Maine Heritage Weavers is a family-owned and -operated textile manufacturing company based in Monmouth, Maine. It was founded by former Bates Manufacturing President, Fred Lebel, and his daughter, Linda Cloutier, in 2002. The craftsmen and women of Maine Heritage Weavers weave America's most famous bedspreads in their original weight and elegant beauty. With over 350 years of combined experience, this team of former Bates Fabrics employees use the same equipment to weave these superior quality Bates bedspreads as taught to them by their parents and grandparents.
History of the Bates Manufacturing Company & Maine Heritage Weavers
The Bates Manufacturing Company was established in Lewiston, Maine in 1850 by Benjamin Bates. It quickly became one of the largest textile manufacturers in New England and transformed Lewiston from a struggling agricultural town into a booming industrial city. By 1857, the Bates Mill in Lewiston ran 36,000 spindles, employed 1,000 hands, and annually turned out 5.7 million yards of the best quality of cotton goods. Even after winning multiple achievements and awards for his textiles, including “Best Pantaloon Stuffs” and “Best Plain and Fancy Cotton Fabrics”, Bates wanted more. Accordingly, in 1858 the Bates Manufacturing Company wove the first Bates bedspread.
Upon the Civil War, most New England mills started selling their cotton stock, assuming that the war would only last 90 days. Instead, Benjamin Bates bought as much cotton as he could find (despite the skyrocketing prices) and became the main supplier of Union textiles during the 4 year war. Even afterward, despite post-war depression, the Bates Manufacturing Company prospered and continued to expand. It was at this time that the French-Canadian population began to immigrate to Lewiston for work; even today the city of Lewiston continues to have a great French-Canadian influence (and many of the current mill workers have French-Canadian ancestors that began their American lives as mill workers).
Throughout the Civil War and both World Wars the Bates Manufacturing Company continued to weave its fine quality cloths, with bedspreads being the main focus for the past 50 years. The company was running for more than a century when it was sadly forced to close its doors in 2000 like many of its peers in the world of American manufacturing.
Former Bates President and Founder of Maine Heritage Weavers, Fred Lebel, recognized the historic significance of Bates Mill and was not willing to let the cherished tradition fade into the past. With this in mind, Lebel and his daughter, Linda Cloutier (current President of Maine Heritage Weavers), salvaged the necessary equipment from the closing mill to create a new company, Maine Heritage Weavers, in the likeness of the historic manufacturer that so many people had come to rely on both for its loved, quality bedding as well as for employment. Lebel further kept the tradition alive by hiring former Bates Mill employees who had lost their jobs when the Mill closed.
Today, Maine Heritage Weavers maintains the high quality and standards of the old Bates Mill, and continues to weave many of the original designs. The products are truly “loomed to be heirloomed.”
Photo Credits: Russ Dillingham (Homepage: Photos 1 & 3 from top, Our Story: Collage - Photo 3rd from Left in Top Row, Photo 2nd from Left in Bottom Row, Photo of Fred Lebel)