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History of Freeland, Pa.
Freeland Bobbin Works

What's on this page:

  • Freeland Bobbin Works
  • Photo of a Weatherly bobbin maker building
  • Newspaper and industry reports
  • Directory, map and phonebook listings
On related pages:

Thanks to Charlie Stumpf, Ed Merrick, Charlie Gallagher, Charlie Reczkowski, Emily Pecora, Greater Hazleton Historical Society and others for contributions to this page.

Freeland Bobbin Works

Other names known by: Freeland Spool And Bobbin Corporation, Cloverleaf Freeland Bobbin Works

Location: Birkbeck street; relocated to 175 S. Washington Street [briefly back at Birkbeck street for a few months in 1921 while building rebuilt after fire]; after 1935 moved to Pine and Green streets in Hazleton

Dates: ca. 1920 – 1935 in Freeland – ca.1935-1947-? in Hazleton

Owner(s): Asa Rute, founder; later Joseph Neale; later George B. Markle

Other principals: In 1921, Asa Ruth [Rute], pres, John H. [or T.?] Trevaskis, sec, Dr. S. S. Hess Treas – in 1923, President, Asa Rute; vice president, C. A. Welsh; treasurer, S. S. Hess; secretary, C. A. Welsh; directors, Asa Rute, S. S. Hess, C. A. Welsh, Ernest Schuster, Joseph Saricks, Geo. Welch and B. F. Davis – ca.1935, George B. Markle [Markle Bobbin Mfg Co of Allentown; brother-in-law of Joseph Neale]

Size of building(s): unknown, but a 26x28’ addition was built in late 1922/1923

Number of employees: 10 in 1920; 25 in 1923; 42 in 1928; 30+ in 1945; “employing a peak total of 100” possibly in 1940 [see 1940 news article, below]

Product: Bobbins for the silk factories

[Please send additions and corrections!]

Why would there be enough need for bobbins to sustain a bobbin factory in Freeland? Once the silk fibers were processed from raw silk and wound onto bobbins and sent off to buyers in New York and elsewhere to be made into fabric, new bobbins were immediately needed so that more silk fibers could be processed. Any silk factories processing raw silk would have gone through staggering numbers of these large bobbins. In Freeland alone there were at least 5 production sites in Freeland at various times, of which traces still exist.

The Freeland Bobbin Works is said to have begun in 1920 at Birkbeck near Front street, which had to be at the premises of the silk factory that was next to the water company. I don’t know whether they actually produced any bobbins there or (more likely) whether they were just getting organized there while a site was being developed. Freeland's first silk factory would be needing a lot of bobbins. Soon after Freeland Bobbin Works' founding it was relocated to 175 Washington street, in the same building as, or adjacent to, the Hoch Hame Company which had been there since at least 1912, below Carbon street and just below the train tracks on the east side of the street. The building is long gone, but Charlie Reczkowski recalled playing in the area of this factory as a child and finding discarded large wooden and/or metal bobbins, which he said were made for textile factories. I *seem* to remember him clarifying that there were discarded wooden bobbins and also square flat metal templates with round holes cut into them strewn around on the ground outside the factory, but I’m not sure and I don’t have it written down. [If your grandparents or great-grandparents lived in that neighborhood and are still living, please ask them if they remember this business, and please let me know what they remember so that I can share it here!]

In her thesis about her grandfather’s tailor business, Emily Pecora wrote: “In fact, the only industry credited with beginning operation during the 1920s was the Freeland Bobbin works, which had in fact been in business since 1920, but expanded its operations in 1923, more than doubling its workforce from 10 to 25 employees, and expanded again to 42 employees in 1928.” (page 158)

In 1921, not long after the bobbin factory moved into its new building, a fire at its premises and that of the Hoch Hame Company forced both businesses to temporarily move back to Birkbeck street near Front, which again I am guessing meant the silk factory building, which still contained a working silk factory. For the Freeland Bobbin Works, the move was very temporary, as the bobbin factory was back at 175 Washington street by June the same year and back in production. A 1921 note in American Silk Journal, vol. 40 reported that “The Luzerne Silk Throwing Co. and the Freeland Bobbin Works have resumed operations.” Apparently the silk factory was also temporarily idle in 1921, which could have enabled the bobbin factory and Hoch Hame to briefly conduct business for a couple of months from that building, although whether or not they were able to produce any product there during those months is unknown and probably unlikely.

