric treatments including no-iron, quick dry, permanent pleated, everglazed, embossed and crease resistant.
1957 Fabric concerns such as the 36″ All-Purpose becoming obsolete and the market drying up for this style, the company begins a quest for new fabric and new lines. Advertising budget is cut but emphasis will be on the 54″ which represents two-thirds of company revenue.
1957 Looking to expand its cotton textile fabric manufacturing, Indian Head Mills makes a significant move with the purchase of Franklin Process Co. and its buildings for $5,831,080; renames it F.P. Co. In 1921 Franklin had become world-renown for its process of dyeing cotton yarn while wound in formed packages under pressure in a closed kier in a highly concentrated dye-bath. 1957 On Sept. 13, J.L. Stifel and Sons, The Stifel Calico Works of Wheeling WV, famous for its indigo calico prints and dyes, Miss Stifel Indigo Cloth and Bulldog twill shirtings, merges with Indian Head Mills, ending 122 years of production.
1957 Indian Head available in drip dry. Ads also include that Indian Head Mills is maker of Pequot sheets.
1958 Begins production of no-iron sheets and pillowcases.
1959 Purchases Linen Thread Co. Inc. , est. 1874, a Glasgow manufacturer of thread from shoe soles to fishnets and Bernhard Ulhman Co., maker of Bucilla, Botany, Bear Brand and Fleischer specialty yarns.
1960 Purchases Bachman-Uxbridge Worsted Co., woolen and worsted and synthetics fabrics weaver but closes woolen plants. Hoosac Mills and USF Aspinook Finishing Div. [draperies] of Gero Corp. which is renamed USF-ArnoldFinishing Co.; both located in Adams MA.
1960 Financial report reveals that between 1954-60 sales growth is more than 7-fold and earnings more than 15-fold, a result of Growth-through-Acquisition program. Company ranks among the best USA firms.
1961 The end of a remarkable cloth. Company closes out print cloth business and plant at Cheraw SC; Indian Head fabric production is discontinued although other divisions continue operations. Also closes greige fabrics plants in Glendale CA and Ponce, Puerto Rico.
1961 Purchases Joseph Bancroft & Sons, finisher and licenser of Everglaze®, Bancare® and Ban-lon®; Native Laces & Textiles, nylon tricots and negligee trimmings.
President James Robison advances his belief that underpromotion and overproduction are major causes of the chronic illness of textile industry; will use his company as example for improvement.
– NY Times Feb.1, 1959 1961 Outbid for Bates Fabrics and Erwin Mills.
1961 Robison takes on the government, saying cotton mills getting a raw deal. Congress should desert the cotton price support program; it is costing taxpayers $500/yr to subsidize cotton crops. Textile industry, one of the largest and most important in the country, has been seriously weakened through erosion of capital values, loss of employment, inadequate research, and the lagging modern growth of synthetic fibers is artificially raising cotton prices.
1961 On Feb. 14, company acquires Wm Skinner & Sons, established in 1848 and world famous for its high-quality silk and rayon bridal satins, crepes and linings. A mere coincidence? Skinner’s logo is also the head of an Indian, the famed chief Unquomonk of the Agawam tribe. Indian Head continues conversion operations and merchandising of Skinner fabrics trademark fabrics – Skinner Satins, Skinner Silks and Tackle Twill. The acquisition is reported to have had a profound effect on Indian Heads’s profit and success.
1961 November – Company purchases Wm. Simpson [part of Joseph Bancroft & Co.], a converter associated with production of broadcloths and polished cottons.
1962 Between 1954-62, company adds 11 established, unrelated specialized companies, and now decides to get out of textiles and into anything else where return is higher. Closes Cordova AL plant, sells Hoosac Mills.
1963 On Mar. 23 company purchases Geo. Wood, a converter which also associated with broadcloth and polished cottons. Acquires Waldrich, Claussner, Diamond Mills and Paragon. Sells Pequot and closes Eddystone and Holyoke plants.
THE SKINNER CONNECTION 1961 More Skinner’s satin is used by high-grade manufactuerrs and custom tailors than all other satins combined, claims this ad in The Saturday Evening Post, May 9, 1925.
-Courtesy Indian Head Inc. archives
Bronze letter opener commemorates Skinner’s 100th aniversary in 1948.
– Courtesty Indian Head Inc. archives 1964 Purchases first non-textile venture, Metal Products & auto Parts. Closes Uxbgridge & Hartsville. 1965 Robison name chairman. Purchases Detroit Gasket & Mfg. Co.; Crawford Mfg. Co; home decor fabrics; and Fenimore. Closes Waldrich.
