Reynolds' Empire



Columbia County,

New York

Capt. Franklin Ellis392


     These loom-works, of which a view is given on the opposite page, are situated in the town of Stockport, Columbia Co., a town noted for its early manufactures and its splendid water-power.  As early as 1819 the little village of Columbiaville had a cotton-factory of fifteen hundred spindles, two paper-mills, four carding-mills, two fulling-mills, besides grist, saw, and plaster-mills.  Without going into a history of the subsequent growth of the manufacturing interests of the town, we propose to speak only of one branch of industry which has been established within a comparatively recent period,--the Reynolds Empire Loom-Works,--a history of which we briefly condense as follows:

     In the year 1852, Mr. Rensselaer Reynolds formed a co-partnership with a Mr. Benjamin, of New York, and purchased the old "Marshall Print-Works," in Stockport, then occupied by Roome's tobacco-factory.  The firm immediately engaged in the manufacture of a new loom just invented by Mr. Reynolds, now and for many years past known as the Empire loom, and proceeded prosperously till Dec. 10, 1858, when they were overtaken by disaster.  A fire, originating in spontaneous combustion, broke out in the night and destroyed the best part of their works, causing a loss of between $30,000 and $40,000 over the insurance.  This was a heavy blow, and involved a vast amount of labor and expense in restoring the requisite machinery and patterns.  But in the spring of 1859 the works were rebuilt, and resumed operation in July, with increased facilities for the manufacture of the new loom.  Since that time, we believe, they have been in uninterrupted operation.  The partnership with Mr. Benjamin was, however, dissolved, and Mr. Reynolds and his sons conducted the business till the death of the former, on the 8th of January, 1872, since which the sons have conducted the business on the excellent plan adopted by their father.

     The Empire loom, as now manufactured, is one of the most perfect machines that has ever been constructed.  With an unrivaled mechanical genius and the experience of about thirty years, Mr. Reynolds gradually improved and perfected his invention, until it is now the subject of some eight or ten patents, and stands absolutely unrivaled in simplicity, durability, and rapidity of operation.  In order to understand the great improvements made in this important implement of domestic manufacture, it should be stated that previous to 1852 all looms were limited in their motion by difficulties which were supposed to be insurmountable, and when Mr. Reynolds first announced that his loom would work successfully at one hundred and fifty "picks" (or movements of the shuttle) per minute, his claim was ridiculed as utterly impracticable.  The paten-office incumbents scoffed at the idea, and compelled the inventor to file affidavits before granting his claim.  Fortunately, by that time the loom was able to speak for itself, and among the affidavits produced was one from Mr. Nathan Wild, who certified that he had seen it work successfully at two hundred and forty picks per minute.

     Thus the power of the loom was nearly or quite doubled by the inventive energy of Mr. Reynolds.  The improvements, which have made it possible to run this loom at such increased speed, are too numerous to be described in detail within the limits of this brief article.  Some of the most important of them, however, may be mentioned.

     1st.  A peculiar device for arresting the shuttle instantly, at any rate of speed, without throwing off or breaking the cap or bobbin, and releasing it at the moment of picking or throwing, so as to avoid friction.

     2d.  A new filling stop-fork, or attachment for instantly disengaging the motive-power, and stopping the loom in case a single thread of filling breaks.  So accurate and delicate is the construction of this portion of the loom, that it never fails to perform its appointed task; and when we consider the prodigous speed at which the machines are run, it appears truly wonderful that the simple parting of a frail cotton thread can be made to act with such precision and force as to cause an instantaneous stoppage without the intervention of human aid.

     3d.  The centrifugal friction pulley, which is an indispensable part of the loom.  Mechanics will understand readily what is meant, but for the general reader it may be necessary to say that this pulley is the point of contact between the motive-power and the machine driven, and such is the nature of the construction that one may be instantly disconnected from the other by a slight movement, without shifting the belt.

     4h.  A patent double-acting brake, by which the automatic action of the stop-fork is aided and completed (invented by Byron Reynolds, one of the present proprietors).  This is a perfect security against injury to the gear by sudden stoppage.

     The works are divided into ten distinct departments:  lst, a foundry; 2d, a forging, bolt-cutting, and tapping department; 3d, a trimming-room; 4th, grinding and polishing; 5th, boring, turning, and finishing; 6th, painting; 7th, setting up the looms, fifty or so at a time; 8th, a department for sawing out the wood for frames; 9th, framing; and 10th, wood-turning for all the various parts required to be fitted in a lathe.  Each one of these departments has its foreman, and all are under the immediate superintendence of Mr. Byron Reynolds, who is one of the best mechanics in the State.

     A large part of the machinery employed in constructing the looms has been devised and made by Mr. Reynolds himself, and many of the processes invented by him for this purpose are entirely original.  All the machinery used is especially adapted to the work to be done, and the perfect order system in all the minutest details is one of the most striking features of the establishment.  The Empire loom is composed of some five hundred distinct parts or pieces, yet such is the accuracy with which all are produced, that each one will fit in any machine.  Like the American watch, every piece is made by a uniform gauge, and can be duplicated to any extent.  With the ordinary complement of one hundred hands, one hundred and fifty looms can be completed in a month.

     A large part of the orders received for these looms are from foreign countries; they are sent to England, Austria, Mexico, Peru, and Japan, besides the supply of the home trade.

     A printing establishment is connected with the works, which runs a Gordon power-press, doing all the printing of circulars, etc., for the proprietors, and such job-work for the neighborhood as is applied for, or as may be desirable to do.  Altogether, this is one of the finest embodiments of home talents and ingenuity in a manufacturing enterprise to be found anywhere in the State, and reflects great credit upon its originators and managers.

     The business is now conducted under the firm-name of R. Reynolds' Sons, the proprietors being G. Byron Reynolds, R. Burns Reynolds, Frank A. Reynolds, and Joshua Reynolds.