Miesch Silk Manufacturing (c. 1910)

Miesch Totowa
Architectural Context, Integrity & Significance
The Miesch Mfg. Co. mill located at 468 Totowa Avenue occupies a two-acre site defined by Totowa Ave. on the north, Kearney St. on the east, Jasper St. on the west, and an undefined physical boundary to the south. The L-shaped, four story, 26 bay 200-ft. by 200-ft. brick and heavy timber construction mill is aligned along Totowa Ave and Kearny St. Contemporary ancillary buildings are extant, situated behind the main structures, including a power plant with round smokestack, a 1-1/2 story staging/storage brick shed and a smaller one-story brick utilitarian building.  The works was constructed in 1909-1910 in a utilitarian industrial style of evenly-spaced colossal pilasters, segmentally arched, 12-over-12 light, central pivot style windows.  Two further character-defining features are its three-course brick header corbelling and centrally-situated clerestories.  The site is unique in its setting, and provides an interesting balance in scale to nearby Hinchliffe Stadium.  This impressive structure is an excellent example of early twentieth-century mill construction in its massing and utilitarian styling, exhibits excellent integrity down to the windows and sense of place, and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for Architectural significance.  The site is in excellent repair and under an industrial tenant reuse plan.     


Historic significance, context & association
While only ephemeral evidence was available under the scope of this research, the Miesch Mfg. Co. may be associated with Kaspar Miesch, a surname of likely Austrian or Bavarian origin, that began c.1886 as a tenant in the Dale Silk Mill on Railroad Ave. Later, the incorporation of the Miesch Mfg. Co. in 1889, capitalization of shareholders from Philadelphia and elsewhere, allowed for the erection of a small, 60x200 handsome mill to "manufacture on an extensive scale all kinds of fine ribbons and silk goods that are used in the millinery trade [hats], making a specialty of manufacturing only the finest class of goods" on Courtland St. in South Paterson, which was expanded prior to 1915. Considering both the expansion of the Courtland St. works and the construction of the new works on Totowa Ave, it is possible that the John C. Welwood Corp. had purchased the Miesch Company prior to the expansion to 468 Totowa Ave. and may have capitalized the expansion or that the Miesch Co. constructed the new works at Totowa and subsequently sold it to the J.C. Welwood Corp.

In either case, the association with John C. Welwood Corp. is significant in that it represents the significant shift in the silk industry at the turn of the century with the proliferation of conglomerate businesses. These entities, like the J.C. Welwood Corp. based in New York City, had capitalist motivations of accumulating specifically smaller entities often built by nineteenth-century families or the previous generation of "trade expert" owners so as to capture ever smaller market shares of the times due to extreme competition, technological change and increased specialization. This and other complexities developed and contributed to the shrinking and eventual demise of the traditional silk industry in Paterson by mid century. As reported by Grace Hutchins in her book Labor and Silk (1929), a study about the Paterson Silk Strikes of 1925-26:
The Miesch Manufacturing Company, owned by the John C. Welwood Company, has just been merged with the Buser Silk Company. The two merging concerns run eleven plants in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and have now become a $3,000,000 corporation, the Miesch Manufacturing Company employing 2,000 workers. The best of the looms in the Buser mill have been moved to the Miesch plant and the old looms are discarded. The company states that all workers in the Buser factory have been taken into the Miesch mill.
Advertisements for the Miesch Co. in Paterson touted association with J.C. Welwood as "sole Selling Agents" and by the mid-1920s, the Welwood Co. as "largest silk ribbon manufacturer in the world." Miesch Mfg. Co. touted its Trade Marked brand of "Olive Branch Ribbons" and mills established in Paterson, Allentown, PA, Piermont, NY, and Hallstead PA. All were "represented" by J.C. Welwood, who may have had an ownership interest through merger, or owned Miesch outright.  This is also clarified by Hutchins in Labor and Silk (1929): 
The non-union ribbon mills of the Miesch Mfg. Company are owned now by the John C. Welwood Corporation. The company has recently grown by a merger described in a later section. Its capitalization was increased from an original $100,000 to $1,000,000 in 1920. John C. Welwood, president of the corporation, lives on upper Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park. He is the largest stockholder in his company. Assets of over $3,000,000 of the concern are in ratio of about three to one of liabilities. It claims "the largest ribbon business in the world." Broad silk mills at Hawley, Honesdale, and White Mills, Pa., also help largely in building up the profits of the John C. Welwood Corporation.
It is unknown when the Welwood Corp. and the Miesch Co. left the silk ribbon business, but records demonstrate that the Paterson mills were operational under the Miesch name until the mid-1930s. It is also documented in Silk and Labor that the Miesch mill workers were involved with the Paterson Silk Strike of 1925, and the appearance of Miesch and Welwood in this book was to demonstrate the eventual demise of the traditional American silk industry by demonstrating the many complexities of capitalist, markets and labor conflicts that contributed to it.

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References

Department of Community Development, "City of Paterson Survey," 1987.

Archimede, Gianfranco, "Paterson Historic Mills Group Municipal Historic Site Designations Staff Opinion of Eligibility," 2012.

Hyde, E. B. Atlas of Passaic County, New Jersey, 1877.

Robinson, E. Atlas of the City of Paterson, New Jersey, 1884

Robinson, E. Atlas of the City of Paterson and Haledon, New Jersey, 1899.

Mueller, A. H. Atlas of the City of Paterson, New Jersey, 1915.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance, Maps of Paterson, New Jersey, 1915.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance, Maps of Paterson, New Jersey, 1931.




Associated Documents

Miesch Mill Totowa Ave Works Site Form
Maps of Miesch Mill Totowa Ave Works
Additional Photographs of Miesch Mill Totowa Ave Works

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