In between a fire, seven new owners, labor strikes, and financial failures, this original home of the iconic “Fruit of the Loom” brand was very successful, but shut down in 1970 and is now just a nice place to live. The mill produced uniforms for Union soldiers during the American Civil War and by the late 1880s the mill employed 1,500 workers to operate 27,000 spindles in a complex of 38 buildings.
A cotton spinning mill was built here in 1810, sold in 1827 to a partnership which collapsed in the depression of 1829, bought at auction by John H. Clark, who built a stone mill in 1832 and a bleachery in 1833 which were to be sold to what became the giant B.B. and R. Knight company that added buildings in 1863 and 1866. The bleachery burned in 1870 and was replaced by a new 160’ X 53’ building. By 1912 the Knight family was the largest cotton manufacturer in the world, but, with labor unrest building and increasing competition from the South, the family sold it in 1920 to Consolidated Textile Corporation of New York which barely survived the labor strikes and eventually stopped production in 1970. After one failed attempt at conversion, a new owner, using $9 million in historic tax credits, invested $35 million to create 150 apartments in the restored buildings in 2016.
The brand “Fruit of the Loom” started in 1856 when the owner, Robert Knight, had a friend that owned a small shop in Providence that sold cloth from the mill. His friend’s daughter painted images of apples and other fruit and applied them to the bolts of cloth. The ones with the apple emblems proved most popular. Knight thought the labels would be the perfect symbol for his trade name, Fruit of the Loom – an expression referring to clothes, paralleling the phrase "fruit of the womb" meaning "children", which can be traced back to the Bible (Psalm 127:3). The business has gone through much turmoil in the textile industry but world famous “Fruit of the Loom” clothes are still on the market today.