Ad Campaign – Bates Disciplined Fabric, 1950

Bates gives you the first disciplined fabric – “Made to Behave!”  

Those words must have sounded like a dream come true in 1950, when cotton fabrics had to be ironed into submission.  The Bates Manufacturing Company first released their “disciplined” fabric in 1950, but the company’s history goes back to the 19th century.

The company was founded in 1850 in Lewiston, Maine by Benjamin Bates of Boston.   Due to the waterfalls on the local river, the spinning and weaving machines were run from energy produced by water.  Bates prospered, and soon the village of Lewiston boomed into an industrial city.  For many years Bates was the largest employer in Maine.

Reading the history of Bates is like reading the story of the US textile industry.  They were able to stay in business during the American Civil War because Benjamin Bates had seen the handwriting on the wall and thus had large stockpiles of raw cotton.   In the early 1900s the issue of child labor was often focused around the Bates factory, due to some tragic accidents concerning children.  And environmentalists often used the Bates Company as one of the worst examples of polluters in the US.  Still, the company managed to stay in business until 2001.

Today one of the old mill buildings is home to Maine Heritage Weavers, makers of Bates-style bedspreads.

That’s really appropriate, as Bates was known for its home furnishing textiles, primarily bedspreads.  But they made a wide range of textiles, including fabrics for clothing manufacturers and for home sewers.  Bates Disciplined was their line of “permanent press” cotton fabrics.

I was lucky enough to find a nice length of Bates Disciplined last week.   The olive green and turquoise and black color scheme is one of my all time favorites.  No, I’m not musically inclined, but with a print this great who cares.


Filed under Advertisements, Sewing

16 responses to “Ad Campaign – Bates Disciplined Fabric, 1950

  1. That is just gorgeous! When my mother was young she worked for a family who made their $$ by liquidating the mills in New England that had gone out of business, so I’m always fascinated by the history of them.


  2. Gorgeous colour combination and design. And I do love a fabric that’s well behaved! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. 🙂


  3. Wow, I just adore this fabric! The history of the mill is really interesting, too. I wish we still made our own textiles in this country.


  4. That is very pretty fabric, and the history of the mill is of particular interest to me, as I grew up just one hour east of Lewiston in Damariscotta. Thanks for sharing this information.


  5. I’ll be finding out how well behaved, as it is now in the laundry!


  6. Beautiful fabric and thank you for sharing the Bates story!
    Will you be making something with the fabric? It matches that ribbon so well! 🙂


  7. I am musically inclined-a music teacher, what a great print! I see some awful modern music prints but this has just the right level of abstraction to make it work, never has a music stand looked so good


  8. Karen Kaplan

    Great fabric; great story!! Thanks for sharing. Love the ad.


  9. Love the fabric–and the photo of your ribbon against it!

    One of my favorite books (and BBC adaptations, too) is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is a romance set in an English manufacturing town where cotton is woven into fabric. It’s well worth reading (and seeing the BBC adaptation, which is well done and starts my favorite actor, Richard Armitage).

    I’m not musically inclined, either, but I love that print.


  10. Pingback: Today’s Truth Plus: Style Links « Truth Plus

  11. Sue White

    I have a Bates Disciplined Bedspread, from my grandparents, with vintage cars all over it…wonder the history of it….


  12. I just posted a piece for sale in my etsy shop. It’s classic ’50s pink and gray.


  13. You are suffering the bane of bloggers. Find a copy editor, including for punctuation. You’ve evidently been abandoned by New York magazine.


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