LOYALTY, SERVICE, AND COMMITMENT of Whitin Machine Works Employees


1kearnan.jpg (42709 bytes)As you read this article, you shall discover a remarkable work record among the employees of the Whitin Machine Works. Perhaps the greatest accolade and personal achievement was the accomplishment of Miss Katherine Kearnan. Here, she is shown receiving congratulations and her 40-Year Service Pin from Mr. Norman Garrett, then President of the W.M.W. Miss Kearnan was one of three women to earn this distinction. (Ref.: The Whitin Spindle; Sept./Oct. 1960)




ferry.jpg (13972 bytes)     The two photos show James R. Ferry (left) then (1948) at the age of 87, who had worked 69 of those years at Whitin, and Albert J. Brown (right) then (1948) at 81 years old, who had been employed at "THE SHOP" for 65 of those years. Both of these men had been working every day and had an admirable, fine record. (Ref.: The Whitin Spindle; Feb. 1948) brown.jpg (15804 bytes)


    The Whitin Machine Works had occupied its first brick building in 1850. Still standing, it once contained the Automatic Screw Job, the Spinning Erecting Floor, and the Spinning Small Parts Department. As far back as 104 years ago, "THE SHOP" was famous for its large group of veteran employees. Taken from the Worcester Evening Gazette’s account of a 25-year reunion held on August 22, 1896, was a very interesting commentary: "It was rather unusual for one man to pass a quarter of a century in the employ of any one concern, but a little investigation revealed the surprising fact that about 100 men had rounded out over 25 years worked at "THE SHOP", and some for much longer periods. At a jollification meeting, 90 old-timers were credited with the testimony that John Crane Whitin, who died in 1882, began his business in a tiny way and had little means at his command, but he had lived to see the works grow under his direction to become one of the great industries of the state of Massachusetts. Financial embarrassment, strikes, or shutdowns, or lack of business had been an unknown quantity. There was steady growth annually, and the little shop with the first picker and a band of men helped build the Machine Works to a great brick structure having 1,500 hands. The Whitin Machine Works had long been renowned as one of the most extensive plants engaged in the manufacturing of cotton mill machinery in the entire world."

   Sylvester G. Keith, who was taking it easy at his pleasant home in town, enjoyed the honor of being the only living representative of the pioneer employees of the W.M.W. in 1839. He left there after continuos service for 51 years. He had said that the owner, John C.Whitin, used to work as hard and get as black as any of them. At first, nothing but pickers were made and not many of them, but the business grew until it was what we see today, giving employment to hundreds of men and making all kinds of cotton mill machinery. Mr. Keith was very enthusiastic over the way that business was conducted back then. He had never heard of such a thing as a strike. Money was always ready on payday, and no man was discharged simply because he was considered old." (Ref.:The Whitin Spindle; Oct.1950)



  1. Leading the list is Ralph E. Lincoln, elected vice-president at Whitin in 1939. He was born in east Blackstone, MA in 1884. He started his career in 1901 when he served as assistant paymaster. He later went to purchasing before becoming a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Lincoln would accrue over 65 years of service ! His favorite recreation was golf, and he was a charted member of the Whitinsville Golf Club.
  2. Simon Chiras was born near Vilna, Lithuania in 1878. He started with Daniel C. Duggan in 1901 in the Water Works Dept. Going next to the Cast Iron Room, then to the Bolster Job, he finally settled into the Small Planer’s Dept. Six members of the Chiras family were employed with Whitin and had accumulated a total of 162 service years.
  3. Thomas Dunn was born in Whitinsville in 1887. He spent a lot of years on the Spinning Floor, then on the Drawing Job, and stayed on the Bolt Job last. Mr.Dunn’s favorite sport was baseball.
  4. Arthur St.Andre was born next to the Blue Eagle Inn in 1887. He started at Whitin on the Tin Job. He moved a short time later to the Spinning and Twister Small Parts Dept. and then transferred to the Freight House, and was placed in charge of the Shipping and Receiving Dept. Sports and reading were Mr. St.Andre’s favorite pastimes.
  5. Arthur VanDyke was born in Holland in 1884. He started milling bar during his first 2 years at Whitin. But for over 48 years, he was a repair man on the Comber Job. During his leisure time, Mr. VanDyke enjoyed television and caring for his pet canary and tropical fish.
  6. Exanapha "Eddie" Letourneau was born in Canada in 1880. His time at Whitin was largely spent in carpentry and cabinetmaking. His hobbies were reading and woodworking.
  7. Henry Ebbeling was born in Holland in 1885. He was an Erector for 40 years, and finally was an Inspector on the Spinning Floor. Besides travelling back to his homeland after 50 years, Mr.Ebbeling enjoyed fishing, hunting, and gardening as hobbies.
  8. John "Jack" Shaw was born in Northern Ireland in 1880. He became Foreman of the Inside Maintenance Carpenter Shop, after having worked in Whitin’s Carpenter Shop for 50 years.
  9. William Forsythe was born in Aghdowey, Ireland in 1882. He first worked with Mr.Thomas Crompton on the Spinning Floor. For the bulk of his career, he had been a machine set up man in the Milling Dept. His favorite leisure activity was reading.

