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Narrative History

BEGINNING OF THE SLACK MILL

The Slack Shoddy Mill was started in 1871 by W. H. H. Slack (brother of John T. Slack) and C. Ellison.  The company was named Slack & Ellison. This mill was located just west of the falls bridge. 

 Mr Ellison sold his interests in the mill in 1875 leaving W. H. H. Slack to continue ownership of the mill by himself.  In 1883-1884 a Mr C. D. Brink  joined W. H. H. Slack.  In 1887 Slack made a large addition to the mill to meet the demands for their product.  In 1894 another large addition was made to the mill resulting in making it one of the best mills in the country for the  manufacture of shoddy.  The mill was now employing 25 people.  Business was excellent through the 1893-1894 depression.  So good in fact that a night shift was started to keep up with demand.

JOHN T. SLACK JOINS FORCES WITH W. H. H. SLACK

 In 1889 John T. Slack joins forces with his brother W. H. H. Slack and becomes a partner in the mill.  The company was now named W. H. H. Slack & Brother.  In 1904 John T. Slack decided to retire leaving the mill in his brothers hands.

In 1907 John T. Slack entered the textile business again together with his nephew Mr A. C. Bowman.  They opened a competing shoddy mill.   Then, in 1911 the two mills were merged.

Thursday, January 8th, 1891 The Springfield Hydro-Electric Co. was organized that evening. Adna Brown, F. Barney Jr., W. F. Hazelton, Wm H. H. Slack and Wm H. H. Putnam were elected directors and C. E. Richardson, E. C. Burke and Geo. F. Leland auditors for the first year.  Power poles were to be placed in winter and arrangements were made to commence business early in May.  The capital stock of $15,000.00 is all taken up.  (See Springfield Reporter Jan 9th, 1891.) 

Mr  Frank Ridlon, Nerw England agent for the Brush-Swan Electric Light Co. came to town conferring with local businessmen regarding an electric light plant for Springfield.  After canvassing the village, subscribers were secured for 100 lights.  If 225 lights could be secured an electric generating plant would be installed with a capacity to power 300 lights.

W. H. H. Slack purchased the shoddy mill property of Barney & Brown and  replaced the old water wheel which was worn out with one taken from his fertilizer factory works located in North Springfield.

The work on the new dam for the electric light generating station was actively underway by a large and competent force of men.  It was a substantial structure when completed.  On the East side of the river a large 18-foot deep hole was found which had to be filled with a crib work of logs and then be weighted down with tons of rock to make a firm foundation for the eastern end of the dam.  A force of men were employed in blasting and breaking the boulders in the river for filling the crib and a tramway was built for the wheelbarrow gang to take the rocks down to the dam.  (See Springfield Reporter August 6th, 1891.)

Blasting the rocks below the falls bridge has continued this week and tons of broken stone have been dumped into the foundation crib of the dam for the electric light station.  Forcite powder was used and the results are very satisfactory.  About a dozen men are employed on the entire job under the supervision of a Mr Waite and te dam grows in size every day.  The dam is a log structure built upon whis is known as Cob House fashion all securely fitted and spiked together and dowelled down to the ledge. 

The boiler room at the electric light station has been covered this week.  The excavation is now being made for the penstock from the  from the calal to the water wheel. See Springfield Reporter August 14th, 1891.

The W H H Slack & Bros have purchasedthe old Springfield Toy Cos plant and will use it for their carding machinery.  The shoddy mill eill be blown from their pickers in their present works through iron tubes to cards in the new location.  The business of this enterprising firm has tripled within two years and growing.  They are the largest receivers and shippers of frieght in the town.  See Springfield Reporter May 24th, 1895.

The big boiler for the Slack Brothers was unloaded at Gassetts Thursday and started on its way to Springfield on two big wagons with 12 horses pulling on it.  About a mile above North Springfield one wheel gave out and the job had to be left for the night.  The work resumed the nextd day It will go through Main street. Across the lower bridge, around Mineral street to the shoddy mill; as the bridge across the falls is not considered strong enough to cross there.  See Springfield Reporter Oct 2, 1896.

The Springfield  electric Company is changing its water wheels for more improved patterns that are expected to develop 40 to 50 more horsepower than the old wheels.  See Springfield Reporter 16th, 1896. 

 

THE MERGER

On August 12, 1911 John T. Slack, W. H. H. Slack, and Albert C. Bowman filed Articles of Association with the state of Vermont with a Capital Stock of $200,000.00 divided into 2,000 shares of $100.00 each.  On Aug 14, 1911 papers were recorded and the combination of these mills became the John T. Slack Corporation.    John T. worked very hard and built up the business to hold a position leading the industries of the country in re-worked wool.

Papers again were filled out Sept 13, 1922 by John T. Slack and A. C. Bowman then filed and recorded Oct 3, 1922( File 112-2160).  The corporation will be dealing in wool, cotton, rags and all other materials used in the manufacture of cloth and all other kinds of waste material, and manufacturing and sell cloth and shoddy for the purpose of acquiring, using and renting steam and water power, and for the purpose of owning and holding real estate for said business.  This time with a capital stock of  $1,000,000.00 divided into 10,000 shares of $100.00 each. 

On February 5th 1922 Colonel W. H. H. Slack died of pneumonia at the age of 78.

The company amends their articles of association(File 112-2160) making John T. Slack President and Albert C. Bowman Clerk. 

