What became the textile manufacturing town of Saylesville began with a small cotton print works in the 1830s. William F. Sayles initiated its important history in the textile industry, however, when he purchased the bankrupt print works at auction in 1847. He converted it to a bleachery. A fire in 1854 forced the building of a new plant which, after 1863, when Frederic C. Sayles joined his brother in the firm, operated as the W. F. and F. C. Sayles Company. The Sayles brothers steadily expanded operations and from their home base acquired control of the Slater Cotton Company and the Lorraine Mill in Pawtucket, as well as the Glenlyon Dye Works in Phillipsdale, a village in East Providence, together with plants in Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and elsewhere. In 1894, Frank Sayles, son of William, bought out his uncle's share of the business. Under his leadership, the business (finally known simply as the Sayles Finishing Company) became one of the largest cotton finishers in the country, the first to mercerize cotton thread, the first to print cotton and silk in fast color, and the first to finish organdies without starch and sizing which washed out. When Frank Sayles died in 1920, his company had 3,000 employees in widely dispersed plants throughout the eastern United States. His Saylesville operation was reputedly the largest bleachery in the world.
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