Monday, July 20, 2009

Faribault Woolen Mill

Patrick told me a while back that the Faribault Woolen Mill was in trouble. I went on line this morning and discovered the mill has closed. This was a wonderful old mill, established in Faribault, MN in 1865.

Pat and I have four of their jacquard weave blankets with Native American motifs: a bison, a bear, a thunder bird and a moon of falling leaves.

The mill made fine blankets, beginning with the wool. Every step of the manufacture was in house and in Faribault. It provided jobs in a small Minnesota town, and it ran a really neat retail store.

I assume the current economic collapse finished it off, after it survived the economic crises of the late 19th century and the 1930s; though it was probably hurt by overseas competition and places like Walmart.

This got me thinking of Joseph Schumpeter's theory of creative destruction. Here is a Schumpeter quote from Wikipedia:

The opening up of new markets and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one ... [The process] must be seen (as a) perennial gale of creative destruction...

What is not mentioned in this quote is the enormous cost of this creative destruction, in which capitalism builds, destroys, rebuilds and destroys again. Is there progress? Maybe, but at what cost? European and Japanese industry were improved by the destruction of old mills in WWII and the need to build new ones after the war. It's rather like deciding you need a new house, so you blow up the old one.

War isn't the only way to get rid of old fixed capital. Another way is the demolition of cities like Detroit and Youngstown and the gutting of the industrial Midwest. Is this really a good use of resources, especially in a world of limited resources?

Can we really afford to rip down working buildings and businesses? Wouldn't it be better to repair and recycle?

I will miss the mill. I wish I had bought more blankets.

10 Comments:

Blogger Eleanor said...

I forgot about the blanket over the Adirondack chair in the living room. We have five Faribault blankets with Native American themes.

7:36 AM  
Blogger geno said...

I worked at the Mill for 29 yrs. We made wonderful quality blankets and it is a shame that we couldn't make a go of it. I wish it could start up again. Over the years I talked with many people throughout the country and they all seemed to love our blankets. There was alot of mismanagement over the last 10 years that led to our demise, along with the economy. Please write back with your comments. geno

7:35 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I went to the store once and picked up several blankets that we still use 8 years later. I am sad to hear that they closed.

5:38 PM  
Blogger geno_77777 said...

Thanks Amanda for your nice comments about Faribo Blankets. I really enjoyed talking to people all over the country. If anyone else has comments or questions about Faribo, write them here and I'll be glad to try and answer them. geno

7:28 AM  
Blogger geno_77777 said...

I just heard there is a small chance the Woolen Mill could reopen

2:01 PM  
Blogger Janice said...

I have used the mill for many years to scour my own merino wool. They did a great job and I enjoyed the annual trek to deliver the huge 130# wool sacks to their basement washing race at 05:30 am and then pick up the wool already scoured and dried in bales by 3 pm in the afternoon. They would help me load it up into the truck and I would drive 4 hours home straight east to the middle of Wis. Now I have to get my wool scoured out in Pennsylvania!!

Talking about driving businesses out of the community. Something similar happened to my business, Kimmet Croft Fiber> I have been raising sheep and rabbits since 1975. I developed my quality yarns over the years and was chosen by Meg Swansen and Wendy Keele in 1994 to come up with a fingerweight yarn in over 80 colors to match the original Bohus Sweaters from Sweden. Wendy had written a book Poems of Color and I was listed as the exclusive supplier of the yarns to make the sweaters. I have worked on this project, with Mary Jo Burke a professional colorist. Well after 10 years the Museum in Sweden started offering the yarns as well. Since they were more closely tied to the original sweaters they had more prestige and publicity. Rumors were circulated by representatives for the Swedish company that I no longer sold the yarns, because I took a year off when I had cancer and another year off when I couldn't find a mill to spin the very fine yarn.

The internet is full of misrepresentations and falsehoods so my business has dropped off considerably. Basically I have 40 Merino ewes and 30 Angora rabbits that are about to be laid off.

My business makes perfect ecological sense. I have the perfect land for grazing fiber animals, the perfect water for dyeing wool and my own well. I am surrounded by marsh and woods. The only shipping I do is when I ship Angora fiber to the spinning mill and ship out the yarn to customers. Still I can't compete with Swedish Heritage!
Janice Becker

10:03 AM  
Blogger Bruce said...

I have a Faribo woolen blanket produced at the Faribault Mill that has a tag commemorating "100 Years Covering America with Comfort" ...I inherited this blanket from my parents...I can remember this blanket from when I was a youngster in the Sixties so they must have bought it sometime after the Faribault Mills Company's 100 year anniversary...It is a truly fine blanket and looks very much like new...I'm very pleased to have it.

According to the website of Bemidji Wollen Mills (dated 2010), I'm lead to believe the Mill is now possibly operational being purchased or otherwise operated by Bemidji Wollen Mills of Bemidji, MN

Thank you for allowing me to contribute my remarks concerning a truly great product of the highest quality, Made in America.

8:31 PM  
Blogger jan said...

I am shocked and heartsick to discover that the mill has closed. For years I've bought many pounds of wool ends for braiding rugs. I discovered all of this when trying to give your website phone number to a lady in GA that is learning to braid. What in the world will all the braiders do for wool. I too have one of your blankets that was my grandmothers and I am 73 so it is VERY old. I will always cherish it. I hope you can get up and running again. Jan from Delano, MN.

5:55 AM  
Blogger Annie said...

I live in Massachusetts, several years ago I bought a fabulous king size Faribo blue wool blanket on a sale at a local high end departments store. It was expensive, soft, and worth every penny. I loved the way it looked, and the way it felt - soft.

My problem I took it to the local dry cleaner and they shrank it. Not only that, the wool is now matted. I am a mild mannered type - no yelling. But I do want the problem fixed. I took it bak, and they steamed it, and tried to stretch it, but it is still not right.

I would like to ask for a replacement blanket. Do you know what blankets on the market today would equal this? Are there any factory records so I could check on what this would have sold for? I do not remember what I paid for the blanket.

I would appreciate any help you can give.

Thank you,
Annie

10:09 AM  
Blogger luvsclassics said...

Good Morning, Elenor, It is now 2011.
In the news on t.v., I just learned of the Faribo Mill is in the process of reopening by two people who joined together. The Mill has plans to reopen with 100 employees, there are 40 employees so far.
I'd love to know where these blankets are sold. Reading previous comments, the blankets sound so beautiful in design and craftmanship.

6:18 AM  

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