History threads — Libby expands in 1885

This is the latest in an occasional series of posts about the history of the garment industry in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Essex counties.

In spring of 1885, it looked like Glens Falls would lose its Libby & Company shirt and collar factory to a Westchester County community that was offering significant economic development incentives.

But the factory, for reasons unclear, stayed in Glens Falls, and at the end of 1885 was being expanded.

“Libby & Company are now manufacturing their goods in a limited scale in Sing Sing,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on May 4, 1885.

“The people there have offered to provide us with a building and gas free, and exempt our property from taxation, if we will locate there permanently,” said Charles A Gilbert, plant manager. “They also offer to give us the building and site at the end of the ten years.”

The company would save on freight costs, because of the close proximity to New York City, and the company would have less competition for workers.

“At Sing Sing, we would be enabled to secure an abundance of great help, while in Glens Falls we experience much difficulty in this respect during the busy season.”

Gilbert said the company planned to gradually move all of its Glens Falls production to Sing Sing by early 1886.

The Morning Stat editorialized that Glens Falls officials should attempt to put together a package of incentives to keep the company in town.

As 1885 progressed, there was no additional reporting about the company’s proposed move, but the factory on Park Street in Glens Falls stayed open and flourished, after a minor setback.

“A number of employees of J.L. Libby & Company’s shirt factory were obliged to suspend operations yesterday afternoon owing to the settling of the floor by the giving way of rotten timbers in the basement,” The Morning Star reported on July 10, 1885. “The timber that gave way upheld a wooden column upon which a section of the shafting is hung, throwing it out of line. Repairs were immediately begun and completed last night. Work will be resumed this morning.”

On Nov. 9, 1885, The Morning Star reported that Libby & Co. broke ground Nov. 7 on a 60 x 40 foot addition to its Park Street factory.

“The structure will be of brick, two stories high and fire proof. This is necessitated by an increasing business. C.A. Gilbert, the wideawake superintendent of the factory, is giving his personal attention to the work of putting up the building.”

Click here to read the most recent previous post in the series.

Click here to read my most recent previous post about Libby & Company.

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY