Thursday, September 23, 2021

American Thread Company

 On Tuesday, I wrote about Indian Head Cloth and at the end I told you I was intrigued by the advertisement at the bottom:

 "Use Star Brand Thread on Sanforized Indian Head Cotton by Nashua."

I was intrigued by this at the time because of this wee little piece:

This is a small piece, perhaps made as a doll quilt for a very small doll.  I've always like the Charlie Chaplin tramp style foot prints quilted in the corner.  The piece is only 8 inches square.

I actually have an original panel that the embroidered block came from:

The blocks are the same size as the Indian Head panel and like the Indian Head piece, it encourages the maker to use Star Brand Thread...and this makes sense because Star Brand Thread was a division of American Thread Company.

I'm not sure why Indian Head advertised Star Brand Thread, perhaps they were paid to do so.  It just seems like both companies were selling similar patterns but there's no date on either piece.  I suspect the tinted one (American Thread Co) might be older.

What I do know about the American Thread Company is from the wide range of threads they carried.  Embroidery was a smaller part of the enterprise, they sold a lot of crochet and knitting threads/yarns and patterns. 

The company also marketed embroidery transfers:

For quilters, one of the most popular embroidery patterns was this one that featured life on a farm.  I think most of these motifs can be found on pinterest:

American Thread Company had an interesting history.  It was actually begun in 1898 by "The English Sewing Company" a company that purchased 13 different thread companies in the United States.  The amalgamation result:  The American Thread Company.  I've read that this combination made The American Thread Company the largest thread company in the world.  

Eventually,  an Anti-Trust suit was placed against The American Thread Company and The English Sewing Company (which included J& P Coates Company):
It was a bit of a scandal for J & P Coates who admitted they owned 70,000 shares in the English Sewing Company.  The United States government won that suit and the American Thread Company continued apart from J & P Coates.

Most of what I know about this company I've read on the internet.  Here and here are some good websites if you are interested.  Like many American manufacturers, the factories were moved to the southern part of the United States in the 1980s (as was other industries like our Valley's Bethlehem Steel and Mack Trucks), before relocating the factories overseas.

That may seem like the end of the story but there is a weird ironic twist.  In 1987, a North Carolina newspaper reported that the American Thread Company, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina was "a wholly owned subsidiary of the TOOTAL Group Inc of Manchester England" and "one of the largest manufacturers of industrial thread in the world."  

Who was Tootal?  A company acquired by the English Sewing Company in 1963.

Tootal was bought out by Coats Viyella in 1993 and disposed of many of Tootal's subsidiaries that same year.  By 1995, Coats Viyella had moved most of the production out of the U.S. and Western Europe to cheaper labor areas in Asia and Eastern Europe.

I should have called this post "Global Economics" or "Revenge is a dish best served cold."

Anyway, I hope you have a safe and happy day!  Tomorrow if Flower Friday and if you have a floral image to share, please email me at

1 comment:

  1. I always find your research so interesting. Thank you for sharing. Since I live on the west coast these fabrics are not available here, like most antiques, I believe they are east of us, having been discarded on the wagon trains as too heavy. This however was later, 1930's I assume, and yet I have not seen these either. I will have to keep my eye out for these at antique stores and yard sales.