Event: New Jersey’s Silk City

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Study Tour Day Trip to New Jersey’s Silk City
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just a short drive from New York City, Paterson, NJ, was once known as “Silk City” and was the leading producer of silk fabric in the United States from the nineteenth century until well into the twentieth century.

On Saturday, April 17th, join Textile Society of America members for a day-long bus trip from mid-town Manhattan to Paterson. After an orientation to the newly designated Paterson National Historic Park area, we will visit the spectacular Great Falls of the Passaic River, the power source that made Paterson a leading east coast industrial center starting shortly after the Revolutionary War.

We will tour the vicinity of the falls with industrial archaeologist Gianfranco Archimede who will explain the raceways and other features that transferred power from the Passaic River to the many factories of the city. Giacomo Destafano, the director of the Paterson Museum, will tell us about the city’s textile industry and will guide us through the production of the jacquard silks that made Paterson famous. The museum collection includes looms and other equipment used to produce Paterson silks along with many examples of the narrow ribbons and broad yard goods that gave the city the name “the Lyons of America.”

After a vegetarian box lunch of Middle Eastern specialties provided by Fattal’s Syrian Bakery, a mainstay of the thriving row of Middle Eastern shops that line Paterson’s Main Street, we will end the day on docent led tours of two historic homes connected with the silk industry. Lambert Castle, the home of wealthy silk manufacturer Catholina Lambert, is tucked into the side of Garrett Mountain on the south side of the city. Home to the Passaic County Historical Society, the Castle tells the story of the lavish life of a leading textile manufacturer. In addition to Lambert’s luxurious home, we will also see more examples of Paterson’s beautiful fabrics. In contrast, the American Labor Museum in the modest Botto House shows the life of an immigrant Italian silk worker family who played a leading role in the great Paterson Silk Strike of 1913. This landmark strike was lead by the Industrial Workers of the World at their height of membership. On the way back to Manhattan we will sample pastries from Fattal’s Bakery that the New York Times recently called “hard to resist.”

This trip will leave promptly at 8:30 am from the front of the main branch of the New York Public Library’s Research Division on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets (in front of the Library Lions and close to Grand Central Station, the Port Authority Bus Station, and Penn Station) and returns to the same location by 6:00 pm. Optionally, members can also join the bus at 9:00 am in Paterson.

The trip costs $125.00 per person for TSA members and $150.00 for non-members. This includes lunch, all admissions and tips. The price includes $30.00 donation to TSA.

Click here to register for this trip.

TSA is also offering a scholarship for one TSA member to participate in this tour of Paterson. To apply for this scholarship visit Workshop and Study Tour Scholarships for more information and a scholarship application.

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