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Lonsdale

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The three affluent closely related Providence families who controlled the Lonsdale Company—the Browns, the Iveses, and the Goddards—brought a relatively new mode of ownership to the state's industry. Operating initially as the investment firm of Brown and Ives, this was the first major venture in Rhode Island to abandon joint-stock partnerships in favor of the corporate form of management which Boston capitalists had introduced at Waltham around 1812 and at Lowell in 1822. No longer did the owners live close to the mill and have their offices at the gate of one of their key factories. They lived in their Providence mansions and there maintained their counting house in what had once been Joseph Brown's house ( PR51). Plant superintendents handled operations at the factory. The corporation moved quickly to establish additional mills at Berkeley and Ashton farther up the Blackstone and on the Cumberland side of the river (see under Cumberland). They also bought other mills south of Providence at Hope and Phenix on the Pawtuxet (see under Scituate and West Warwick), which they managed as the Hope Corporation. Brown and Ives also innovated by operating their mills as a unit, with centralized purchasing and marketing, as well as specialization among all the plants. Thus the Lonsdale plant originally specialized in fine cotton cloth for such items as umbrellas and eventually handled bleaching and dyeing for all Blackstone operations.

The village of Lonsdale was also conceived in a larger, more integrated way than previous mill villages, although the measure of this integration is better seen today at Berkeley and Ashton, and across the river in the Cumberland half of Lonsdale. Mills No. 1 and 2 at Lonsdale (1831 and 1832) were both demolished. Mill No. 3 (1833), on Cook Street, still exists, although radically altered, not only in details, but reduced from four stories to two. The buildings for bleaching and dyeing are dilapidated. Important later mills in Lonsdale, which do remain, are concentrated across the river on the Cumberland side of this bifurcated community. So it is essentially aspects of the life of the village apart from the factory that remain to the Lincoln side of Lonsdale.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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