This month we are featuring cotton: the product from which most textiles originate. In honor of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved peoples in the United States, we’d like to acknowledge the dark history associated with cotton, and thus associated with the mills of the Androscoggin region.

At the start of the Civil War, Benjamin Bates, prominent American philanthropist, industrialist, and the founder of the Bates Manufacturing Company, purchased an exorbitant amount of southern cotton, despite its skyrocketing prices. He correctly suspected that there would be a shortage of cotton with talk of southern secession, and used this product to grow the Bates Mills to a level of extreme success.

It is important to remember as we keep the history of the mill industry alive, that the cotton used in the facilities was produced on the backs of enslaved people, who were taken from their homelands against their will and forced to work under extreme inhumane conditions. 


Acknowledging this history is a first step in determining how the Museum will address it in our collection, presentation, and education work at the core of our mission. We look forward to collaborating with partners in our community and beyond on a research-based strategy for the Museum in our current space and our planned new facility. It is our job to tell a complete story.

Tree branch with cotton flowers on white background, Cotton flowers isolated on white background, top view flat lay