1966 Acquires Demco [Detroit Engine & Machine Co.], Roxboro, Street and Pyramid Mouldings Division.
1966 Company removes Mills to become Indian Head Inc. As a conglomerate its lines now include auto bumpers, power steering parts, licensers of Banlon® finishes and panty hose for Fruit of the Loom, Rudi Gernreich and Pucci. Indian Head Inc. and the After Years 1967-1994 1967 Begins buying glass companies specializing in beverage bottles – Obear-Nester Glass, Northwestern Glass, Pierce Glass, Laurens Glass, MGM Brakes and Mason; sells Adams MA plants.
1968 Indian Head Inc. acquires Tube-Tex, Wayne Corp., maker of school buses and hearses, and Information Handling Systems, world leader of micrographics publishers. Acquires General Plating and Bratton.
1969 New logo and corporate type face introduced in Annual report.
1969 Purchases Machinery Corp. and United Vintners, part of Hublein Co. Inc.
There are now 18,700 employees, 60 plants [5 glass container companies, 5 metal and automotive companies, 12 specialty textile firms and the start of an Information technology division] located in U.S., Canada and Netherlands. Linen Thread name changed to Indian Head Yarn & Thread; all hosiery lines to Indian Head Hosiery. Acquires Ansley and Atwater-Waynick.
1970 Indian Head Finished Goods Division is acquired by Springs Mills [now Springs Industries]. Included in the transaction is the Skinner trademark. Acquires McArthur & Sons, hammock manufacturer.
New era, new logo for Indian Head Inc. in 1969.
Ties with new all-over Indian Head Inc. logo were presented to the sales staff in 1969. Yes, they were 100% poly, signs of the times! – Courtesy Indian Head Inc. archives 1971 Purchases Stehli double knit division from Schwarzenbach Huber, Carlon Extrusion Plastic Pipe and Communications Products. Acquires Madera Glass in joint venture with Heublein.
1973 Establishes a joint business venture with Thyssen-Bornemisza Group N.V., a Dutch holding comany. Sells off panyhose. cotton yarn and commission finising divisions.
1974 Acquires Tri-Wall Containers, leading international manufacturer of heavy-duty shipping containers.
1975 Indian Head Inc. is sold and folded into Thyssen-Borrnemisza.
1982 Thyssen sells its Textile Specialties Group to Hanson Trust, an English holding company which has established a group of companies called Hanson Industries. This group is renamed Carisbrook Industries. At time of sale, Thyssen is operating in 274 locations in 27 countries and 29 U.S. states.
1994 Hanson conducts a demerger and reorganizes as US Industries Inc.
My thanks to Thelma Bernard, Pat Cummings, Shirley McElderry, Tina Marie Nolan, Jane Clark Stapel, Xenia Cord, Joyce White and Betty Wilson for supplying ads and swatches, and to the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and Nancy Grant and staff of the Nashua Public Library System for vital statistics and Nashua historical information; and to former officials of Textron/Indian Head Mills Inc/Indian Head Inc. for corporate information and archival items. Selvage stampings for dating aids These are the only markings available at this time. Time frames are approximate.
Indian Head, also Indian Cloth, stamping for standard cloth. Estimated in use from beginning until 1953. Shown is stamp from a 1922 ad. Also see Photo 2.
Indian Head Cloth Permanent Finish stamping. 1926 to estimated to 1953. Fabric shown is late 1930s-early 1940s.
Indian Head Permanent Finish Shrunk stamping. 1932 to estimated post-WWII. Shown here is from a 1932 ad; swatches are shown in sample packet
Copyright Indian Head Mills Inc. stamping 1953 to estimated 1961. Fabric shown is early to mid-1950s.
Indian Head Brand All-Purpose Cotton stamping. 1950-61 when fabric discontinued. New wording reflects drip dry and crease-resistant attributes. From a 1957 ad. See ads below.
Indian Head Cloth Permanent Finish Sanforized stamping, est. late 1940s-early 50s. Stamping all on one line; divided here to fit space. Fabric shown is late 1940s-early 50s.
Example of stamping on Indian Head and close up of colorful label. Beginning at top, text on label reads reg. U.S. Pat. off. on the lower left, and Boston Bank Note Co. on the lower right. Stamped area reads 4/4, beneath is 10 in crayon or heavy pencil followed by Indian Head Mills. Paper label (dark cream with red print) text reads in all caps These goods are especially constructed and finished to meet the demand for drawn work for chiffoniers, side-board scarves, tea cloths and open work effects.
