I found a whole series of advertisements for clothing made with Pacific Mills fabrics in the Woman’s Home Companion, 1936 and 1937. (I have not examined other years — and only done these years partially.) I’m currently reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline, so finding an American fabric mill that proudly put its own hang-tag on garments made by various manufacturers was another reminder of the days when quality mattered to shoppers.
Pacific Mills also advertised in The Ladies’ Home Journal in the late 1930s. Full color ads for Pacific Mills fabrics — especially woolens — can be found online dating to the 1940’s and 1950’s as well. (Search for “Pacific Mills Ad”)
The Vintage Traveler recently showed a photo of a woman playing golf while wearing a playsuit under her open dress (click here to see it), and that reminded me of these playsuits shown in Pacific Mills ads:
The Vintage Traveler has described the rise and fall of many American textile mills (Mitchell Company, Lilly Mills, etc.) and I can’t hope to match her scholarship. A year ago, I couldn’t find anything about Pacific Mills online; now, I find that the company began in “1852 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where it manufactured prints and fancy cottons as well as worsted goods in its woolen mill operations.” [Click here for source.] Pacific Mills acquired more mills near Columbia, South Carolina in the 1900s, and expanded to Lyman, South Carolina, around 1924, where the town grew up around it. Some Pacific mills produced sheeting; I’m not sure which mill produced the printed fabrics in cotton and rayon which are featured in these 1930’s advertisements.
In the 1970’s, the mill at Lyman was producing “7,000,000 yards per week of woven fabrics from 36″ to 110″ in width, over a broad range of weight from very light to bottom weights, decorated by roller printing, screen printing, beck dyeing and continuous dyeing. End use was generally apparel and sheeting. . . .” according to the Textile History site. (Click here to read the article.)
“Not illustrated, but just as important, are these other Pacific Crinkles, Kwanta Crepe, Cris Crinkle, and Flock Crinkle. Look at these dresses of smart cottons and you’ll want them. . . . At smart stores everywhere … all identified by the Pacific hang-tag, your assurance not only of style-rightness but of unusual value.” — Ad in Woman’s Home Companion, June 1937.
“How diverting it will be to wear a playsuit of Sand’ Land pique in a frolicsome sea-horse print . . . a sports frock of Cris Crinkle crepe in a whimsical little airplane design . . . plus-fours and shirt in Lingolyn, very nautically inclined with an all-over design of anchors and ropes.”
Pacific Mills also made fabrics from rayon and other synthetics.
“Here are quaint Tyrolean prints . . . exquisite Chinese porcelain and carved ivory effects . . . Flemish and French Renaissance motifs . . . border designs from Persia and Mexico. Here, too, are pictorial prints of contemporary events: the launching of the Queen Mary . . . the approaching election . . . the Chinese Fair in London.” For some fashions showing Chinese-influenced fabrics, click here.
“Cris Crinkle is a permanently crinkled cotton that requires no ironing; Smoc-Toc, a peasant cotton; Notable Crepe, a cotton and rayon mixture. All are fast to washing.”
This dress is made of rayon:
“This new twill-weave spun rayon does things for you. Soft dull texture, distinctive designs, rich colorings — all combine to bring out the best in you and make the simplest frock distinguished.” “Look for the Maid of Pacific selvage-marking or hang tags and the Crown Tested insignia . . . your assurance of complete, lasting satisfaction.”
The Pacific Mills woolen fabrics which were produced in Massachusetts in the 19th century continued to be a mainstay.
Pacific Mills continued to produce (and advertise) wool fabrics for men’s and women’s suits in the nineteen fifties and sixties. (Click here for a typical ad.) A search for “pacific mills ad” images brings up many lovely, full-color examples.
It’s a little surprising that there was no “product-tie-in” in these ads, naming the companies that used Pacific Mills textiles — or sharing the cost of the advertising!
The mill itself, in Lawrence, MA, is now renovated and rents commercial space to many businesses. (Click here.) The gallery has images of mill workers – mostly female — from the turn of the century and the 1920s. (Click here.)
The mill in Lyman, South Carolina, once the heart of the community, where Pacific Mills had built 325 homes, a community center, a twelve room schoolhouse, churches, a public swimming pool, and services for senior citizens, was sold to Burlington in 1954 and again to M. Lowenstein & Sons. (Click here.) It was sold again, and the Lyman mill was demolished in 2012. Click here for an article about its destruction.
I still have no idea why a textile mill in Massachusetts — and South Carolina — was called “Pacific” Mills.
4 responses to “Pacific Mills”
If we all let Lizzie be our guide, think of how much we would know! I loved this overview and really wanted to make a few items out of Pacific Crinkle. I wonder why they chose the name Pacific when they were so close to the Atlantic?
Me, too! I was hoping there was a California connection when I first found the ads. In the 1860’s, the Pacific Ocean was a really long voyage from Massachusetts. Perhaps they just meant “calm and peaceful.” Or perhaps they were looking forward to trade with China…
I’m catching up on my reading and posting and if I’d known you were over here saying such nice things I’d have made a point of doing it sooner!
I have no idea why it was named Pacific either, but their story was repeated dozens if not hundreds of times in the early to mid 20th century. Northern mills “outsourced” their production to the South to cut on transportation costs and to take advantage of the lack of trade unions. Then the process repeated itself in the 1990s when the South lost production to cheap labor markets abroad.
I hate that the mill was demolished. So many of them are now being repurposed. into condos and shops.
In this case, one Pacific mill (in MA) was converted to modern business use and one (Lyman) was converted to a blank space…. I didn’t realize the number of abandoned factory buildings in America till I watched the documentary Beyond These Walls http://floodwallfilm.org/ about the town of Portsmouth, Ohio, which commissioned muralist Robert Dafford to paint the history of the town on its floodwalls.