Silk Mill - Port Royal
The Port Royal Silk Mill began operation about March 31, 1921 and would operate until closing some time in 1942. Originally it was established and owned by Ferdinand Q. Hartman who owned and operated a number of mills in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The following is the account of the Mill's opening as it appeared in the Port Royal Times of April 6, 1921:
"On Thursday of last week, the Port Royal Silk Spinning Mill, at this place, began operation under the supervision of the owner, Mr. Hartman, who is the owner of twenty some silk mills in Pennsylvania, and who has made a success of every one of them. There is no doubt but that he will make a success of this one, he being a business man of rare ability."
(The mill was eventually conveyed to a Harold Hartman-Robert Billman partnership on January 2, 1929 and was operated by them until July 11, 1933 when Billman withdrew, the partnership dissolved, and Hartman received the mill. During this partnership the operation was known as Bill-Art - "Bill" for Billman and "Art" for Hartman.)
At its height the mill employed about fifty to sixty persons at the site.
As already mentioned, the mill was founded by Ferdinand Q. HARTMAN, who owned and operated a number of mills in northeastern Pennsylvania. Eventually his nephew and niece, Harold and Grace Hartman would move to Port Royal to oversee the operation. They continued with the company until the mill closed.
Silk filament is a fine, tough, elastic fibre produced by caterpillars called 'bombyx mori'. For thirty-five days after it has hatched from the eggs laid by its parent moth, the caterpillar, normally referred to as a silkworm, spends its time eating the leaves of a mulberry tree. It then, in the course of two or three days' spinning, surrounds itself in a cocoon which consists of a continuous and very fine filament of silk. The silkworm then turns itself into a moth, which escapes by making a hole through the cocoon.
To prepare for processing the ends of the filament are found and is then unwound. This procedure is called "reeling", because the silk filament, which can be as much as a mile long, is then put on large reels, known as swifts. Unlike cotton or wool, silk is not spun but twisted. Hence the term throwing rather than spinning. [The person who wrote the article for the Port Royal Times was probably not aware of the distinction between spinning and throwing.]
Throwing involves the revolving of two sets of bobbins at different, carefully adjusted, speeds. Thus this type of mill was referred to as a Silk Throwing Mill.
The raw silk filament came to the Port Royal plant via the Pennsylvania Railroad. It arrived in 100 pound bales. After processing, the thrown thread was wound onto large wood spools and then shipped from the plant to another location for use in creating finished silk products.
Most of the raw silk came from Japan, with a lesser amount from China. When the United States declared war against Japan as a result of the attack at Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941), the supply of raw silk was terminated. Thus by 1942 the mill ceased operation and the building remained dormant for a number of years thereafter.
At one time the building was owned by Wendell “Ace” Henderson who owned a house that is on a neighboring property and as of 2010 it is owned by James Hubler, another neighbor who uses it as a workshop.
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