Silk Mill stories

Those with Silk Mill items to share for the upcoming exhibit at the James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage should contact museum director Bethany Sullivan by calling 672-1776 or emailing

For decades, the American Silk Mill factory on Madison Road was an Orange institution.

This fall, the James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage will share the local and global history of the silk mill in a new exhibit that will be on display for a year.

The exhibit is being spearheaded by guest curator Mary Knighton, who also is writing a book on the silk mill. The exhibit will open to the public Saturday, Sept. 9.

In the meantime, Knighton and museum director Bethany Sullivan are soliciting help from the community for items to include for display.

“We’re looking for documents, time cards, spools, parts, whatever bits and pieces that were part of people’s employment there,” Sullivan said. “It could be textile, paper or mechanical. We want to show as much as we can.”

Exhibit panels include: “the origins of silk,” “the founding of the mill,” “the process of making silk,” “employees and employers,” “the mill’s role in World War II” and it’s “waning years,” among others.

Knighton already has collected a number of pieces, including skeins of raw reeled silk, shuttles and bobbins, silk thread and more.

“We want to reach out to members of the community who might want to contribute their own stories of family members who worked at the mill, or who can help identify people in photographs from the days when the silk mill was so active in town,” Knighton said.

Those with items to share should contact Sullivan at the museum by calling 672-1776 or emailing

The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for those interested in stopping by to share their items for the upcoming exhibit.

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