Item #7036 [Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]. Alfred I. Sawyer.
[Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]
[Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]
[Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]
[Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]
[Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]

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[Business archive of New Hampshire mill owner Alfred I. Sawyer.]

Dover, New Hampshire, 1827–1885.

A substantive archive of New Hampshire mill-owner Alfred I. Sawyer including extensive business correspondence, a journal documenting his business operation in 1841, and more; taken as a whole, the archive documents Sawyer’s operation of the mill conglomerate from the 1820s to his death in 1849, as well as the afterlife of the business from 1849 to the 1880s, when it was run by Sawyer’s three successor-brothers.

Born in Marlborough, Mass., Alfred I. Sawyer (1799–1849) apprenticed as a textile dyer in Amesbury, Mass. and Great Falls, New Hampshire before establishing Sawyer’s Woollen Mills in Dover, New Hampshire in 1824. Buying the mill during an expansion in the textile industry, Sawyer saw great potential for cloth manufacturing on the Bellamy River. He built a new two-story wooden mill on the site of a former mill, had a new dam constructed (built by William Drew), and began to dress cloth in the small factory. In 1825, he added carding machines to the mill and the next year he bought the rights to operate a grist mill on the Second Falls. He began manufacturing flannels with one set of machinery, and in 1837 he added a second set. By the time of Sawyer’s death in 1849 the cloth dressing, carding, and flannel manufacturing operations he established twenty-five years prior was a thriving business. After his death, the operation was passed on to and run by Sawyer’s three brothers, Zenas, Francis of Boston, and Jonathan. By the 1870s, the mills produced 900,000 yards of wool per year and employed 300 people. In 1886 Sawyer’s grandson Charles H. Sawyer (1840–1908) became Governor of New Hampshire.

Contents as follows:

[Alfred I. Sawyer journal, 1841.] 16mo (6.25” x 3.75”), marbled covers. 113 pp. of manuscript (some pages with brief entries, others with longer ones), several blank pp.

Sawyer’s journal for the year of 1841 offers an in-depth look at his mill operation. He buys much of his wool from Burr & Clark and one Mr. Delong, and in several instances he compares the quality of wool from both dealers. Sawyer engages the vessel Austin to work for one year, and records receiving materials via Sackets Harbor. He also records each time the mill stops, for example, when wool is depleted, “wheels getting blocked up with chips,” for repairs, on holidays, and so forth. Sawyer records hiring men and women, and terms of work are often spelled out. He hires one woman “to learn to spin at $2 per week if she stays”; “hired a girl spinner from Dexter to work by the week @ $3.00”; “concluded to learn Melinda Morton[?] to weave instead of spin, she learns at her own expense”; and he also hires a child by the name of Levi Snow via the child’s mother. Sawyer records going to look at wool for purchase; labor performed on his mill; work on the dam; experiments in dying wool; sending individuals to Utica to purchase wool; and deliveries to New York and Boston made by a Mr. Sewall (one memo records items Sewall acquires on behalf of Sawyer such as indigo, brushes, etc.). Some of the materials Sawyer acquires for his mill include oil, acids, dye and sperm oil. In several cases Sawyer breaks down the costs of manufacturing per month, covering the costs of spinning, weaving, finishing, carding, etc. The end of the journal sees Sawyer calculating expenses for parts of 1841, recording expenses and travel to Boston (where he sees his brother), and creating tables such as “An Account of the Amount of Manufactures for the month ending 31 July 1841.”


Business receipts

538 receipts from the 1820s to the late-1840s (the time of Sawyer’s death), covering the full extent of his operation of the Woollen Mills.

1827: 4 manuscript receipts; 1829: 3 ms. receipts; 1830: 6 ms. receipts; 1831: 6 ms. receipts; 1832: 20 ms. receipts; 1833: 29 ms. receipts; 1834: 19 ms. receipts; 1835: 55 ms. receipts; 1836: 4 ms. receipts; 1837: 10 ms. receipts; 1838: 22 ms. receipts; 1839: 15 ms. receipts; 1840: 15 ms. receipts; 1841: 41 ms. receipts; 1842: 18 ms. receipts; 1843: 33 ms. receipts; 1844: 12 ms. receipts; 1845: 44 ms. receipts; 1846: 75 ms. receipts; 1847: 74 ms. receipts; 1848: 14 ms. receipts; 1849: 16 ms. receipts; 3 ms. receipts undated/illegible.


Incoming business letters

Various New England locations, 1820s to the late 1840s. 122 letters (187 pp. of manuscript).

1832: 3 business letters (3 pp. of ms.); 1833: 4 business letters (7 pp. of ms.); 1835: 4 business letters (5 pp. of ms.); 1836: 3 business letters (7 pp. of ms.); 1837: 6 business letters (14 pp. of ms.); 1838: 7 business letters (12 pp. of ms.); 1839: 10 business letters (17 pp. of ms.); 1840: 8 business letters (19 pp. of ms.); 1842: 2 business letter (2 pp. of ms.); 1844: 5 business letters (8 pp. of ms.); 1845: 18 business letters (32 pp. of ms.); 1846: 15 business letters (20 pp. of ms.); 1847: 21 business letters (21 pp. of ms.); 1848: 6 business letters (6 pp. of ms.); 1849: 8 business letters (9 pp. of ms.); 2 undated business letters (5 pp. of ms.)

Most of these letters range from 2 to 4 pages and feature content such as, “Your goods do not look so well in yellow as in reds. A few might sell. There is an objection against the color being quite so much on the orange shade. We think we can give you good sales of your goods in reds.” Some letters have more content than others, and many of the longer letters provide a sharp sense of the cloth manufacturing business. Sawyer’s receipts and letters record receiving tools, hardware, and materials (spindle boxes, wool, etc.) for his operation; hiring various schooners and sloops; labor contracts; receipts for magazine and journal subscriptions, insurance, etc. Those with whom Sawyer did business include Johnson & Small, South Boston Iron Co., Hanson & Prince Co., Daniel Thayer, Johnathan White, Reuben Houston, et al. Many of the letters and receipts feature illustrated heads.


Bank checks and shipping receipts

912 checks. The checks are primarily from the 1870s and 1880s, when Sawyer’s brothers carried on his business. Printed checks (approx. 2.75” x 8”), completed in manuscript: 712 Dover National Bank checks; 64 Strafford National Bank checks; 136 Elliot National Bank checks, and a few manuscript bank notes. Most of these checks are inscribed on verso.

123 Boston and Maine Railroad Corporation shipping receipts (3.5” x 8”), all dated 1864, with the name of the consignee and amount shipped, e.g. “5 cases of mdse.”



2 family letters (4 pp. of manuscript); 2 letters concerning Bayley’s Patent 1839 (4 pp. of ms.); 5 misc. papers; 2 Sawyer Woolen Mills letterheads, completed in manuscript.

A substantive business archive documenting Alfred Sawyer’s operation of his woolen mills in Dover, New Hampshire, with additional content relating to the business after Sawyer’s death into the 1880s.

REFERENCES: Alfred Sawyer House at; Sawyer, Alfred I. at

CONDITION: Overall good, contents generally clean, occasional losses to the text.

Item #7036

Price: $1,800.00

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