Clark Founders-Owners Biographies Clark Founders-Owners Biographies








Clark Founders and Owners

Please send me biographical sketches, obituaries, and other news about the founders and owners of the Clark Thread Company.

George A. Clark

James Oscar Max Clark

William Campbell Clark

William Clark


George Aitken Clark

George A. Clark, who some years ago, stood at the head of the Clark Thread Company of Newark, N.J., was born in Paisley, Scotland, 1824.  He was a descendant of Peter Clark, who, between eighty and ninety years ago (~1806), made the first cotton thread that was ever used for sewing.  It is a curious fact that this invention should be due to the necessities sometimes occasioned by war.  Prior to the great victories achieved by Napoleon, at the close of the last century (1700's), cotton sewing thread was unknown.  In its place flax, worked by spindles and distaff into hanks of coarse linen thread, was used for sewing into all kinds of garments.  But when Napoleon seized upon Hamburg and destroyed all the silk in that port, the weavers of England and Scotland were deprived of the material used in making the heddles or guiding threads so essential to the loom.  The business of the Clark Brothers of that day was the manufacture of silk heddle-twine for the weavers of Paisley, and when no more silk could be obtained for that purpose Peter Clark looked about for a substitute.  After a series of experiments with cotton, he obtained a thread from that material which answered his purpose, and moreover, promised to be far preferable to the old linen thread for sewing.  For some time he continued to wind his new cotton thread upon bobbins with his own hands for the accommodation of some of his lady customers in Paisley, and being convinced ere long that his discovery was a valuable one, he gradually withdrew from the manufacture of heddle-twine, and, with the firm to which he was attached, gave attention entirely to the making of spool-cotton.

Mr. George A. Clark, the subject of this sketch, began his business career as a lad in the employment of the firm of Kerr and Company at Hamilton, Ontario, and after remaining with this house for about four years, returned to Paisley, and began the manufacture of shawls.  In 1850, he relinquished this business, and became a partner with his brother-in-law, Mr. Peter Kerr, in the manufacture of cotton-thread.  This firm was subsequently merged into that of the Clarks, and therein he retained a partnership until his death, and it was mainly due to his energy and business ability that the resources and operations of the establishment were so vastly developed.

When the business of making cotton thread began at Paisley, in 1812, one man, turning a crank, furnished all the motive-power required, and the sale of manufactured goods was limited to a small portion of Scotland and England.  When Mr. Clark died, in 1873, the Paisley works gave employment to upwards of two thousand operatives, the works at Newark, N.J., employed one thousand more, and the business of the firm extended throughout almost every civilized country on the earth.  To Mr. George A. Clark the successful establishment of the American branch of this great enterprise is wholly due.  He came to the United States in 1856 to look after the interests of the works at Paisley, fixing his headquarters at New York.  The great increase in the consumption of cotton-thread occasioned by the increased use of sewing-machines, together with the high protective tariff, induced him to establish a branch of the Paisley works in this country.  Accordingly, in 1864, he founded a factory at Newark, N.J., and began operations in a hired building at the corner of Front and Fulton Streets, in that city.  While conducting the business on a small scale, he put under contract the extensive works on Clark Street, personally superintending their erection and in many ways improving upon the Paisley model.  In the spring of 1866, the buildings were completed, and the gigantic works were set in operation, giving employment to hundreds of operatives and contributing largely to the welfare of Newark and the adjacent country.  The great business talents and energy thus exhibited by Mr. Clark could not fail to bring him prominently before the public, and so we soon see him associated with the leading business men of the community.  His advice and assistance were sought in all important enterprises of a public nature.  He became an active and influential member of the Board of Trade; he was also a director of the People's Insurance Company, and at the tie of his death, was president of the Burns Society of Newark.  To matters of religion, Mr. Clark was always conscientiously devoted.  As a member of the North Reformed Church of Newark, he sought to live a life worthy of his high profession, and not only the church to which he belonged, but all religious and benevolent associations, were dear to him, and received largely of his bounty.  As a friend, he was sincere, and always ready to perform a friendly act.  His genial disposition made him welcome wherever he went, and it might be truly said that none knew him but to love him.

Mr. Clark died suddenly from heart-disease on the 13th of February, 1873.  The various corporations with which he was connected, on hearing the sad intelligence, assembled to pay a tribute to his memory.  Funeral services were held in the North Reformed Church, and his remains were sent back to Scotland to find a resting-place in his native town of Paisley.

