National Clothespin Factory

“The National Clothespin Factory is a historic industrial building at One Granite Street in Montpelier, Vermont. Built in 1918, it is a significant local example of an early 20th-century wood-frame factory, and was home to the nation’s last manufacturer of wooden clothespins. Now adapted for other uses, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.[1]

The former National Clothespin Factory is located in an industrial area southeast of downtown Montpelier, on the north side of Granite Street between the railroad tracks and the Winooski River. The main building is a three-story wood-frame structure, with a flat roof. It is twelve bays wide and two deep, with three asymmetrically placed entrances on the long street-facing facade, and a short tower at the northeast corner. Additions extend the building to the north, and there is a single-story shed-roofed office building between the main factory and the river.[2]

The National Clothespin Company, founded in 1887, was one of two clothespin manufacturers in Montpelier, originally occupying space at One Main Street. It had this facility constructed in 1918, and operated here until 2003. Of a maximum of fifteen clothespin factories in the nation, it was the last to close down, the industry harmed by low-cost foreign competition and the advent of powered clothes dryers. The building is one of Vermont’s best-preserved wooden factory buildings of the early 20th century, including among other items an original period elevator, manufactured by the Energy Elevator Company of Philadelphia.[2]”-

I have also read that in a small area of this former factory building there is a company producing plastic clothespins. Although they are plastic and not wooden, I love the fact that clothespins are still being manufactured here.

Clothespin History:

“A clothespin (US English), or clothes peg (UK English) is a fastener used to hang up clothes for drying, usually on a clothes line. Clothespins often come in many different designs…

In 1853 David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont invented a clothespin with two prongs connected by a fulcrum, plus a spring.[3][4][5] By a lever action, when the two prongs are pinched at the top of the peg, the prongs open up, and when released, the spring draws the two prongs shut, creating the action necessary for gripping.[citation needed]

The design by Smith was improved by Solon E. Moore in 1887. He added what he called a “coiled fulcrum” made from a single wire, this was the spring that held the wooden pieces together, acted as a spring forcing them to shut, and as a fulcrum on which the two halves could rock, eliminating the need for a separate component, and reducing manufacturing costs.[3] This became the first successful spring-actuated clothespin, being manufactured and sold in huge quantities all across the United States.

The state of Vermont, and its capitol of Montpelier, in particular, quickly became what The New York Times has called “The Silicon Valley of Clothespin Manufacturing”, the United States Clothespin Company (U.S.C. Co.) opened in 1887 to manufacture Moore’s improved design. Vermonter Stephen Thomas, served as company president, and the company enjoyed a significant level of success, in spite of the competitors that rapidly sprang up in Waterbury and other places.

In 1909, Allan Moore, one of the U.S.C. Co. employees, devised a way in which clothespins could be manufactured more cheaply, by eliminating one of the coils in the “spring fulcrum”. He left the company, and with a loan from a local entrepreneur opened a competing factory, literally across the street from the U.S.C. Co. building. The new National Clothespin Company rapidly overtook the U.S.C. Co., consuming 500,000 board-feet of lumber at the height of production. After WWI, cheap imports from Europe began to flood the market, in spite of repeated calls for protective tariffs by Vermont, and the state industry went into decline; in 1920, it cost 58 cents to manufacture one gross of clothespins in Vermont, while imported Swedish clothespins were sold for 48 cents a gross. The situation worsened after WWII, and the introduction of the electric clothes dryer diminished demand for clothespins, further damaging the industry; the U.S.C. Co. was forced to close its doors before the end of the 1940s. However, the National Clothespin Company, who had previously moved from its original location across the street, and had been sold to a new owner, managed to stay in business by virtue of a contract with the F.W. Woolworths department store chain. In this fashion, they managed to hang on through the following decades, in spite of a disastrous fire in 1978. The profit margin was eaten into further by the increasing volume cheap Chinese imports; the familiar pleas for protective tariffs were continued, but to no result. The company, which had discontinued its line of wooden clothespins, diversified into plastics, including plastic clothespins, which constituted only a small part of overall production. However, the National Clothespin Company finally ceased production of clothespins, the last American-manufactured clothespin coming off the production line in 2009, amid a certain amount of media attention and regret.[6]…”-

Such an interesting rooftop piece of equipment!

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