The first week of January, 1923 the John T. Slack Co went through a drastic reorganization.  It was based on John Ts desire to retire.   John T. retired from active business, selling his interest to A. C. Bowman who was to carry on the corporation of the John T Slack Corporation.  Stock was offered to the employees of the mill.  The stock paid dividends only rarely and eventually became worthless.  The mill was hard hit during the depression.  See Springfield Reporter January 4th, 1923.

Business had become very competitive. So on August 3rd about 80 mill employees went out on strike in protest of an 8% wage cut.  The strike lasted only two days.  At the end of this strike strikers had either been rehired or replaced.  See Springfield Reporter August 6th, 1925.

In June of 1927 an unidentified New York clothing manufacturer had visited Springfield to have discussions with the Chamber of Commerce about locating a factory to manufacture pants.  Hence this factory became known as the pants factory.  Estimates were this pants factory would employee about 70 people(mostly women) and would occupy the now vacant building belonging to the shoddy mill and maintain the same high wage standards as other industries here. 

More information about this proposal came out shortly.  This pants factory was named Southern Vermont Mills Inc and coincidently shared two officials  from Slacks.  Frank E. Dunning of Springfield was the President and John Hyatt also of Springfield being the Clerk.  Both were from the John T. Slack Corporation.    Shortly this new firm started installing new machinery.  By December production had started producing boys clothing. The firm employed 40 women.  The negotiation process had started for more space in the building across Park street, formerly known as the Corliss hardware store.  The Corliss store had just gone out of business and its stock purchased by LaFountain, Woolson & Co. 

Discussions had started about a proposal to exempt the Southern Vermont Mills from taxation.  Questions about this pants factory concerning its value to the community were a topic of discussion.  There were alleged sweat shop conditions and wages were said to be from $9.99 to $12.00 a week.  After a half hour of discussion this exemption was granted.  See Springfield Reporter. March 8, 1928 & The Springfield Town Acts, VI, p 242-246. 

On Aug 26, 1929 the articles of Association were amended(File 112-2160) with A. C. Bowman, president and F. R. Adams Clerk of the John T. Slack Corporation, with a capital stock of $1,000,000.00 divided into 10,000 shares of $100.00 each, recorded on Sept 3, 1929. 

On Feb 19, 1934 it was voted by the holders of 4940 shares the same being more than two-thirds of the entire 7,000 shares of the stock on the John T. Slack Corporation outstanding and entitled to vote to amend its articles of association to read as follows:

We, the subscribers, hereby associate ourselves together as a corporation, under the law of the state of Vermont, to be known by the name of the John T. Slack Corporation for the purpose of dealing in wool, cotton, rags and all other kinds of waste material, and the manufacture of cloth and all other kinds of waste material, and manufacturing and selling cloth and shoddies; for the purpose of acquiring, using and renting steam and water power; for the purpose of acquiring or constructing an electric lighting plant, and selling and manufacturing electricity for light, heat and power; for the purpose of manufacturing and selling steam for heat or power, and for the purpose of owning and holding real estate and other property necessary and proper for said business at Springfield, Vt.

Its capital stock shall consist of and be 10,000 shares of common stock without par value.  These amendments were recorded and filed Feb 23, 1934. 

Again; on Feb 19, 1934 the stockholders voted by holders of 4795 shares, the same being more than two-thirds of the 7,000 shares of stock to amend its articles of association to read as follows. 

We, the subscribers, hereby associate ourselves together as a corporation, under the law of the state of Vermont, to be known by the name of the John T. Slack Corporation for the purpose of dealing in wool, cotton, rags and all other kinds of waste material, and the manufacture of cloth and all other kinds of waste material, and manufacturing and selling cloth and shoddies; for the purpose of acquiring, using and renting steam and water power; for the purpose of acquiring or constructing an electric lighting plant, and selling and manufacturing electricity for light, heat and power; for the purpose of manufacturing and selling steam for heat or power, and for the purpose of owning and holding real estate and other property necessary and proper for said business at Springfield, Vt

Its capital stock shall consist of 9,000 shares of common stock without par value.  1,000 shares of preferred stock of par value of $100.00 each.  Holders of such preferred stock shall be entitled to receive dividends at the rate of $7.00 and no more per annum on each share, payable quarterly on the first Monday of January, on the first Monday of April, on the first Monday of July, on the first Monday of October, in each year, out of the net earnings of said corporation before any dividends shall be paid on the common stock, and such dividends shall be cumulative, so that any deficiency in the dividends to be paid on such preferred stock in any year shall be paid out of the earnings of any subsequent years before any dividends shall be paid on common stock and upon final liquidation of the corporation and distribution of its assets, holders of the preferred stock shall be entitled to receive all arrears of dividends on such stock and the par value, $100.00 before any distribution and payment to holders of the common stock.  So long as the said dividends on the preferred stock are earned and paid, holders  of such stock shall not have voting rights.  Dated Feb 26, 1934.  Albert C. Bowman, president, F. R. Adams, clerk.  Filed and recorded March 8, 1934.

The firm reclaimed old wool to produce at its zenith 800 different grades of reworked product. The company became known as the John T. Slack Corp., and in the 1930s, gained recognition of being one of the world's largest shoddy mills. Unfortunately, the new synthetic fabrics cut into the business and company finances prompted it to declare bankruptcy in 1952.

           

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Ron Jasinski
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