Clark Thread Company

Postcard of the Clark Thread Mill, Rhode Island, c. 1900 Postcard of the Clark Thread Mill, Rhode Island, c. 1900

The Clark Thread Company was originally a Scottish firm that manufactured embroidery and sewing threads for many years. The company was established in the 1750's by two brothers, James and Patrick Clark. The story of this company is complicated, as it involves British as well as North American based companies run by various members of the Clark family.

The Clark company was initially based in the Scottish town of Paisley, which at the time was rapidly becoming famous for the production of Kashmir style shawls. The more expensive Kashmir/Paisley shawls were made with silk and wool. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) and a French blockade on the exportation of silk to Britain, the Clark company created a method of plying cotton yarns that created a thread that was similar in appearance and strength to that of the silk formerly used by the Paisley weavers.

The cotton thread was brought onto the market in 1812. In 1817 the Clark company opened a mill, dedicated to the production of this type of thread and then, a few years later, the firm discovered a method of winding this thread onto small, wooden reels. This type of cotton thread was eventually to replace many of the linen and silk hand sewing threads already on the maket.

In the 1840's, the Clark company started to send commercial agents to the USA. Despite restrictions on the production and sale of cotton due to the American Civil War (1861-1865), Clark's sales in America increased. So much so that in 1863, the George A. Clark & Brother company was formed and their mill began manufacturing in Newark, New Jersey (USA) in 1864/5, as J. & J. Clark. This American branch of the Clark empire became known as Clark & Co. in 1879.

Following the end of the civil war, the American economy started to expand. In the early 1860's, Elias Howe and Isaak Singer started to produce various ranges of domestic sewing machines, which laid the foundation for the machines used to the present day. Clark's sewing threads were among those recommended for use with these machines. In the 1880's, for example, the Clark company developed a six-cord soft-finished thread called “Our New Thread”, which became known as O.N.T.

In 1896, the Clark Thread company, now with a large base in the USA, joined its interests with the British firm of J. & P. Coats, and this development, one year later, triggered off another merger of fourteen other companies. The latter led to the creation of the English Sewing Cotton Company, Ltd. Although not officially part of the English Sewing Cotton Company, Clark and J. & P. Coats had a strong financial interest in them. By 1952, J. & P. Coats and the Clark Company decided upon a complete merger, which was effectuated in 1954, under the name of Coats & Clark. Another merger in 1961 led to the creation of the firm of Coats Patons, which in 1986, after yet another merger, emerged again as Coats Viyella. In 2003 the firm was bought by Guinness Peat, which took it back to the market in 2015 as the Coats Group. The name of Coats & Clark is still being used for various types of thread.

Digital sources:

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 28th June 2016).


Last modified on Thursday, 25 May 2017 18:51
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