William H. Shaw, History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, Everts and Peck, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

New York Times, Page 7, February 14, 1873

CLARK - Suddenly at his late residence, Newark, NJ, of heart disease,  GEORGE A. CLARK, of the firm of George A. Clark & Brother.  Funeral service will be held a the North Reformed Church, Newark, on this  (Friday) evening at 7 o'clock.  Friends are respectfully invited to  attend.  Carriages will be waiting at the Broad Street Station on the arrival of train leaving New York at 6 o'clock via New York and Newark Railroad foot of Liberty Street.  The remains will be sent to Glasgow  by steamer Victoria sailing at 9 o'clock on Saturday.

Thanks to Michelle Groel for her generous contribution.

James Oscar Max Clark

A member of the Clark family in Scotland, who kept closely in touch with operations at the Newark plant of The Clark Thread Company was James Oscar Max Clark, son of Robert M. Clark, of Camphill, Paisley, Scotland.  From 1912 to 1930, Mr. Clark made periodical visits to this country, and displayed a comprehensive knowledge of the business.  In addition to an inspection of the several factories, he made extensive market surveys, which included visits to depots and customers, and conferences with sales personnel.  He keenly sensed the need of the organization to keep up-to-date by means of new products, and had a strong influence in sponsoring many new articles for crochet and embroidery, which were put on the market at that period.  They included Clark's O.N.T. Package Outfits, which were large envelopes containing stamped materials, together with all the crochet and embroidery cottons necessary to complete them.  While nearly all other new products were marketed successfully, this venture in packaged stamped goods proved a failure because of the fluctuations in the prices of cotton textiles.  In 1929, Mr. Clark was elected Chairman of the Board of J. & P. Coats, Limited, Glasgow, Scotland, being the first member of the Clark family to be thus recognized and honored.  He never lived in the United States, and although he retired to private life in 1947, he has continued to be deeply interested in the business n which he was actively engaged for almost fifty years.

Information graciously provided by The Coats and Clark Company.


William Clark

William Clark, son of John Clark, of the great firm of James & John Clark, cotton-thread manufacturers, and brother of the late George A. Clark, elsewhere mentioned in this volume, was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1841.  After receiving a good academic education in the grammar-school of his native town, he entered the famous establishment which had been founded by his ancestors, for the purpose of acquiring a practical knowledge of all the details of every department of the business in which he expected, at the proper time, to become an active and interested manager.  This knowledge having been fully obtained, he accompanied his brother, Mr. George A. Clark, in 1860, to the United States, where already a general agency of the home firm had been established with its headquarters in New York.  Here he rendered assistance to his brother in his manifold operations, and finally, in 1864, removed with him to Newark, N.J., where a branch of the Paisley works was established upon a very small scale.  This branch was, however, greatly extended at a subsequent period, and in 1866, Mr. Clark became associated with his brother as a partner.  The enterprise proved to be highly successful, and after the admission of Mr. Clark as a partner the works were from year to year extended.

In February, 1873, Mr. George A. Clark, the senior member of the firm, died suddenly of heart-disease, leaving his brother, the subject of this sketch, sole manager of this vast establishment.  And now the advantages of a through knowledge of everything connected with this complicated business became manifest.  The survivor was abundantly able to take the helm from which the brother's hand had been loosed by death, and although younger by twenty years, commanded all the respect and confidence which is due to experience and capability.  With the management of these great works came also, in time, an enlarged interest in the proprietorship, and with an ambition to see himself not merely the head of one of the greatest establishments in the land, but the patron, as well, of industry and thriftiness, Mr. Clark soon took measures to extend -- in fact, to double almost in magnitude -- his already marvelous mills.  Not only did he erect in close proximity to his office and ware-rooms, an immense spooling factory, one-hundred and sixty by eighty-two feet, and four stories in height, all in brick and stone, but on the eastern bank
(2) of the Passaic River, opposite to the old mills, a tract of land, containing more than ten acres, was purchased, with a view to making still greater additions to the works.  Here buildings have been erected for the accommodation of eight-thousand spindles, together with a large amount of other machinery, as well as boilers and engines and various safeguards against losses by fire.

With so vast an increase of facilities, the business of the mills has also increased, and the employees of the great establishment are now numbered by thousands.  This army of operatives of both sexes is under the most perfect discipline, and their busy fingers move with as much regularity and precision as the complicated machinery which everywhere surrounds them.  Industry and skill in these truly wonderful works always find their reward, while sloth and awkwardness maintain a short career.  Mr. Clark omits nothing that can contribute to the comfort and happiness of his operatives.  He has encouraged the formation among them of societies for mental as well as physical improvement, and in addition to the legal holidays and annual picnics, a half-holiday is enjoyed by them every Saturday.

