University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

Bishop, J. Leander (John Leander), 1820-1868 / A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860 : exhibiting the origin and growth of the principal mechanic arts and manufactures, from the earliest colonial period to the adoption of the Constitution ; and comprising annals of the industry of the United States in machinery, manufactures and useful arts, with a notice of the important inventions, tariffs, and the results of each decennial census
Volume 3 (1868)

Manufactures of Fitchburgh,   pp. 367-375


Page 367

CROCKER & 11ItAN S 1APR MANIACT'RsY.
3 Ci
MANUFACTURES OF FITCHBURGII.
FITCHBURGII, in Worcester County, is the seat of several extensive
manufactories of Paper, Chairs, Hardware              and   Machinery.      'li
growth of this, city, as a manufacturing centre, is largely tine to the
enterprise of one man, Alvah Crocker, of the firm of CROCKER, BeUR-
BANK    &  Co., Paper manufacturers.*         He removed from        FRANKLIN,
*A friend, familiar with his career, has placed at our disposal, the following interesting
account of some of the incidents in the early life and business career of that remarkable
man,
ALVAH CROCKER, OF FITCHBUnRH.
He was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, October 14th, 1801. His father had been a
"vatman, or coucher," in the Paper Mills of Nicholls & Kendall, of that town; but his
earnings were not sufficient to support the family. His mother, of the John Adams' stock,
kept her boys from the poor-house, by sending them out to farmers, during the summer
months, to " dress corn," ride horses, plow and rake hay. This, Alvah was compelled to
do even at the early age of six years, living mostly from home; and, when only eight years
old, he was placed permanently in the Nicholls & Kendall Paper Mills, and, from that time
until he was sixteen, earned for his mother, from one and a half to three dollars per week,
exclusive of board. Ite generally had eight weeks' schooling, yearly; although one year
(1813), he remembers, he had but two. le managed, however, to keep along with the best
of his class, by night study.
His father, whose character may be summed up in saying he was a rigid, uncompromis-
ing Puritan, had no library, or even books, save " Edwards on Religious Affection," Lives of
Watts and Doddridge, " King Philip's Indian Wars," and " The Westminster Assembly's
Lesser Catechism;" but his "boss," Israel Nichols, Esq., allowed him access to a very good
library, for those days. le was, also (a part of the time), allowed to work in the mill
during the night, earning about four cents per hour. This pittance, his mother, poor as
she was, would never take from him. At the age of sixteen, his wages had accumulated to
fifty dollars. This sun, he spent at Groton Academy, returning to keep school and earn
more money; sometimes reading the classics at the comemon schools, when the teacher was
competent, and sometimes at the Ion. J. G. Kendall's Law Office, in Leominster, who,
pitying his extreme poverty, gave him a carte-blanche to recite to him when he pleased, for
sweeping his office and doing a little writing. Owing to the Puritanical feelings of his
father, Alvah was interdicted from entering Cambridge University, which ie had intended
to do, and, finally, he returned to the manufacture of Paper in Franklin, N. 11., in 1820.
After remaining in this town about three years, lie removed to Fitchburgh, and engaged in
the Paper manufacture; first as employee, and then for his own account, having erected a
mill, principally on borrowed capital, at " Old Crockerville."
The years 1827-8-9 were disastrous for business affairs, and Mr. Crocker was further
retarded in his progress by a freshet that injured his mill. At that time, the whole process
of making Paper by hand was changing rapidly to machine work, and he had no money
to spare for the purchase of machinery of any kind.
His embarrassments were further aggravated from the fact that the few old farmers who
had a little money, were afraid that an increased manufacturing population might vitiate
the morals of the town; and this feeling was intensified by their having to make a road by
his mills. They bad no particular wish for his triumph over his struggle. At this time,
he had sent his product to a commission house, in Boston, against the rags and chemicals


Go up to Top of Page