Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sanford Gifford's Patron N. C. Folger: Part 3

In June 1857, the Hudson Daily Star devoted a column and a half to a "new wholesale clothing manufactory" in Hudson called James Clark & Company. The article begins:
We do not believe half our readers are aware of the magnitude of the enterprise which has been quietly undertaken in our city by Mr. N. C. Folger of New Orleans and Mr. James Clark of Hudson. It is generally known that the first named gentleman is at the head of one of the largest clothing establishments in the South, and that he has for a number of years carried on the business of manufacturing in New Jersey. He has recently decided to transfer this department of his business to our city, and, becoming associated with Mr. Clark, one of our most extensive and popular merchant tailors, proceeded to negotiate for the ample premises, corner of Warren and Fourth street which are now being thoroughly adapted to their purpose.
The "ample premises" was this building on the corner of Warren and Fourth streets, now the location of Face Stockholm.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

The map of the Third Ward in the 1873 Beers Atlas indicates that the building on the south side of Warren Street, across Fourth Street from the Presbyterian Church, belonged at that time to J. Clark.

The reporter for the Daily Star was invited to take a tour of the facility under construction and enthusiastically recounted for his readers what he saw, heard, and learned.
By the politeness of Mr. F. we were lately shown through the different portions of the contemplated manufactory and furnished with some hints as to what will be the character and extent of the business they have undertaken. We first visited the upper story, the only one yet completed. A more animated spectacle we have seldom witnessed. Between the incessant rattling of the sewing machines, and the rapid elbow movements of the other more intelligent agents of industry, the room was to the ear and eye much like a bee hive. But there were no drones, nor kings nor queens. All were intent upon their work; not with a prison aspect of servitude and fear of punishment, but with cheerful looks and contented demeanor, such as the willing laborer wears when satisfied with his (or her) lot and sure of good reward. . . .
The second story of the building is to be fitted up similar to the third and supplied with machines, tables and operatives. When it is ready--which it is expected to be in a month or so--no less than two hundred and fifty women will be required to fill up the seats. This number is absolutely wanted to do the work of the establishment. And here we may as well say that Messrs Clark & Co. are determined to go ahead with the enterprise and must have employees from some quarter or other. They offer liberal advantages to all in our city and vicinity who desire to earn an honest and respectable livelihood with the needle, and do not wish, if they can avoid it, to go elsewhere with their patronage. There is, we are sorry to say, a manifest reluctance on the part of some to enter the establishment. They do not like the idea of "associating with factory operatives," &c. Now this is all sheer nonsense. Any female who finds it necessary to labor to maintain herself need not hesitate one moment about going there to work. The establishment is in competent hands; no irregularity is allowed; all is quiet, clean, respectable; and no one is necessarily compelled to associate with uncongenial neighbors, either in or out of the building. 
In addition to promoting the establishment as a respectable place for "any female who finds it necessary to labor to maintain herself," the article in the Daily Star also gives a hint about the kind of clothing being manufactured for sale in N. C. Folger's clothing store in New Orleans.
Among other things we noticed several hundred suits of coarse blue satinett, designed for slaves, as a market day attire. The vests are of a uniform style, colored and figured up to the highest standard of negro taste. Many of the garments are of first class material, style and finish, lavishly stitched.
One of the lines of clothing that N. C. Folger specialized in was something called "Plantation Goods." It was emblazoned on the facade of his store at the corner of Old Levee and Custom House Street.    

This two-page advertisement for N. C. Folger's Clothing Store, found in Southern Rural Almanac, and Plantation and Garden Calendar, for 1851-1853, 1856, enumerates the various items in "My General Depot of Plantation Clothing." 

Steven Deyle, in Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life, notes that N. C. Fogler's Wholesale & Retail Clothing Store was located in the midst of New Orlean's slave-trading district. Deyle explains: "Some clothing makers . . . specialized in providing new outfits for those about to be sold. . . . In New Orleans, N. C. Folger & Son called 'the attention of Traders to their immense assortment' of more than 4,000 blue suits, as well as drawers, undershirts, and socks  to be worn by male slaves at their sale." (Folger's son, Charles W., joined the firm in 1855.)

New York Public Library Picture Collection
A chapter called "The Business of Slavery," in the book Slavery in America, edited by Kenneth Morgan, notes that in October 1857, a slave trader named John White bought forty identical blue suits "for the men in his yard." The suits were purchased from N. C. Folger, who presented White with a bill for $585.25.

In November 1860, two months before Louisiana seceded from the Union, the Daily Star reported the N. C. Folger had ordered the manufactory here in Hudson "to stop manufacturing goods for the Southern market till further orders." On September 18, 1861, an item appeared in the New-York Daily Tribune that suggests they may have resumed manufacturing goods for the Southern market but not necessarily "plantation goods" as before.

Ten days later, the Red Hook Weekly Journal repeated the story as it appeared in the Columbia Republican, in a manner that suggests the seizure may have been based on assumption.

It is not known how this matter was resolved, but the rest of what Gossips has discovered about N. C. Folger will be told in the next and final installment.

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