This is followed by stamped ribbon with text soft finish for the needle. Beneath is an open circle like a laurel wreath with a torch in the center and ribbons at the bottom. Est. date late 19thC to early 20th C. based on label lithography and types of handwork suggested.
– Courtesy Xenia Cord Swatch packets for dating aids These are the only packets available at this time with approximate dating based on prices or pattern of print where there are no prices.
All date after 1930 as the Amory, Browne & Co. name does not appear.
1931-32 Percale price of 17¢ lines up with percale 1931-33 catalog prices.
– Courtesy Tina Marie Nolan
1932 Use of Shrunk as a new option corresponds with 1932 ad, shown below, announcing this feature.
1934 Unpriced percale is same as brown/orange plaid fabric shown in Chicago Mail Order 1934 catalog below. Price would be in the 21-23¢ range. See closeup of fabric.
– Courtesy Jane Clark Stape
1935-37 25¢ price would correspond to percale prices in catalogs of this period.
– Courtesy Jane Clark Stapel & Tina Marie Nolan
Latter 1930s 27¢ price of Finesse corresponds to prices in late 1930s catalogs for either Indian Head cloth or its broadcloth. It is unclear whether Finesse refers to standard cloth with Permanent Finish or broadcloth which it resembles and feels like.
1930s Assortment A collection of Indian Head scraps collected by a Nashua townsperson from the 1930s. Note that 9th swatch of white circles on red ground is same as green shown in Finesse collection.
- – Courtesy Pat Cummings Ads and catalogs with prices for dating aids Approximate prices and introductions according to available ads and catalogs Year Width Price Fast colors Prints Finish 1915 27, 33, 36, 40, 44 12.5¢ – 25¢ Bleached white
- Standard cloth 1922 33 to 63 36 Tubing 40, 42, 45 25¢ – 69¢ 59¢ 50¢ – 59¢ Bleached white 12 Fashion Colors Bleached white
- Standard cloth 1923 18, 27, 33, 36, 44, 54, 63 36 25¢- 75¢ 60¢ Bleached white 18 colors
- Standard Cloth 1926 7 widths = 18 to 72 36 36 15¢ – 50¢ 41¢¢ [Sears] 48¢ Bleached white Selected colors 20 Fashion Colors
- Standard Cloth Standard Cloth Permanent Finish NEW 1928 NEW 1929 36 39¢
- Standard Cloth 1931 Broadcloth & Percale NEW 1932 36 & 42 36 20¢ & 25¢ 30¢ Bleached white 24 Fashion Colors
- Standard Cloth Permanent Finish Shrunk NEW 1934 36 21¢ [catalog] Prints Percale 1937 30 Fashion Colors 1949 36 & 52 36 36 [Wards catalog] 36 [Wards catalog] 36, 42, 53 [Wards] 59¢ & 98¢ 79¢ 98¢ 79¢ 69¢, 79¢, 98¢ Bleached white Colors – 15 Fashion Colors White only 8 Prints Permanent Finish & Art Cloth Permanent Finish Sanforized replaces Shrunk NEW Perm.
Finish with Sanforized 1950 36 36 54 $1 89¢ $1.29 44 colors 18 Fashion Colors Prints All-Purpose Brand Cotton NEW 1952 Perm.
Finish — Sanforized omitted; doesn’t seem to appear in future Ward catalogs.
1954 Ward’s 36, 42, 53 36 36 35 79¢ – $1.19 98¢ 89¢ 98¢ Bleached white – 18 Fashion Colors 16 Fashion Colors 18 Permanent Finish Permanent Finish Permanent Finish Combed Broadcloth 1955 ALL NEW 48 $1/yd $1/yd $1.70/yd 25 Fashion Colors 31 Fashion Colors Fashion Colors Prints Zephyr-Set fashion trade only Talent-Set Decorator Weight Sport-Set mfg. trade only Significant Indian Head developments chronicled through advertising It is unfortunate that many of the earlier Indian Head ads which are half or full page with marvelous lithography or graphics do not reproduce well when reduced.
All ads unless noted otherwise are from the Shirley McElderry collection
1915 Source unknown — Early ad points out practicality of cloth, its firm, round thread which makes it always fresh and easy to sew; cheaper than linen. 5 widths, 12.5¢ to 25¢ yard. Free doll dress ready to sew.
