Plymouth Cordage Historical Society
Bourne Spooner 1790-1870
Plymouth Cordage Co.
"Plymouth, the rope you can trust."
This was once the famous slogan heard in all the country that made Plymouth Cordage Company the largest, most-trusted rope manufacturer in the United States.
Founded in 1824, visitors to Plymouth, Massachusetts may have noticed a flourishing manufacturing plant on the shores of the harbor, some two miles north of Plymouth Rock. These large buildings managed to survive three great wars, five major depressions, and financial panic. The company maintained its integrity through the eras of cutthroat competition and grew with the company to become the largest producer of cordage in the world. All of this took place essentially by the same sort of management, with no bankruptcy or financial reorganization and only one major strike. Every challenge the Plymouth Cordage Company endured, the company replied bravely and effectively.
Bourne Spooner, the founder of Plymouth Cordage Company, was an abolitionist who viewed slave labor as inefficient. Spooner wanted his company to be established with free labor. This philosophy of business led to his innovative employee relations and benefits. He believed happy employees would make better workers.
The land that Spooner chose as the location of the Plymouth plant in Massachusetts was far removed from housing or ready transportation. In early 1825 six family houses with a rent of $40 per year were built for employees of the company. These houses included a living room, two fireplaces, a kitchen, a pantry, two bedrooms and a cellar. By 1838, the Plymouth Cordage was employing women at its factory in the United States.
In 1904, a second factory was built in Welland, Ontario. Welland was chosen for the location of the Canadian branch for its proximity to the United States, availability of electricity through a long-term contract with Hamilton Power Company and excellent transportation facilities by way of rail, water and the Welland Canal. The Plymouth Cordage Company was the first major industry to relocate to Welland when it was still a village. The company located on one hundred and seventy-eight acres between the Grand Trunk Railway, Lincoln Street and the Michigan Central tracks. The Mayor of Welland saw the arrival of Plymouth Cordage as a step towards Welland becoming a city. The arrival of the Plymouth Cordage Company encouraged the Bank of Toronto to locate a branch in Welland. The Cordage Company's location in Welland influenced other American companies to follow.
After 140 years of successful rope making with no debt acquired, the company was taken over in a hostile stock takeover by Emhart Corporation and the Plymouth factory was sold to the Columbian Rope Company out of New York in 1965. The Welland factory closed on July 18, 1969 due to the disappearing market for binder and twine. Parts of the original machinery and 1/3 of the original rope walk building is now on display at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. The original rope walk building was 900 feet long, the length needed to twist a 600 foot-long-rope. A model of the rope walk is on display at the Plymouth Cordage Museum in the original mill #1, at the tower entrance. The museum includes over 2,000 original items and publications donated by prior employees and their relatives.
The Plymouth Cordage Company Museum is run and maintained by William L. Rudolph. Beginning in 1980, Bill has been the property/construction manager and general manager of Cordage Commerce Center and President of the Plymouth Cordage Historical Society. Bill's collection of historical items began when he was a young child, inheriting items from his family, stemming his fascination of the history of Plymouth. This has led to the development of the Plymouth Cordage Company Museum, passing on knowledge of early industry and ancestry of people from all of the world.
Plymouth Cordage Historical Society
Bill Rudolph- Founder
Lucille Leary - President
Charles Williams - Treasurer
Enzo Monti- Public Relations
The museum can be visited on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday between 12:00pm-4:00pm.