The Cannelton Cotton Mill


Evaluation of Construction and Conditions

Narrative: Cannelton Cotton Mill Worker in 1864

History of the Cannelton Cotton Mill

Once the largest industrial building in Indiana, the Indiana Cotton Mill of Cannelton built in 1849-1851, is one of the most impressive manufacturing structures of the pre-Civil War period. The mill was built by a combination of local investors, New England financiers and southern landowners as a part of a plan to create great industrial development in the Midwest to rival the textile industry of New England. Although the overall plan was to prove unrealistic, the mill has had a colorful and varied history including the manufacture of Union Army uniforms in the Civil War Years. The Civil War, however, ended the unique bonds of financial cooperation between the Northern Industrialists and Southern Cotton Planters which had given birth to the idea of a cotton mill with a Midwest location.

The building cost $80,000 when it was built and over $175,000 worth of machinery was installed as soon as the structure was completed. Employment in 1851 rose to 400 persons, including many young women and girls from New England. The mill's boilers and steam-driven machinery operated on what appeared to be an inexhaustible supply of $.75 per ton "Cannel" coal.

Evaluation of Construction and Conditions

The Indiana Cotton Mill structure faces the Ohio River several hundred feet from it north bank. The building has 280 feet of frontage and is 60 feet deep. Most of the building is five stories tall, but is dwarfed by 100 foot high twin towers on either side of the entrance. One of these towers housed a fire escape stairwell and the other was a water storage tower for fire protection. The building wall are three foot wide blocks of native sandstone.

The structure was built under the direction of New England architect Thomas Tefft. It has been described as "a relatively austere structure with its fine ashlar (hewn sandstone block) walls relieved only by window sills and their brackets, the cornice with it brackets and the oculi (eyelets) in the cables." The description continues, "the good proportions and the twin towers, a favorite Tefft motif taken from Lombard architecture, make the Cannelton mill one of the most impressive buildings of its date in the United States."

The structure received the honor of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It had previously been included in the registry of the Historic American Engineering Record which was established in 1969.

The cotton mill operated continuously from 1851 through 1954, when it closed its doors as a cotton mill.

Cotton Mill Facts

Building

Basement - 10'
First and second stories - 13.5'
Third story - 14'
Attic - average 10'

Occupation On Each Floor

Power: Steam

Warmed: Warmed by live steam

Lights: Gas used for lights; manufactured from coal in gas house outside on the premises. Open lights in all rooms except Picker house

Employees: As of August 1, 1890 - 309 (78 of them men)

Value of Machinery: $150,000

Stock: brown sheetings of made cotton (no dyeing done); corn starch sizing prepared by steam only: $13,000

 

Cannelton Cotton Mill

Once the largest industrial building west of the Alleghenies. The cornerstone was laid in May, 1849. It is one of the most impressive manufacturing structures of the pre-Civil War period. The building cost $80,000 when it was built and over $175,000 worth of machinery was installed.

The mill structure faces the Ohio River, several hundred feet from the north bank. The building has 280 feet of frontage and is 60 feet deep. Most of the building is five stories, but is dwarfed by 100 ft. high twin towers.

Cannelton was to rival Lowell, Mass, with several mills similar to this one. Hamilton Smith, who was one of the original planners of the mill, had visions of Cannelton leading the way in industrial development for the South and West. These hopes fell short of their goals due to poor attitude of the workers, a shortage of maney, and an abundance of lime in the water.

The mill has a very unique place in history as it made uniforms for the Civil War as well as materials for both World Wars.

 

Narrative: Cannelton Cotton Mill Worker in 1864