Early History of Brighton Mills
In an earlier issue of Brighton Warp and Weft it was stated that this company was 60 years old last October, and emphasis was placed on the rich heritage which was ours, and the responsibility which rested upon us all for maintaining the reputation and good name of the company.
Delving back into the records, we find that Brighton Mills was incorporated on Oct. 21, 1879 under the laws of the State of New York. The company was organized to manufacture cotton and other fabrics.
The offices and plant of the company were then located on West 23rd Street, New York City and it is believed that it was the only cotton mill ever to have been operating in the metropolitan are of New York City.
The first president of the company was Chas. M. Pratt, who was elected to office Oct. 21, 1879. His picture, taken at about this time is reproduced in this issue, through the courtesy and with the permission of his son, Mr. Frederick B. Pratt. Mr Pratt later became associated with the Standard Oil Company of New York - and among other organizations with which he was connected was Pratt Institute - in Brooklyn - which bears his name.
Associated with Mr. Pratt at the time of the organization of Brighton Mills were two brothers - Mr. William Lyall and Mr. James Lyall - Mr. James Lyall was an inventor - noted for his skill and ability along mechanical lines. (The Lyall Positive Motion Loom was one of his inventions.) Mr. William Lyall was in charge of sales.
In March, 1891, Mr. William Lyall became President - Mr. Pratt resigning to take care of other interests.
In the early days of the company, their products consisted of Filter cloths, “turkey red table covers” - Counterpanes, and other fabrics of that general description.
In the early 1890's - rubber tired bicycles began to be popular - for many years of course the bicycles used cushion tires but pneumatic tires were developing. In the early days of the pneumatic tires, the fabrics were imported - and were made of various types of fabrics - some silk, some linen and various mixtures. The linen fabric was found to “cut” and was not particularly satisfactory and of course the silk fabric was too high in price to be popular.
A rubber manufacturing company whose plant adjoined the plant of Brighton Mills in West 23rd St., New York, was interested in the development of pneumatic tires and in conversation with the Lyall brothers - described the difficulties encountered in obtaining a proper fabric. The Lyall brothers went to work on the problem and in the Brighton Mills there was developed the first cotton fabric used in Pneumatic tires - in this country. Many hundreds of thousands of yards of Bicycle tire fabrics were produced by Brighton Mills - and with the advent of the automobile - the Mills were in line to take advantage of the new industry.
(continued in April 22, 1940 issue)
As was told in our last issue, Brighton Mills was started in New York City in 1879, and was the first mill in this country to make bicycle tire fabric. A natural outgrowth of that line was Automobile Tire Fabric, and with the increase in demand for this fabric larger plant facilities were needed, than the New York City location afforded.
Accordingly land was purchased in Passaic, New Jersey and a plant erected in 1900. For a time small offices were maintained in New York City, but the mill office and selling department were transferred to Passaic.
Mr. William Lyall, whose picture appears in this issue, was President of the company during this period - and until his death in 1916. The active management of the company was under the direction of Mr. William L. Lyall - whom some of the people in Shannon may remember, - with Mr. T. J. Kelly as factory manager, and Mr. T. M. Gardener in charge of sales.
Brighton Mills took great pride in the quality of the tire fabrics which it produced and great care was exercised in the production of what was termed a “properly balanced construction” - one with the right amount of twist in the warp and the filling.
In the early days Sea Island Cotton was used in the fabric used for automobile tires - as well as Combed Egyptian - and then somewhat later Karded Egyptian Cotton. Another staple - Sakellarides cotton - which was grown in Egypt from Sea Island cotton seed - was also used in the higher grade fabrics.
As methods of manufacture improved and as the demand grew for lower price tires - gradually Combed Peeler and then Karded Peeler yarns were used in the production of tire fabric, but the same meticulous care was used in the manufacture of the Combed and Karded Peeler fabrics as was used in the higher grade Sea Island and Egyptian cotton fabrics.
It may be that you have read of the yacht races which were run for a number of years between yachts in this country and the boats entered by Sir Thomas Lipton of England. In 1914 Brighton Mills made the sail duck which was to be used on the boat which was entered from the United States. This sail duck was made from the most beautiful Sea Island Cotton you can imagine - the cotton specially selected for the purpose - and of course had to meet a very high standard of quality. However, the outbreak of the war in 1914 prevented the race being run.
During the War, the Brighton Mills produced large quantities of Khaki for the government - for uniforms and for tents - which of course also had to meet very rigid specifications.
Mr. William L. Lyall, who was general manager of the company during this period, was tremendously interested in the welfare of the operatives in the mill. His pride in the organization was probably the most vital thing in his life. The demand for tire cord fabric increased tremendously during this period and in 1914-1915 additional land was purchased in Allwood, N. J. - just a few miles from Passaic, - and the Allwood Plant of Brighton Mills was erected for the production of Cord Tire Fabric.
At this time a modest housing development was started at Allwood. Many of the employees of the company built homes in the Allwood development - and a spirit of friendly rivalry existed among them as to had the most attractive garden plot. Among the early settlers in the Allwood Village were our Mr. Jim Coffey and Mr. “Bill” Meenen.
(continued in May 27, 1940 issue)
In this issue of the Warp and Weft we show the picture of Mr. William L. Lyall, who, as stated in the last issue, was President of the Brighton Mills from 1916 until 1925 - and in active charge of the operations of the company.
During the latter years of this period many of the mills “larger customers” in the tire fabric business built their own plants and the demand for cord fabric from independent manufacturers decreased since the tire factories were in large measure producing their own tire cord.
In 1925 a survey of many suggested mill sites in the South was made - after carefully weighting one against the other - Shannon was chosen as the site of the Southern Plant of Brighton Mills. The transportation facilities which afforded excellent services to the plants of our then large customers, and the water supply which was available for a village of the size which ultimately developed - were two of the important factors which caused the management of Brighton Mills to select Shannon as the location of their Southern unit.
Building was begun in 1925. Considerable machinery from the Passaic plant of Brighton Mills was moved to the new location, and early in 1926 the Mill began producing tire cord. Many of the employees now in Shannon started work with the Mill back in 1926 and have been loyal members of the organization since the beginning of the Southern Brighton Mills.
Mr. Morrison became President of Brighton Mills and Southern Brighton Mills in 1927 - and in 1928 the Southern unit was enlarged; additional equipment was moved from New Jersey to the operating unit - and all manufacturing operations of the parent company were transferred to the South. The executive offices of Southern Brighton Mills were established in Shannon in 1931 - and the story of Brighton Mills merges into the story of Southern Brighton Mills with which you are familiar.
Southern Brighton Mills, as the offspring of an honorable forebear has indeed a heavy responsibility in living up to the traditions and lofty principles which are its heritage. We, whose duty it now is to perpetuate those ideals and those traditions, should feel keenly the obligation which is ours. It is up to us - the present generation of Southern Brighton Mills employees - to carry on the good name and reputation of the organization to which we belong.