This was the title of a sad photo that was sent to me last year by a gentleman named Robert. But it also has an upbeat message.
According to Ralph Tharpe, previously head of technical development at Cone, "The executive in charge of disposing of the looms
in 1985 told me they ended up in a field and as far as he knew they were
scrapped for the metal." So this sad wreck might well be from Cone, a loom used to produce fabric for some of the most fabled denim of all time.
Why is there an upbeat message to this sad story? It's contained in Robert's second photo:
These are two more Drapers, X-3 I believe, which were rescued by Robert. Because there are other companies making selvage fabric in the USA still - but not denim.
Robert works for a high-tech company in New England which produces materials for the aerospace industry. These looms have found a new home weaving kevlar - because they are gentle on the yarn, imposing little tension, and don't chop it at the selvage point, these 70-year old looms are the most efficient technical solution to a very modern technical problem. They also show how, even as old industries disappear, new industries can spring up to replace them.
The fabric woven by these looms could well be life-saving. One of its prime uses is to shroud aircraft engines; if there's a turbine failure the containment ring made up of this fabric is designed to prevent the high-velocity turbine debris from damaging the aircraft.
These looms were made in Hopedale, Massachusetts, by the Draper Corporation, which in itself made a major contribution to sweeping economic changes across the USA - by making more efficient looms, and funding mills in the South, Draper contributed to the move of fabric production out of New England. (One consequence of this was that Levi's changed their denim supplier, from Amoskeag in New Hampshire to Cone in North Carolina). Now, as another result of sweeping economic changes, these looms have come home.
Thanks to Robert for the photos and the story.