Freeland Spool & Bobbin Corporation stock certificate Freeland Spool & Bobbin Corporation stock certificate Freeland Spool & Bobbin Corporation stock certificate Freeland Spool & Bobbin Corporation stock certificate

After production was again ramped up this was a very successful factory for years. Asa Rute was president of the company for about 5 years, succeeded by Joseph Neale. Neale made trips to New York City to get orders, and he added a lot of new machinery. However, he died in 1933, and in 1935 the company went into bankruptcy and was bought by George B. Markle of the Markle Bobbin Mfg. Co. of Allentown. Sometime between 1935 and 1937 the factory was reopened as Freeland Bobbin Works at Pine and Green streets, Hazleton, perhaps retaining “Freeland” in the name due to the company’s earlier success under that brand. It was later renamed the Freeland Spool & Bobbin Corporation, as seen on these stock certificates, although it never came back to Freeland. In 1946-1947 there was a labor strike, with workers invited back in June 1946. In December 1954 heat from a fire at the Bowl-Arena on east Green street damaged 66 window panes of the Cloverleaf Freeland Bobbin Works. I don’t know whether the company had already closed before that fire.

Another bobbin company in  Weatherly

Bobbin company in Weatherly Bobbin company in Weatherly Bobbin company in Weatherly

I have not yet seen a photo of the Freeland Bobbin Works, but here is a photo from the Greater Hazleton Historical Society of a building in Weatherly, date unknown, on which is painted: “Bobbins, Spools & [_ack] Wood-working Co. – Improved Fibre Head Silk Bobbins”. There were quite a number of silk and other textile factories in the region in the late 1890s and 20th century that would have been customers for these bobbin makers, since once the processed silk was wound onto bobbins and sent off to buyers, new bobbins were immediately needed. I share this photo here for local interest. [Many thanks to the Greater Hazleton Historical Society.]

More local newspaper and other reporting summarized

(many thanks to Ed Merrick for news clippings and Charlie Gallagher for industry reports)

Iron Age, vol. 107, 1921 – “The plants of the Hoch Hames Works and the Freeland Bobbin Works, Freeland, Pa., occupying the same building on Washington Street, were destroyed by fire, April 5, with loss estimated at $50,000.”

The Iron Trade Review, vol. 68, April 21, 1921, page 1136 – “Freeland, Pa. – The plants of the Hoch Hame Works and the Freeland Bobbin Works, which occupy the same building, were mostly damaged by fire.”

Textiles: A Monthly Technical Journal, vols. 18-19, June 1921, page 47 – “Freeland Bobbin Works, Freeland, Pa., have recently installed new machinery which has tripled production capacity of their plant.”

American Silk Journal, vol. 40, 1921, page 76 – “The Luzerne Silk Throwing Co. and the Freeland Bobbin Works have resumed operations.”

The Insurance Press, vol. 52, 1921, in a section on Fire, page 16 – “Freeland, Pa., April 5. Factory bldg. occ. by Hoch Hame works and Freeland Bobbin works dest. $50,000.”

American Machinist, vol. 56, 1922 – Under heading: The Trend of Business Improvement – Plants Resuming – “The Freeland Bobbin Works, Freeland, Pa., manufacturers of textile equipment, is arranging for immediate resumption of operations at its plant, which has been idle for a number of months past. The company has taken an order for 35,000 bobbins and other equipment.”

November 24, 1922 – Standard-Speaker – Building Addition to Factory – “Asa A. Rute, of Walnut street, Freeland, a former traveling salesman for a Hazleton manufacturing concern, who is now devoting his time in managing the Freeland Bobbin Works, yesterday stated that the local concern granted a contract to build an addition 26x28 to the present building.”

