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British Industrial History

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Henry Ashton Warburton

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of the New England Thread Co, Pawtucket, RI, USA

Henry's grandfather, Jacob Warburton, born in Bury, Lancashire, on July 2, 1782, was a hand loom weaver and came from a family of farmers. His grandmother, Sarah Ashton Warburton, was also born in Bury, April 9, 1784, and her family were farmers. Henry's father was born in Bury, on Feb. 8, 1806, and was a successful manager of cotton mills. He was a Quaker and emigrated to the USA in 1852, and died in Lawrence, Mass., in 1879. His mother was Sarah Taylor, born in Barnsley on July 20, 1808.

Henry Ashton Warburton was born in Hyde, Cheshire, England, on Nov. 2, 1837, the sixth child of Peter and Sarah (Taylor) Warburton. He attended school until his eighth year, when he entered the cotton mill, and until his 10th year his time was equally divided between school and work. He emigrated with his father in 1852, and obtained work as a piecer on hand spinning mules at Portsmouth, N. H., and went to the local night school to increase his general knowledge. 'In 1853 he engaged in mule spinning in Lawrence, Mass., and operated a pair of spinning mules for seven years. He also worked at file-cutting by machinery at Ballardvale, Mass., then returned to Portsmouth, N. H., where he was assistant overseer in the Portsmouth steam mill, and was transferred to the thread department, where he obtained the knowledge which contributed to his final success.

'He also worked in Newmarket, Exeter, N. H., was assistant overseer of the Hadley Thread Co., of Holyoke, Mass.,. and was overseer of the Warren Thread Co., of Worcester, Mass. In the latter city he engaged with William Ward of Portmouth [sic], N. H., the owner of a distillery, of which he was induced to take charge, and though he remained over three years, testing all kinds of alcoholic liquors by taste and smell, he yet never drank a drop. He then returned to his old business in 1877, accepting a position as overseer of the winding room with William Warren of New York city, thread manufacturer. In 1880 he came to Pawtucket as overseer and then became superintendent of Stafford & Co.'s works. In company with James C. Roth in 1886 he purchased this company's thread department and organized the New England Thread Co., he being general manager. His vast experience in the manufacture of threads peculiarly fitted him to produce a superior article, which was soon observed by the trade, and although he had to contend with many obstacles he steadily succeeded in establishing a lucrative business. In 1889 Mr. Roth died and he purchased his interest from the heirs, thus becoming sole proprietor. He employs over 100 hands and does a gross business of from $135,000 to $150,000 per annum in the manufacture of cotton thread, tapes and specialties, and the demand for his goods is so great that he experiences much difficulty in supplying his agents in New York, Chicago and Boston. In 11 years his business has increased four-fold.

'In 1893 Mr. Warburton bought the Cooper mills, so called, corner Cottage and Saunders streets, and although his new quarters were thought to be ample for 10 years' growth, he finds that by the addition of $3,000 worth of new machinery now ordered and promised by Jan. 1, 1897, nearly all the available space will be taken up. ....

....Sept. 8, 1862, he was married to Jane E. Critchley, daughter of William and Mary Critchley of Portsmouth, N. H., the result of this union being three children: Franklin E., b. in Portsmouth, N. H., Aug. 19, 1863; Florence E., b. in Worcester, Mass., Sept. 13, 1868; and Harry A., b. in Portsmouth, N. H., May 11, 1877. Franklin E. is superintendent of the mills, Harry A. is clerk and Mr. Warburton's son-in-law, Frank H. Grover, is the shipper.' [1]

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] 'Biographical History of the Manufacturers and Business Men of Rhode Island' Joseph D. Hall, Editor, J D Hall & Co, Providence, 1901