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.