"Thomas Dolan's Keystone Knitting Mills." (1866), Hexamer #49.
Keystone Knitting and Spinning Mills, 1861
Columbia Avenue to Oxford Street, and 2nd to Mascher Streets, Philadelphia PA 19122
© Carmen A. Weber, Irving
Kosmin, and Muriel Kirkpatrick, Workshop of the World (Oliver
Evans Press, 1990).
Thomas Dolan was a major
force in the development of textile manufacturing in
Philadelphia. He was successful in building a worsted
industry during the Civil War, he built large knitting
mills in the city, supported by yarn-producing mills in
Delaware County. He produced various goods from men's
suits to opera hoods, and supplied both John Wanamaker
and Strawbridge and Clothier, the two most notable
department stores in Philadelphia. He promoted safe mills
as good business and was instrumental in founding the
Philadelphia Textile School. In 1870 the scale of Dolan's
enterprise was matched by only one other mill, Raleigh's,
also in West Kensington. 1
The first Hexamer survey of Thomas Dolan's Keystone Knitting Mill in West Kensington is a very early one and it is not dated; 2 however, the survey of 1874 3 stated the mill buildings were erected from 1861 to the present. The main building, depicted on the earlier Hexamer, was shaped like a capital E with the legs fronting on Oxford Street. The building was three story, brick, and some of it remains today. It has been heavily altered; a story has been removed, the openings between the legs of the E have been blocked, and the whole stuccoed. Recently the western part of the building has been demolished, but the bricks of the foundation can still be seen. Additional buildings in 1874 were located across Hancock Street. The three-story brick weaving and finishing building to the west across Hancock was connected by an iron bridge on the second floor to the main mill building.
In 1875 4 Dolan added a spinning mill on the block north of his knitting mill complex, although the year before he was still operating the Keystone Spinning mills in Springfield Township, Delaware County. 5 Most of this building still remains, as well as the addition erected across Palethorpe Street in 1879; 6 the two are connected by a bridge and driving shaft. The addition was used for wool scouring, sorting, and storing, and as an office.
By 1880 the mills, called Thomas Dolan and Company's, covered three blocks and engaged in spinning yarn, and knitting and weaving, both cotton and wool and even rented three floors of space in the Morocco factory across Mascher Street. 7 At this time and for two years past, the "machinery of these mills, [is] running extra or full double time." 8 Dolan's was the largest producer of woolen goods in 1883, 9 the year he pledged $5000 support towards establishment of the Philadelphia Textile School (matched only by John and James Dobson, who manufactured carpets at the Falls of the Schuylkill). Two years later, the Keystone Knitting Mills were extended further east on Columbia, 10 renting the mill owned by Ivins, Dietz, and Magee, who produced carpets. This Keystone Mill was managed by Henry A. Truitt, probably related to J. P. Truitt, who superintended Dolan's mills in both Springfield and Philadelphia. The Hexamer General surveys remarked that the superintendent was "interested in the profits of the business." 11
An 1895 atlas 12 still showed Dolan's mills on all three blocks, but by 1900 the owner had left the textile industry. 13 The Philadelphia Commercial Museum's textile directory of 1910-11 listed no Dolan but the Keystone name continued in spinning and knitting mills from 1910 14 through 1916, 15 and 1922, 16 although it was increasingly used by other textile manufacturing not associated with the Dolan Mills.
By 1922 17 the first Dolan mill had become the Oxford Mascher Realty Company and the extension of the spinning mill was occupied by C. H. Salmon, who previously worked with Dolan. Today the heavily modified, original structure at Oxford and Mascher is occupied by the Philadelphia Dry Yeast Company.
In 1943 the Camden Fiber Mills, Inc., listed in a directory under Unclassified Textiles and Textile Products, 18 were using part of Keystone’s Spinning Mills, where they had been located a quarter century earlier. 19 Today there is a sign on the corner of the building for Dixon Valve and Coupling Co., which was located across from Dolan’s on the north side of Columbia Avenue in 20 1950. In 1943 the company employed one hundred and twelve persons. 21
1 Philip Scranton, Proprietary Capitalism, pp. 298, 336, 411, and 418
2 Hexamer General Survey #39
3 Hexamer General Survey #770 (1874), "Thomas Dolan & Co., Keystone Knitting Mills."
4 Hexamer General Survey #971 (1876), "Keystone Spinning Mills, Thomas Dolan & Co."
5 Hexamer General Survey #794 (1874), "Keystone Spinning Mills, Thomas Dolan & Co., Springfield Township, Delaware County, Penna."
6 Hexamer General Survey #1457 (1880), #1458 (1880).
7 Hexamer General Survey #1335
8 Blodget, The Textile Industries of Philadelphia, p. 11.
9 Scranton, Proprietary Capitalism, p. 320
10 Hexamer General Survey #1949
11 Hexamer General Survey #678 (1873), "Keystone Spinning Mills, Thomas Dolan & Co, Springfield Township, Delaware County, Penna."
Hexamer General Survey #794 (1874), "Keystone Spinning Mills, Thomas Dolan & Co., Springfield Township, Delaware County, Penna."
Hexamer General Survey #971 (1876), "Keystone Spinning Mills, Thomas Dolan & Co."
12 Baist, 1895
13 Scranton, Proprietary Capitalism, p. 300
14 The Philadelphia Commercial Museum, p. 27
15 Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania, 1916, p. 1274
16 Bromley, 1922
17 Bromley, 1922
18 Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, Philadelphia, p. 37
19 Sanborn Map Company, Insurance Maps of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Volume 8 , revised to 1917, (New York, 1916).
20 Sanborn Map Company, 1945.
21 Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, Philadelphia, p. 86
Update May 2007 (by Torben Jenk):
The only surviving building is the four-story brick building at 1627 N. Second Street (northeast corner of Putnam/Turner, east to Palethorp) which was used by Dolan for "wool scouring" and "storing wool." This building is being adapted into commercial and studio spaces.
Hexamer General Survey #49 (1866), "Thomas Dolan's Keystone Knitting Mills."