1922 Montgomery Ward catalog Household favorite bleached muslin: 25¢/33″; 29¢/36″; 39¢/44″. Postage is 1¢ per yard.
1917 January issue Ladies Home Journal “Just the thing for dresses, housedresses, middies, sports clothes, children’s suits, rompers, men’s shirts, nurses uniforms; embroidery, hemstitch and drawn work; washes and irons perfectly. No mention of 27” width. Doll dress offer requires 6¢ in stamps.
1922 Modern Priscilla, March issue This appealing ad gets momma’s attention by catering to children – “wears long and well and does not muss even in damp weather.” 5 widths including new 63″, 25¢-69¢, 12 fast colors fully guaranteed, 36″ 59¢. Free offer for Girl Who Love
1923 Delineator, Feb. Emhasizes the total cost of garment can be accomplished with little expense. 18 colors now available, 36″, 60¢. 7 white widths including 72″, 25¢-75¢
1926 Farmer’s Wife, April – Indian Head is now woven for wear as well as beauty as ad announces its Permanent Finish on all white and 20 color widths. Finish and colors are guaranteed.
1926 Sears catalog “Bleached white bought in enormous quantites direct from the manufacturers means lowest prices; 18, 36, 44, 54, 63 widths at 15¢, 25¢, 32¢, 39¢, 50¢. Note these prices lower than 1922 ad.
1926 Herrschners offers 36″ Permanent Finish for 48¢ ppd. in old rose, jade green pumpkin, peach, helio and med. blue. This is less than 1923 ad.
1926 Sears catalog By comparison Sears offers 36″ colors for 41¢; no mention if Permanent Finish and postage extra. Jade, canna, tan, rose, brown, helio, peach, copen. Difference in color names might be at store’s preference.
1929 Sears catalog lowers price for 36″ Permanent Finish colors, 38 ppd. Copen, French blue, brown, helio, jade green, navy, peach, rose, tan, tangerine. See 1926 for comparison
1928 Needlecraft Feb – dress prints now available in Permanent Finish. Coupon offers free samples of both solids and prints; 10¢ for new Sew and So booklet.
1934 Chicago Mail Order Co. catalog Silky fine percales with fast color and tested guarantee. 35″/21. Closeup of plaid check matches swatch shown in percale sample packet section.
1931 Needlecraft June & September – Ads notable as one of the first mentions of broadcloth and percale in addition to standard cloth as well as use of term fabrics. Free samples and new booklet Pick Your Winning Colors upon request.
Marvelous ad introducing broadcloth to the Indian Head family, 1931-33.
– Courtesy Pat L.Nickols
1932 Needlecraft April – introduces Permanent Finish Shrunk. Cloth can be purchased pre-shrunk or standard. white 36″/20¢; 44’/25¢; 24 colors 36″/30¢. See sample packet section.
1949 Montgomery Ward catalog features 8 prints and 15 fashion colors in Permanent Finish and Sanforized. 36″ prints/ 98¢; 36″ colors/79¢; white 36″/69¢, 43″/79¢, 53″/98¢. Beginning with 1954 catalog no mention of word Sanforized appears in Indian Head descriptions; only 1% shrinkage noted.
– Courtesy Thelma Bernard
1949-50 Herrschner’s catalog Permanent Finish art embroidery cloth. Sanforized now replacing Shrunk. white 36″/69¢, 52″/98¢. 36″ colors maize, spring green, pink, delft blue, red, 79¢.
1954 Montgomery Ward catalog features 16 Permanent Finish prints, 18 fashion colors and 16 combed broadcloth colors. 36″ prints/98¢, 36″ colors/89¢; white 36″/79¢, 42″/98¢, 53″/$1.19 and 35″ broadcloth colors/98¢.
– Courtesy Thelma Bernard
1957 Simplicity Pattern Book – All-Purpose Brand Cotton stamped in selvages. Ad notes Indian Head Mills was the maker of Pequot sheets.
– Author’s collection Ads showing wide range of uses for Indian Head
1922 Needlecraft Oct — Stamped pillowcase tubing kits and color patches for appliquing were popular items. Tubing also available as yardage available in 40″, 42″, 45″ widths. Some ads stated fabric was percale. Kits and tubing sold well into the 1940s.
1927 Herrschner catalog luncheon and tea sets, table runners to applique and embroider. Sets ran $2.29-$2.98; scarves $1.19.