It is easy to believe that the benefit of Mr. Clark's great business talents has been sought than once by the financial institutions of Newark, but his own immense operations have formed a sufficient excuse for him to decline such positions.  He has been induced, however, to become one of the managers of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company, and a director of the American Mutual Fire Insurance Company, to both of which institutions he cheerfully gives his services.  He is president of the board of trustees of the Newark Eye and Ear Infirmary, and takes a great interest in that noble charity.  Of the Board of Trade, he is a member, and the Newark Library Association acknowledges him as one of its benefactors.  In politics, he is a pronounced Republican, and was strongly urged to become the Congressional candidate of that party at the election of 1884, but although eminently qualified for that important position, he could not be induced to accept that or any other political office.

William H. Shaw, History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, Everts and Peck, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(2)- East Newark, Hudson County -- most of the buildings are still standing.

William Campbell Clark

Mr. Clark was the son of James Clark and was born on April 8, 1863.  His father was then the senior partner of Clark and Company of Paisley, Scotland.  He came to this country in 1879, when he was sixteen years old.  After two years at Rutgers College, New Brunswick, NJ, he entered The Clark Thread Company, Newark, then under charge of his uncle, William Clark (1841-1902).  He first obtained a practical knowledge of every branch of the cotton thread industry, familiarizing himself with every phase of cotton production from the planting of the seed to its refinement as sewing thread.  He added to this technical knowledge by learning about the marketing of the finished product, including the methods of advertising, selling, and distribution.  At a comparatively youthful age, he succeeded to the presidency, in 1902, following the death of his uncle William Clark.  Taking over direct charge of the operation of the several mills at Newark and East Newark, he was especially capable as a buyer of cotton, and as an expert in machinery.  Mr. Clark had a winning personality, an amiable disposition, and was quick to learn.  At the same time, he revealed a canny discernment of human nature.  This he subsequently demonstrated in the wise selection of supervisory personnel.  Shortly before William Clark, and his sons, left The Clark Thread Company, William Campbell Clark sensed that they were not giving the organization their undivided energies, whereupon, he engaged Herbert Walmsley as manager of the spinning mills.  The latter had been trained in Bolton, England, and had an enviable reputation as a textile manufacturer.  Mr. Walmsley remained with the company until 1901, when he resigned to become the managing director of the Wamsutta Mills at New Bedford, Massachusetts.

William Campbell Clark also was a vice president and a director of The Spool Cotton Company, New York, through which organization, The Clark Thread Company's products were sold and distributed.  As such, he made frequent visits from the Newark Mill to the New York office.  In 1885, Mr. Clark married Mary Clementine Kinney, who with two daughters, survived him when he died November 14, 1912.  He had one brother, Kenneth Clark, who lived in Scotland.  His home was at 1110 Broad Street, Newark.  In 1910, Mr. Clark received an apparently slight injury at his country home in Elberon, NJ, which eventually proved serious.  In September 1912, after an operation in Mercy Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, by a famous surgeon, Dr. John B. Murphy, his recovery seemed certain, when intestinal trouble developed.  He was taken home, and underwent another operation, from which he did not survive the effects.  His burial was in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Newark.

Mr. Clark was regarded as a prominent citizen of Newark.  He was a director of the American Insurance Company, The Essex County National bank, a governor of the Essex Club, and of the board of managers of the Babies' Hospital, Newark,

Information graciously provided by The Coats and Clark Company

Newark, NJ, November 15, 1912

William Campbell Clark, president of the Clark Thread Works in Newark, one of the best known men in the thread industry, died in his home at 1010 Broad St., Newark.  Death was indirectly due to an accident which Mr. Clark had two years ago at his summer home in Elberon, NJ.  At that time he fractured a bone in his hip. Seven weeks ago he went to Chicago, where he underwent an operation at the hands of Dr. John B. Murphy, the well know surgeon.  Mr. Clark did not rally as successfully as was hoped and two weeks ago was brought east in a private car accompanied by Dr. Murphy.

Mr. Clark was born in Paisley, Scotland, he being a son of the late James Clark.  He succeeded his uncle, William Clark, on the latter's death as president.  Mr. Clark was forty-nine years old.  In 1893, he married Mary Clementine Kinney, daughter of Estelle Condit and the late Thomas Talmadge Kinney (1821-1900), publisher of the Newark "Daily Advertiser," who survives him with two daughters.

Thanks to Michelle Groel and Marion Paterson for their generous contribution.



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