Exploring NY Wool Manuscripts

I’ve been looking at New York wool historical archives at the Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections at the Kroch Library in Cornell. I’m looking at historical documents when New York wool when it was at its peak in the 19th century. So far I’ve looked at the Simon Newton Dexter North Papers (1848-1924). He developed the first wool mill in New York, became the Secretary of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers, had an accomplished journalistic career, and eventually worked for the US Census. In the collection, I found several scrapbooks with his newspaper clippings. I am re-typing one poem from a newspaper clipping that talked about spinning, weaving, quality of clothing, and labor in honor of #MayDay.

“The Pants Jemimy Made” By Holman F. Day

Aunt Brown – Jemimy Brown-

Was a spinster, spinner-weaver of merited renown:

Our town set it down

As a fact beyond disputing there was never any suiting

Like the suiting that was made by Spinster Brown.

She raised the wool she made it of, she even raised the sheep.

She fed ‘em on the toughest straw the hired man could reap;

She spun the thread with double-twist and made a warp and wool

So tarnal tough it really seemed ‘twas almost bullet-proof.

And when the cloth was shrunk and dyed and ready for a suit

The men in town would almost fight, they’d get in such dispute

Concerning who had spoken first—the farthest in advance—

And therefore had the prior claim on Aunt Jemimy’s pants.

The cloth that folks make nowadays is slipsy, sleazy stuff;

It’s colored up in fairish style and fashionable enough!

But blame the goods! It’s made to sell—it isn’t made to wear—

These trousers here I’ve worn five year, and that is merely fair.

But when you bought a cut of cloth of Aunt Jemimy’s weave,

You got some stuff to last you through, you’d better just believe!

Why, ‘bout the time that modern pants are getting worn and thin

A pair of Aunt Jemimy’s pants were scarcely broken in.

I’ve got a pair up attic now, made forty years ago—

They’re just as tough as iron still and Time has made no show.

They’ve stood the brunt of honest work and dulled the tooth of moth.

And there they stand, as stiff’s a slab, good, plain, old-fashioned cloth.

And so I think it’s only right that tribute should be paid

To those old sturdy pioneers—the pants Jemimy made.

The day I first put on those pants I held a break-up plough—

The farmers of these later days don’t have such wrassles now:

I drove six dozer on ahead, a pretty hefty team.

For farming in those old, old days took muscle, grit and steam;

You didn’t stop for rocks and stumps, nor dodge and skive and skip,

Or else you’d have to lug your meals on ev’ry furrow’s trip,

And so the only thing to do was make the oxen tread.

And hold the ploughshare deep and true, and plunk ‘er straight ahead.

So back and forth and back and forth I ploughed and ploughed that day;

I tackled ev’ry rock and snag that dared dispute my way,

Until the only critter left was one old maple stump,

And I?—I gave the team the gad—and took ‘er on the jump!

She split in halves and through I went, but back she slapped, ker-whack,

And gripped Jemimy’s pantaloons right where she’d left the slack.

The team was going double-quick—the oxen plunged along—

I held the old oak handle-bars. I gripped ‘em good and strong—

And there I was, the living link ‘twixt stump and plough, because

The cloth it stuck there good and tight between those maple jaws.

Jemimy never planned on that, in making pants for me;

She made ‘em solid, yet of course she gave no guarantee

That they would stand a yank like that—but still I clung and yelled,

Those oxen plunged and tussled and—Jemimy’s pants, they held:

And the stump came out a-kicking, roots and dirt and stones and all,

But those pants weren’t even started by that most tremendous haul.

And to prove this ‘ere is truthful, should some scoffer cast a doubt,

I have saved the chips and hewings where they came and chopped me out.

Aunt Brown—Jemimy Brown—

Was a spinster, spinner-weaver of merited renown:

Our town set it down

As a fact beyond disputing there was never any suiting

Like the suiting that was made by Spinster Brown.

Copyright 1901 by Walter B. Guild


Holman F. Day Poem, 1901

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