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Article Title

From Agriculture to Industry: Silk Production and Manufacture in Maine 1800-1930

Publication Date

10-1-2008

Document Type

Article

First Page

19

Last Page

49

Abstract

Sericulture or silk production is an agricultural activity that involves mulberry cultivation, raising silkworms, and reeling (unwinding) filament (raw silk) from cocoons. Silk manufacture involves a mechanical means of throwing (spinning) raw silk into usable threads and making textiles. This article examines Maine’s role in the American silk industry from early sericulture, mulberry growing, and small-scale hand production to twentieth-century industrialized manufacturing and the production of hitherto unimaginable quantities of silk fabrics. Most specifically, the objective is to show that although Maine’s participation in this effort may not have been as dominant or as well-documented as that of other New England states, its silk production was as much woven into antebellum life as it was elsewhere. Apparently ended before the Civil War, Maine’s silk connection vigorously revived with the founding of the Haskell Silk Company of Westbrook, and Haskell grew to become one of the largest and most successful silk manufacturers in the entire American silk industry. Jacqueline Field is an independent scholar and former college teacher and costume curator. Her primary interest is in textile history, textile design, and the end-use of textiles in dress. She co-authored American Silk 1830-1930: Entrepreneurs and Artifacts (2007), and has presented papers at national conferences and published numerous articles on aspects of textiles and dress. She serves as Vice President for Education and Programs for the Costume Society of America.

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