July 13, 1923 – Standard Speaker – Bobbin Works Is Most Promising Industry Now Industry is Crowded With Orders at Present – Plant Was Rebuilt After Old Structure Had Been Destroyed by Disastrous Fire "Freeland's latest and most promising industry is the Freeland Bobbin Works, located on South Washington street. At the present time this industry is crowded with orders, and is giving employment to 25 skilled hands. Three years ago the company was organized with local capital and located on Birkbeck street, employing 10 men. The plant ran steadily for a period of 1 year, when it was visited by a disastrous fire which destroyed most of the machinery, entailing a $5,000 loss and rendering the plant idle for a period of 6 weeks. Additional money was raised by the stockholders and the plant was removed to South Washington street where they enjoy a building twice the size of the old structure, and at the same time doubled the employment force. At the present time the plant is enjoying a prosperous business year and gives promise of doubling their capacity before the present year comes to a close. The mechanical supervision is in charge of Ernest Schuster, formerly of the Carbondale Bobbin Co., while the business end of the enterprise is looked after by Asa Rute, of Freeland. The directors and officers of the company are as follows: President, Asa Rute; vice president, C. A. Welsh; treasurer, S. S. Hess; secretary, C. A. Welsh; directors, Asa Rute, S. S. Hess, C. A. Welsh, Ernest Schuster, Joseph Saricks, Geo. Welch and B. F. Davis."

August 1, 1925 – Standard-Speaker – 21 Men Registered – “Within the week a number of additional men were taken on at the local bobbin works, indicating that the plant is progressing nicely under the new management, due to the vast number of orders that are being received from the New York city district for bobbins. To date they have a total of 21 men employed and the indications are the force will soon be advanced to a possible 50 men that speaks well for the local business and professional men who are making an effort to secure industries for Freeland, that will afford employment for the men and boys of the community.”

September 18, 1925 – Standard-Speaker – Had Business Meeting – “The officers and promoters of the Freeland Bobbin Works, who are meeting with exceptionally good success in increasing production following the recent re-organization of the local concern … [held a meeting] in relation to expanding in the very near future to keep pace with the demand for bobbins that was brought on by the activity that developed in the silk industry within the past several months.”

September 29, 1927 – Plain Speaker – Important Doings – “In manufacturing circles yesterday, it was mentioned that the promoter of the Freeland Bobbin Works, namely Joseph Neale, of Upper Lehigh was favored with an order from a silk concern in New York city for 50,000 bobbins, which will keep the local industry in action for several weeks.”

January 19, 1928 – Plain Speaker – Will Install New Machinery – “Joseph Neale, of Upper Lehigh, owner of the Freeland Bobbin Works has returned from New York city, where he purchased a large amount of new machinery and equipment which will be installed in the plant on South Washington street. Under the present ownership the Bobbin Works has been making great progress and now provide employment for about fifty men.”

Jan. 20, 1928 newspaper clipping excerpt [source newspaper not known] – Now Employing 42 Men – The Freeland Bobbin Works on South Washington street, which has been making rapid progress since it was taken over some time ago by Joseph Neale of Upper Lehigh, is now employing 42 men. This plant is an invaluable aid to the town and residents and business men of Freeland should do everything possible to make it grow and Freeland will thereby be benefited. The Freeland Business Men's Association has pledged itself to help the Bobbin Works, the Overall Factory, the Bressler Cigar Factory, ..." [the remainder of this article is missing from my file]

September 22, 1933 – Standard-Speaker – Joseph H. Neale Died Suddenly – Freeland Bobbin Manufacturer Stricken With Heart Ailment Yesterday Morning – [summarized] Joseph Hawley Neale died suddenly at home in Upper Lehigh of cardiac thrombosis; he lived with his father Dr. H. M. Neale who rushed to his aid but was unable to revive him. After college he went to Virginia and worked with a soft coal mining concern, later operating his own mine. He married Fay Morgan, a prominent southern debutante from Roanoke. In 1926 he disposed of his coal holdings and returned to Upper Lehigh, purchasing all stock in the Freeland Bobbin Corporation, and operating the plant since that time. His mother is the former Ada Leisenring, daughter of one of the pioneer anthracite coal operators. His sister is married to George B. Markle …

