Bancroft, Joseph & Sons Company
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
430 linear ft.
Joseph Bancroft began manufacturing cotton cloth at a small mill in Rockford, Delaware, just north of Wilmington, on March 25, 1831. The mill was built in order to take advantage of the Brandywine River's water power and Bancroft adopted the traditional British spinning and weaving technology for use in his operation. The firm expanded steadily during the 1830s and 1840s as it began to produce cotton for both the Philadelphia and New York markets. In the late 1840s, Joseph Bancroft brought his two sons, William and Samuel, into the business assuring that the company would remain a family enterprise. During the Civil War, when the American market was largely closed to English imports, the Bancroft firm, like most other U.S. textile companies, prospered. After the war, the company developed a new bleaching process and began to concentrate on finishing cotton cloth. The firm was incorporated as the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company in 1889. In 1929, the Bancroft Company merged with the Eddystone Manufacturing Company. In the mid-1930s it began producing a line of rayon goods and a cotton finishing process that were marketed under the trade names of "Ban-Lon" and "Everglaze" respectively. The Banlon and Everglaze processes were widely licensed in Europe and America and by the early 1950s foreign royalties accounted for more than 70 per cent of the firm's total profits. In 1961, the Bancroft Company became a division of Indian Head Mills, Inc., of New York City. The Rockford factory closed in 1981. The Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company records trace the history of the firm from 1831 through 1969. However, the pre-1865 records are quite fragmentary, consisting largely of real estate records and day books. Board of Directors and Executive Committee minute books and reports date from 1889, while records of the Operating, Advisory, and Real Estate Committees date from 1910. Managing Director's letter books are virtually complete from 1862 to 1917, and give a very detailed picture of the company's operations. The collection also includes sales, purchasing and receiving records. Production records include expense analyses, cost books for labor and supplies, time books, wage records and payroll sheets. There is considerable documentation on the company's paternalistic approach to labor relations, the operation of its company housing and store programs, as well as efforts by the Textile Workers Union of America to organize the mills in the 1930s and 1940s. The records also include legal department files which document Bancroft's efforts to license and defend the Banlon and Everglaze trademarks in the United States, the British Commonwealth, Europe, Japan, and Latin America. The Spunize lawsuits center around Nathan and Abraham J. Rosenstein of the Spunize Company of America, Unionville, Conn., concerning their apparatus and process for crimping natural and synthetic fibers. Subsidiary companies include the Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of Pennsylvania and the Kepton Housing Company, operating cotton mills and company housing at Reading, Pa., and the Arrestox Company, formed to manufacture and market new products developed by Bancroft's Research Dept. The Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of New York, Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company of Canada, Banco, Inc., Rockford Company, and Albert D. Smith & Company, Inc., were sales companies.