Arnold Print Works

Situated between the north and south branches of the Hoosic River, this complex formed North Adams’ largest mill in the late nineteenth century, a successful cotton operation before a decline in business led to purchase by Sprague Electric.

The Arnold Print Works was once North Adams’ largest mill, printing cotton from the Civil War to the early twentieth century. The Arnold Print Works was located on the peninsula between the north and south branches of the Hoosic River near the center of North Adams. The company was first organized by Harvey Arnold, Oliver Arnold, and John F. Arnold in 1861, and was first known as Harvey Arnold & Co. The new plant saw early success due to the need for cotton to make uniforms during the Civil War.

In 1872, the firm was damaged by a fire, likely caused by a chemical used in dyeing cloths, which resulted in eight buildings burning down. By 1874, the works was back in operation. After the fire, the company changed owners, with Harvey’s son, F. H. Arnold, joining the firm. In 1876, Albert O. Houghton would become president of the company after buying an interest in the business and became associated with the Arnolds. During this time the name of the company was changed to Arnold Print Works.

The company would show its resilience in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1873, the nation was experiencing economic panic and North Adams underwent a severe economic depression in 1875, resulting in the Arnold Print Works making few profits. The recovery was slow, but due to investment funds from manufacturer David Brayton and the convenience and reduced cost to ship raw materials into North Adams, brought about by opening of the Hoosac Tunnel, the Prints Works experienced a period of growth during the 1880s. By 1888, the company had annual sales of $4 million and a profit of $143,000, making it the most successful business in North Adams.

The Arnold Print Works continued to expand, even as New England's cotton industry began to suffer during the 1890s. This expansion included the addition of the “blue dip”, which was installed in 1882, as well as an increase in the number of print room machines. During this time, four large mills were supplying the company with cotton, which would then be turned into fabrics to be colored and dyed to create designs. All of the products were then shipped directly from the plant to their buyers. The Arnold Print Works continued to grow until 1907, when the company was worth eight million dollars. However, the company was hit hard by the financial crisis in 1907 and was reorganized into a smaller operation in 1910. Arnold Print Works would be able to remain in business into the 1920’s, partially due to the need for cotton during World War I.

The Sprague Electric Company moved to North Adams in 1929 and began to buy mills from Arnold Print Works, starting with the Beaver Mill. During this time, Arnold Print Works began to move its operation into Adams. In 1942, the company was sold for $1.9 million dollars due to its inability to rebound during World War II. Shortly after, Sprague Electric acquired the entire plant on Marshall Street which had belonged to Arnold Print Works.