If your company asked everyone to get together for a group photo today, it’s unlikely you would be posing on the roof over the door, but some employees of the Springfield Silk Mills Company in Springfield, Mass., did just that on April 27, 1886. Group photos from this time period usually depicted employees lined up outside the company building, but sometimes employees were seen perched in the windows as they are here, or even standing on the roof or in an open delivery door. The Springfield Silk Mills seems to have been a small enterprise, housed in a two-story clapboard building that looks very much like a large house. The company employed both men and women, some of whom are sitting in the open windows on the second floor, while some of the men stand jauntily on the roof of the bay window on the first floor. Others of both sexes line up across the front of the building. While the crowd appears small, there are actually 53 people in the photo.
It’s unusual to have a photo dated so specifically as this one, and it provides a window into a company that did not exist for very long. The Springfield Silk Mills Company was incorporated in 1883, just three years before this photo was taken. The company made machine twist and sewing silk (machine twist is sewing thread especially for use in sewing machines). However, the company seems to have run into financial trouble by 1888 or so, and disappears from directories after 1889. It’s possible that the company was taken over and renamed, as the Mikado Silk Mills popped up in Springfield, Mass., in 1890, also making machine twist but Mikado was gone by 1892 as well. This photo, possibly taken at the height of the company’s business, may be all that’s left of the Springfield Silk Mills enterprise.
Jane Ward, Assistant Librarian