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The Textile Industry in Connecticut:

Immigrant Workers

Another major source of textile laborers was the major immigrant groups that moved to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of these major immigrant groups included the Irish, Germans, French Canadians, Polish and Russians. Because of their status as minorities and other barriers such as language, many immigrants were relegated to the more menial types of work in textile mills. Often life in a mill town offered a sense of community by creating neighborhoods or entire towns that consisted of one immigrant group.

Ponemah Mills,Taftville
Inside Mill No. 1,
Ponemah Mills,Taftville
Norwich, ca. 1913
Photo CD: 0539
File: Img0090.pcd

< The man and woman mill workers in this photograph are most likely French Canadian immigrants. Due to a strike of the Irish mill workers in at Ponemah Mills in 1875 there was a large influx of French Canadian immigrants. By the 1930s ninety percent of Taftville’s population was French Canadian.

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American Thread Company
American Thread Company
Willimantic, 1900-1930
Photo CD: 1458
File: Img0007.pcd

< The history of the workers of the American Thread Company shows how over time different immigrant groups moved into and out of the textile industry. The Irish were the first group of immigrants to dominate Willimantic’s mills. Next came the French Canadians and then the Polish and Russians until a strike in 1925. Often different immigrant groups were in conflict with each other because of religion, culture and competition for jobs.

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Employees of Cheney Brothers
Forty to Fifty Year Service
Employees of Cheney Brothers,
Cheney Hall
Manchester, 1924
Photo CD: 0538
File: Img0092.pcd

< The names inscribed on the back of this photograph contain both Irish and German surnames. These people would have begun their employment at the Cheney factories in 1870s and 1880s. During this time the Irish and the Germans were two of the major immigrant groups in the America.

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Link to other essays in this Journey:

>> Introduction: The Textile Industry in Connecticut
Early History of Textiles in Connecticut
>> Diversity of Textiles
>> Child Labor
>> Housing for Factory Workers
>> Stages of Textile Processing

>> Guideposts
>> Suggestions for further reading