    Each of the above employees was presented a Waltham Gold Pocket Watch in recognition of their milestones at Whitin, and each was also given a 50-year Service Pin by Mr. E.Kent Swift, Chairman of the Board of the W.M.W. (The pins will be later described and illustrated.) (Ref.: The Whitin Spindle; July 1951)

    It must be noted that after 1920, the number of inhabitants of the village of Whitinsville remained almost stationary for over 20 years, and labor turnover became so slow that promotions hardly happened except in the case of deaths. Also, the average age level of employees mounted. Almost no one chose to retire, and in those days of financial stringency very few young men were hired. The number of "old-timers" in "THE SHOP" came to be an object of pride in Whitinsville. In 1921, the Company began the practice of awarding service pins to men who had been in its employ for long periods of time. In the space of 27 years it had given out over 100 diamond-studded commemorative pins to those who had actively served the Company for 50 years. Indeed this was a record that never could have been attained had retirements been compulsory. ( As a footnote, information furnished by W.Hanna of the Boston office of Whitehead and Hoag, manufacturers of advertising novelties and commemorative pins disclosed that the Whitin Machine Works presented jeweled pins to all employees who had completed 5,10,15,20,25,30,40, and 50 years of service. As was fitting, the 50-year pins were the most elaborate. They were made of 10-carat gold and set with ten 1and1/2 point diamonds. And in 1948 these pins cost the Whitin Machine Works over $80.00 each.) (Ref.:The Whitin Machine Works Since 1831; p.439; Thomas R. Navin; Harvard U. Press: ©1950)


4_1948cov.jpg (112676 bytes)In the center is James R.Ferry, who started at Whitin in August 1879. At the time of this photograph he had almost 69 years seniority. Shown to his left was J.Hugh Bolton, then the President of the W.M.W., and pictured to the extreme right was E.Kent Swift, Chairman of the Board.

    On the inside of the above cover was a message from J.Hugh Bolton. It follows below: "On May 13 (1948) Mr. E.Kent Swift awarded 40 and 50-Year Service pins to the Whitin employees who have now joined this select group and are entitled to these pins. This group now numbers 199 men, with service records ranging from 40 to 68 years. I believe that there are few, if any, companies in the country that can equal this splendid record of workers in the continuous employ of one company for such a long period of time. Newcomers to the 40-Year Group received Gold Pins set with 8 Sapphires, and those who completed 50 Years of Service got Gold Pins set with 10 Diamonds within; each gem represented 5 years of service. I hope that all of these men will wear these pins with pride as it represents many years of consistently loyal and devoted service over a long span of years…. We newer employees envy them this record, and the example of conscientiousness and stability they have set will be the guiding light for those of us who follow in their footsteps. Again, congratulations !" (Signed: J.Hugh Bolton, President)


5-3.jpg (22047 bytes)    In the July 1951 issue of the Whitin Spindle on page 5 was a headline, "228 Loyal Whitin Employees Have Given 10,673 Years of Continuous Service". When one figures out the average seniority, it indicates that there were 47 years accrued. This has to be a remarkable statistic. There are two other Whitin Spindle articles that featured tributes to Whitin workers: the first from the June 1957 issue, and the second from the Sept./Oct. 1960 issue. In 1957, a total of 268 veteran employees, each having more than 40 years of continuous service with "THE SHOP", attended the annual 40 +50-Year Banquet in the Whitin Cafeteria on May 7. Mr. Swift spoke after the well-prepared beef pie dinner, and he mentioned then that there were no active employees in the 60-65 years group, but there were 5 inactive. He also said that in the group 50 years up to and including 59 years, there were 26 active employees and 49 inactive.In the group 40 years up to 49 years, there were 117 active and 71 inactive employees.These records showed a total of 143 active and 125 inactive employees, making a grand total of 268 employees each averaging over 40 years of service! Four more veterans got a gold watch also: Mr. Harry W.Drinkwater, Mr. Arthur F.Jackman, Mr.Arthur L. Marshall, and Mr. William Feddema.(Ref.: The Whitin Spindle, June 1947)

6_vets.jpg (31988 bytes) On September 8, 1960 more than 250 active and retired Whitin senior employees attended a banquet in their honor, again in the Whitin cafeteria. J.Hugh Bolton, President, cited some statistics on longevity. This time the service records showed that 5 retired employees served the Company from 60 years up to and including 65 years. In the group with service of 50 years up to and including 59 years, there were 10 active and 59 retired employees, or a total of 69 employees. In the group with service of 40 years up to and including 49 years, there were 117 active and 103 retired employees, or a total of 220 employees. This record showed a total of 127 active and 167 retired employees for a grand total of 294 employees with 40 or more years of service!

    Norman F. Garrett, General Manager of the Whitinsville Division of the W.M.W., was called upon to present service pins to this new 40-year Group. He exclaimed, "It is a somewhat humbling experience to stand in the presence of so many individuals who have served the Company well for so many years. I feel that what we have here tonight is the very epitome of the American way of life. As a nation, Americans have learned how to meet a challenge and how to live together in harmony. Certainly in the Whitin Machine Works we are tangible evidence of this way of life."

    Afterwards, 8 more Waltham watches were presented by Mr. J.Hugh Bolton to the following: Mr.Sydney R. Mason (Corporation Secretary since 1917), Mr. Walter S.Boutilier (Elevator Operator), Mr. James F.Cahill (Plant Guard), Mr.Adelard J.(Delle) Duhamel (Supervisor in Shipping), Mr.Fred Kramer (Roving Small Parts), Mr.Timothy Brosnahan (Pattern Loft), Mr.Archie L. Fournier ( Wood Patterns), and Mr.Harold J. Kane (Foundry Machine Maintenance). (Ref.: The Whitin Spindle; Sept./Oct.1960)


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