February 4, 1935 – Plain Speaker – Bobbin Works Will Reopen – [excerpted] was sold at sheriff’s sale last week and will be reopened shortly; those formerly employed there and perhaps a number of new employees will be hired as orders increase. The Freeland plant was taken over by the Markle Bobbin Mfg Co of Allentown. … George McGee, formerly of Freeland and a salesman of the Freeland plant for some years, is now employed at the Markle plant and will manage the plant in Freeland. Orders valued at $20,000 are on hold, awaiting resumption of operations …

February 12, 1935 – Standard-Speaker – Removing Bobbin Works Equipment – [excerpted] Equipment of the Freeland company has been bought by the Markle Bobbin Co of Allentown at sheriff’s sale and is being moved now to the Markel Company’s Allentown plant. This means that Freeland definitely loses the bobbin works as a local industry. The local firm had gone into bankruptcy, leading to the sheriff’s sale, but it was announced subsequently that the plant would resume operation with George McGee, formerly of Freeland and now a salesman for the Markel Company, as general manager. However, those reports are disproved by the removal of the plant’s machinery and equipment.

August 7, 1937 – Plain Speaker – Will Be Idle – “Several men at the Bobbin Works in Hazleton from this sector were given notification yesterday to report off for a few days. The reason was known to be mostly because of laxity of wood and the force would work lightly for a few days and then rehire the full force to continue their specified work. The Bobbin Works was at one time operated in Freeland and since moving to Hazleton has worked steadily employing a vast majority of workers from this locality.”

May 2, 1940 – Plain Speaker – Civic Affairs Group In Two Visits Today – “After visiting yesterday with four local business firms who recently located here or recently renovated their plants, the Civic Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce paid visits this afternoon to the recently established Freeland Bobbin Works and to the recently renovated Hazleton Furniture Mart on West Green street. Chairman Robert W. Bersch paid tribute to the part being played by the Freeland firm in employing a peak total of 100 on the North Side. The firm was secured through the efforts of George B. Markle, Jr., of this city.”

May 7, 1945 – Standard-Speaker – Bobbin Workers To Resume Today – “Thirty employees of the Freeland Bobbin Works at Pine and Green streets, this city, who have been on strike for several weeks, will resume work today. The grievance will be negotiated and any agreement reached will be retroactive. The strike affected only part of the plant, which is engaged on war work.”

Freeland Bobbin Works in Hazleton, post-strike 1946 June 14, 1946 – Standard-Speaker – [excerpted] Notice To All Employees Of Freeland Spool And Bobbin Corporation: … company will continue operations and is willing to accept back all employees who report for work at their regularly scheduled starting time … same terms and conditions as those prior to the strike … life insurance policies will be reinstated …

December 6, 1954 – Plain Speaker – Heat From Flames Did Damage To Bobbin Co. – [summarized] Intense heat from a disastrous fire at Bowl-Arena on East Green street damaged 66 window panes of the Cloverleaf Freeland Bobbin Works, across Fulton court from the fire.

Directory, map, phonebook listings and ads

In 1921-1922 Freeland directory
In individual listings:
Freeland Bobbin Corp, Asa Ruth [Rute], pres, John H. Trevaskis, sec, Dr. S. S. Hess Treas, Birkbeck nr E Front

In 1921-1922 Freeland directory
In business listings:
Bobbin Manufacturers
Freeland Bobbin Corp. – Birkbeck near Front

In 1928-1929 Freeland directory
In business listings:
Mill Supplies
Freeland Bobbin Corp., 175 Washington

Again, thanks to Charlie Stumpf, Ed Merrick, Charlie Gallagher, Charlie Reczkowski, Emily Pecora, Greater Hazleton Historical Society and others for contributions to this page.

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