Last week I drove to Columbia, SC to visit the South Carolina State Museum. This museum is a multi-purpose institution, with exhibits ranging from art to history to science and technology. One of the most interesting things about the museum is the 1894 building in which it is housed. It is a former textile mill, Columbia Mills,which was a large producer of cotton duck. The building was given to the state in 1981 after the mill closed.
Some of the original textile-making equipment was saved, and is now installed as an exhibit. Above are spinning machines. The museum cleverly produced the look of many rows of machines by the use of mirrors. There are actually only two machines.
This is a dobby loom from around 1940. It came from a textile factory in Aiken, SC. The cloth you see on the loom is what was being made when the factory closed in the early 1980s.
The product of the Columbia Mill was cotton duck, which is a heavy canvas used for tents and conveyor belts and such. This is one of the last bolts produced before the “Duck Plant” closed.
A lot of the museum is concerned with cotton mill village and rural life in the past. There was a great interactive model of a large mill village which showed how the village was pretty much an extension of the factory. And they had a “country store” set up, with all kinds of products that made me want to go shopping.
It’s my guess that most states have a museum of this sort – a mini Smithsonian that is concerned with the history and industry and natural history of the state. (Though North Carolina has an art museum, a history museum and a natural history museum.) All the ones I’ve ever visited are well worth the time if only for the wonderful randomness that is often encountered.
I actually had a reason for my visit. The museum had a special exhibition of items from Springs Mills in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The company is best known for their production of Springmaid sheets and fabrics, but beginning in 1948 the company was also known for their racy ad campaigns. I’ve written about this in the past, and tomorrow I’ll share a few things from the exhibition.