My two year old grand daughter Lulu was my special guest at the May 23 celebration of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary. She enjoyed meeting our mascot (it is no coincidence that they share the same name) but I was especially pleased to see her so excited by the hands-on fiber arts activities in the Weston Howland Textile Learning Center. She patiently used a glue stick to attach feathers and glitter to a felt tiara – making serious faces and pressing down hard to ensure that each adornment was securely adhered. As I helped her create the tiara and a Cambodian flag, I was filled with sense of pride that this small child was continuing a long-standing family tradition.
There were four generations of my family at ATHM that day, as my mother and son were also participating in Lulu’s first textile arts experience. Our family has deep roots in the textile industry beginning with my grandfather Raymond Caffray who attended Lowell Textile School in the 1920s and went on to become the Superintendent of the Lawrence Print Works. Several years ago when his son – my Uncle Bob – visited ATHM for the first time he was quickly drawn to the giant calico printing machine in the lobby. He explained to his wife Bonnie exactly how the machine operates – remembering each detail from his frequent visits to the print works as a small boy.
My parents met in New York City at DuPont Company, well known as a pioneer in the development of synthetic fibers. After his service in World War II my father became a salesman in the textile industry and subsequently founded a company which produced metallic thread. He then developed a machine for precision cutting the thread into Metalflake – the very same glitter that Lulu attached to her tiara. In 2002 when DuPont was inducted into the American Textile Hall of Fame, I thought of the impact that my father’s first job had on the rest of career, and the significance of my parents’ chance meeting at DuPont in the 1940s.
My own involvement in textiles and the American Textile History Museum was also somewhat by chance as I was in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the late 1980s when I ran into a long-time friend Andy Stevens. When she asked what I was up to I replied “I’m getting in touch with my textile roots in Lowell, and looking for a graduate school placement.” She quickly suggested that I make an appointment with Executive Director Thomas Leavitt at the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum in North Andover.
And now twenty-two years later, I am still committed to the mission of the Museum and thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce my grand daughter to her roots and our family’s passion for all things textile. When Lulu learns to read I hope that she will be proud to see the plaque on the ATHM reception desk (donated by my cousin Gil in honor of our grandfather) and that one day she will introduce the next generation of our family to the art, science and history of textiles.
Director of Advancement