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Closing Of Textile Plant Marks Passing Of Already-Bygone Era

This article is more than 10 years old.

Since about 1812 — the year when Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution, sank the British frigate the Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia in the War of 1812 — a textile plant in the central Massachusetts town of Webster has been churning out cloth. At one time it wove the fabric.

These days, instead of weaving, it prints various patterns on cloth woven in China. On Friday, Cranston Print Works, which has defied the odds for decades, will close. In so doing, it gives up the title of the oldest textile plant still operating in the country.

The plant, which still rolls out 20 million yards of printed cloth a year for people who sew at home, once employed more than 700 people. But as it follows other companies and shifts fabric-printing operations overseas, the 72 production workers remaining after decades of attrition will lose their jobs. Forty-five people will stay on in warehouse, distribution and administrative positions in Webster.

Generations of families worked at Cranston Print; there were courtships, marriages and babies. Among the workers is Francis Burke, who says the plant has been in his family’s blood for seven decades.

This program aired on May 28, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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