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The Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Company Records is not a new collection — we’ve had it in the archive since 1984 — but it is a solid collection of extraordinary historical materials that draws a steady line of researchers from genealogists and textile historians to UConn’s undergraduate and graduate students and secondary school students. The collections provides strong materials documenting this Manchester, Connecticut, company’s rise, in 1838 as the Mount Nebo Silk Company founded by six Cheney brothers, to its status as a leading producer of silk in the 1880s, to its peak in the 1920s when it produced silk for fashionable French garments, and then follows its decline after World War II (when it produced parachute material for the war effort) to its sale in the 1950s to J.P. Stevens & Company. The Cheney family was renowned for their paternalistic attitude to their workers and for providing housing, schools, and recreation facilities for its workers. An extraordinary component in the collection is a large set of employee cards from 1900 to 1940 where details of each worker — his or her country of origin, languages spoken and read, levels of education — are available, making that an amazing resource for ethnic history research.
This image from a 1929 brochure shows how the company marketed its fashionable fabrics. Tres chic!