1928 Herrschner catalog This May Basket quilt required 18 Indian Head 10″ blocks [1 set] to cross stitch and then be sewn on peach cotton charmeuse. Completed 72 x 80 quilt required 1 set at $1.48 plus 9 yds. charmeuse, $4.95 = $6.43 and included free paper pattern; embroidery floss extra.
1937 Farmer’s Wife, December – Recommended gift was Indian Head sheets, closer woven, finer yarns for longer wear. Ad included Nashua blankets and cloth in 30 fast colors. Samples of all three could be obtained for a 3¢ stamp. Farmer’s Wife, December – Recommended gift was Indian Head sheets, closer woven, finer yarns for longer wear. Ad included Nashua blankets and cloth in 30 fast colors. Samples of all three could be obtained for a 3¢ stamp.
1958 Montgomery Ward catalog – Permanent Finish preshrunk café curtains in floral prints of brown, grey or blue to coordinate with 6 mix-and-match solids in brown, yellow, emerald green, chartreuse, red, pink or white.
– Courtesy Betty Wilson
A charming appliqued and embroidered quilt containing fabrics dating between late 19th C and 1930. Blocks were pieced by owner’s great grandmother, and very recently assembled and quilted by owner. Many of the white blocks contained Indian Head printed in the selvage; texture of other fabrics suggested they were also Indian Head. To complete quilt, new fabrics duplicating the old had to be used to even out size of blocks which ranged between 11×11 and 12×12.
– Courtesy Joyce White Sources General information – Demise of mills from a speech about future of U.S. textile manufacturing, 1998 Source: cottoninc.com/EFSConference/homepage – Nashua Mfg. Co. Trademarks — Textile Brand Names Dictionary, 1947 – Tube-tex Source: http://www.navisglobal.com/ Nashua History – A Testing Time, Stephen Winship and Nashua-New Hampshire Foundation
1989 – History of the City of Nashua, Judge Edward E. Parker.
1897 – The Nashua Experience, Nashua History Committee for Nashua Public Library – Nashua Mfg. Co.
Collection Source: library.hbs.edu/hc/wes/collections/labor/textiles/content/1001955816/ – Five Generations of Loom Builders, William Chase, 1950 – The Nashua Century, 1997 – Sew So, 1928 booklet published by Nashua Mfg. Co. – The Nashua Exprience the date 1978 Textron Inc. Information – Textron Inc. communications staff – Textron Inc.
Source: textron.com/profile/history.html Indian Head Mills Inc., Indian Head Inc. information – Franklin Mills Process Co.
Source: cyrilrecords.com/forman/history2.html – James Robison’s company policy Source: emsnetwork.com/feature4.html – Fabric Trends, February 2003 – Indian Head 1953-1972: The Robison Years – Journal of Commerce Nov. 29, 1954: Indian Head Goes it Alone – Modern Textiles May 1955 – Harvard Business School 1957: Indian Head Mills Inc.
– Press Release, Indian Head Mills, Oct. 27, 1961 – Fortune May 1962: The Chief Shows Them How at Indian Head – Forbes Nov. 15, 1965: Something from Nothing – Dun’s Review Nov. 1968: Chief of the Indians – Indian Head Annual Reports 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969,1970, 1972, 1973, 1974 – NY Times Sept. 5, 1970: Indian Head is Proud of Its Liquidity – Harvard Business School Bulletin Sept-Oct 1970: Head Man at Indian Head.
Vintage Fashion debuts in May; editor is Julia Fein Azoulay who has worked in many areas of the textile field reporting on fashion and apparel industry. The magazine, according to her, will focus on vintage clothing, antique textiles, historical costume and all related matters of particular interest to vintage clothing shop owners, museum curators, collectors, dealers, re-enactors, academicians, costume designers for theater, film, opera and ballet, etc.
Each issue will feature important costume designers in the film and theatrical business, curators of museums about their collections, dealers and auction houses about the value and cost of historical costume, antique textiles and vintage dresses, etc. Also interviews with spinners, weavers and dyers about historical textiles. First 2 issues will be bi-monthly; after that, it is anticipated monthly. The magazine will be 4 color – very attractive and professional. Keep an eye out for this publication. As yet there is no website but when one is established it will be announced in a future column.
The arbitrary cut-off date for this Vintage Fabric column is 1960. To stay within the scope of this timeframe, reference materials published up to that date are the prime source of information to more accurately capture actual thoughts of the time. Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.