It’s February, which means our 2024 gallery “Unseen Hands, The Hidden Elements of Labor” opened to the public! This month, we’re highlighting dye tubes from the Bates Dyeing Facility, offering a glimpse at just one of the dozens of objects we have on display this year. Bates Manufacturing had its in-house laboratory that developed new dyes and ensured the quality of the pigments used in its products. Early in the mill’s history, the workers would dye only one color daily (i.e., Monday – blue, Tuesday – yellow, etc.). Any dye left over at the end of the day was dumped directly into the Androscoggin River, making the mill one of the largest polluters. This practice and the Androscoggin’s overall condition helped inspire Maine Senator Ed Muskie to get the Clean Water Act passed by Congress in 1972.

Photo by Tanja Hollander