Thanks to William Weiler for transcription of this article.
7 July 1985: The Holyoke Library has been contacted to get further information. -Gregg
22 July 1985: From Michael Baron, reference librarian at the Holyoke Library: The Holyoke Library has source material on the Skinners and the Skinner silk mills. The Skinner family estate is in Holyoke and is known as `Wistariahurst.'
7 August 1985: Holyoke Library: We have some clippings from old papers in scrapbooks as well detailing the mills. Also, there is a fledgling group that is engaged in bringing the Skinners in this area together - I do not have the details.
From: Holyoke Chicopee: A Perspective by Ella H. DiCarlo (Holyoke 1982)...
In 1874 a tragedy occurred to the north at Williamsburg which proved a blessing in that it brought a dynamic man, William Skinner, to Holyoke. Skinner had come to the country when only 19. He had learned the manufacture of silk in England and, using an Indian head as a trademark, founded the Unquomonk Silk Mills in Williamsburg.
The mills were flourishing near the Mill River when on May 16, 1874 the dam burst and the great flood swept his business downstream, leaving a pile of debris and destroying much of the village.
James Newton, anxious to entice a thriving business to Holyoke, induced Skinner to re-establish here and the HWPCo (Holyoke Water & Power Co.?) added the lure of a piece of land, rent free for five years. The ploy worked and the
Mrs. Skinner, the former Sarah Elizabeth Allen, wasn't happy about the move. There was a superstition at that time that it was unlucky to build a new house after one reached the age of 40. Undaunted, Skinner moved his entire Skinnerville home, only slightly damaged, down to Holyoke, a section at a time on rafts and ox
It was set up on land between Hampshire, Beech, Cabot, and Pine streets, donated by the HWPCo., and renamed `Wistariahurst' after the vines which soon covered the building. It was the home of members of the Skinner family until 1959 when it was deeded to the city by Mrs. Robert (Katherine) Kilborne, the youngest daughter. The following year it became the home of the Holyoke Museum at Wistariahurst.
The Skinner children who moved to Wisatriahurst with their parents besides Katharine, were William, Joseph, Elizabeth, who later married the Rev. William H. Hubbard of Auburn, N.Y., and Belle.
Another company was established by William Skinner in 1853 in the Williamsburg district, in what was for a time known as Skinnerville. Skinner, an English craftsman, had been employed in a Northampton dye works, and also by the Conant silk mill, before starting up his own company. In 1860 he was employing forty or fifty workers in his `Unguomock Mill' here (different spelling this article). Skinner moved his business to Holyoke after the disastrous Mill River flood of May 16, 1874. This was the begining of the great Skinner Silk firm of Holyoke, which as William Skinner & Sons is a multi-million dollar enterprise there today. (It ceased operations in 1958.) Another small firm employing only forty operatives was also making sewing silk and other products in the early fifties.
Sincere thanks to Michael Baron, Reference Librarian at the Holyoke Public Library for the above articles.
From Genevieve S. Copley: transcribed from the Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy
From Springs Industries, Inc., of New York.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
SKINNER TRADE NAME
When Springs Mills(now Springs Industries) bought the Finished Goods Division of Indian Head, Inc. early in 1970, it became the owner of the proud and reputable Skinner trademark. The Skinner mark dates back to 1848 and is one of the oldest and most respected brands in the history of our country. Its reputation for quality and assurance has lasted for more than 134 years!
The Skinner mark was born when William Skinner migrated from England in 1843 and established a textile dynasty which was as colorful as it was successful. He built his factory on the banks of the Mill River in Williamsburg, MA and with his quality standards set high, produced fine sewing threads for merchant tailors. Long before the ready-to-wear clothing industry had been established, tailoring was a flourishing business and he had chosen for his "picture" trademark, the head of a famous old Indian chief, Unquomonk, of the Agawam tribe. (In those days, symbols or pictures were substituted for names trademarks for the benefit of those who could not yet read or write).
William Skinner prospered, his mills grew in size and his fine reputation widened. Then, in 1874, disaster struck. A huge dam broke and sent floods of water down through the valley of his plant site. His business was gone. Gone not, however, was the thriving reputation for Skinner products, orders for which kept pouring in. He found a suitable site to rebuild in Holyoke, MA and saw a large demand for silk braid. For the next 30 years, he did a profitable business in both sewing threads and braids (which were used for binding men's suits and service uniforms). A few years later, he installed looms and began weaving fabrics. Encouraged by his braid business, he decided to try linings as well and these turned out to be the greatest part of his business. He soon found himself manufacturing pure silks and pure dye taffetas. Later, he developed a line of silk satins which were in great demand at the time. At this time, his two Sons joined him in the business that was to be renamed William Skinner & Sons. Advertisements began appearing in Woman's Home Companion in the early 1900's.
In 1926, a line of all-silk dress goods crepes was developed for the cutting and piece good trades. Later, a line of rayon dress goods was added. While experimentation with rayon began in 1928, it was not until these fabrics had been thoroughly tested for serviceability that Skinner began to switch over to the synthetic, eventually becoming a leader in the popularization of rayon fabrics.
Many specialized and innovative fabrics have been developed over the years proudly carrying the Skinner name for quality and reputation. There is a special group of Skinner bridal and evening fabrics, Skinner lining fabrics, Skinner Crepe Radiance (the first completely washable crepe) and, of course, the envied Skinner Couture introduction... Ultrasuede brand fabric. Recently, a new group of Skinner home fashions fabrics has been launched.
Springs Industries' marketing plans for Skinner fabrics closely parallel those that were projected many, many years ago by the Skinner family.., and these are to make Skinner fabrics available in a large variety of forms to those customers who realize that quality and integrity of the manufacturer and fabric merchant are the best guarantees of value. Skinner fabrics will be supplied to the top merchants in each trade who will complement the background of experience and quality behind the product they are using. MJC 9/20/82
Thanks to Sande Skinner of Chicago who shared the above article that she received from Springs Industries. Sande has volunteered to continue `collecting' information about Skinner Silks and Satins, and is soon to make contact with the Skinners at `Wistariahurst.'