San Francisco History

San Francisco Woolen Factory

HOME MANUFACTURERS—San Francisco Woolen Factory.—This establishment, at Black Point, is the pioneer of woolen manufactories in this State, having been erected in the year 1859. The main structure is constructed of brick, and one hundred and twenty-five feet in length, fifty feet broad, and two stories in height. Contiguous to this are storehouses and lodging-rooms, the whole eligibly situated for manufacturing purposes on the beach, and commanding a magnificent view of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and the heights of Marin county. In front of the main building, and situated just at  the edge of the water, is the wash-house, to which every fleece after being assorted, from the finest Merino to the coarsest Mexican, is brought. Here the cleansing process is gone through with, the wool being thoroughly rinsed in pure Artesian water, there being a well sunken on the premises, seventy-four feet deep, which yields forty thousand gallons per diem. Even this large quantity is insufficient  for the various wants of the factory, so that Bensley water and hill-side springs are also called into requisition. After washing, the wool is spread in great vats, on the beach and on the hill, and dried, which process consumes some twenty-four hours. In the rainy season the wool is taken into a drying apartment, where, by artificial heat, it is prepared for the picking process. This is very complete, and owing to the great improvements in the works of the factory, the wool is as carefully and thoroughly assorted from impure substances as is possible.

But loud complaints are justly made against the quality of the wool sent in from California sheep-growers. There has been a carelessness practiced as regards their feed, which, with the lack of care exercised by their owners, in their habits, etc., have rendered their wool inferior to that of much of the imported product. After picking, the wool is put through three sets of cards, the refuse matter dropping below. By this process, the wool is wound on spools, each holding three and a half pounds. A novel and ingeniously devised waste cart, in the back room, metamorphises the refuse matter, and turns out as handsome wool, as that composing the finest blankets.

On the second story of the factory, are four spinning-jacks, two hundred spindles each, weft and warp, and then visiting the dresser and warping wheel, is rolled to the beam, through the thirteen looms, and woven. In the looming room ten females are employed, and their nimble fingers are better adapted to this delicate and active work, than are the clumsy paws of masculines.

The black wool, of which there seems to be an unusually great proportion of the stock on hand, it should be stated, is only manufactured into the gray blankets, which are commonly known as the two and a half point blankets. The spinners are paid by the pound and the weavers by the yard. The blankets having been brought from the upper to the room below, are put in the fulling machine. A rotary fulling mill, soap and water, completely changes the complexion of the blankets, and when they issue therefrom they are fit for the scourer, and meet the gigs,  which give them their nap. They are then taken out, dried, and conveyed to the furnishing room, packed, and prepared for market.

The dyeing room is a curiosity. Here blankets to the number of fifty pair a day change their hue, and the color as changed warranted to stand. The factory is now capable of manufacturing over one hundred pairs of blankets daily. The prices range from three dollars and a half to fifteen dollars each. The engine which keeps so industriously in motion all this complicated machinery, was turned out from the Vulcan Iron Works of this city. It is of forty-five horse power, with thirty-six inch stroke. It is a very powerful and complicated piece of machinery, and answers admirably for the manufactory.

Both foreign and Mount Diablo coal are used for heating purposes. The former cost $15 50 per ton, and the latter $10 per ton. However, it takes one ton and a half of the latter to furnish the heat thrown out by a ton of Sydney. But the engineer, notwithstanding, speaks favorably of our slate coal, says it leaves little clinker, and with artificial draft gives out an intense heat. The proprietors of this woolen establishment, Messrs. Heynemann, Pick & Co., are certainly deserving of infinite credit for their enterprise and public spirit which they have exhibited in perfecting an establishment of this character, which must prove of real service to the entire State. Our wool growing interest, in a very short time, will be perhaps the most prominent and valuable of our agricultural pursuits; and this branch of home industry, in all its multitudinous ramification should receive the hearty and substantial support of our citizens.

Source: Daily Alta California. 8 June 1861. 1.

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