Unraveled Threads: The Decline and Fall of the Connecticut Textile Industry, A Story of Deindustrialization

Jamie H. Eves, Beverly L. York, and Jared Leitzel

Unraveled Threads was an exhibit at the Windham Textile and History Museum in 2018. The exhibit focused on the concept of deindustrialization — why the Connecticut textile industry, once a dominant feature of the state’s economy, first declined, and then disappeared almost entirely. The exhibit also explored postindustrialization, what had emerged to take the place of the vanished textile industry, what had happened to the state’s scores of abandoned mills, and the fates of the people who lived in the former mill cities and towns. As we researched the story, we found that it was not what we had expected it to be. We found that deindustrialization had begun far earlier than we supposed, in the 1880s. And we discovered that the reasons for deindustrialization were more complicated and complex than it had at first seemed. The exhibit was sponsored by a grant from Connecticut Humanities. One product was the following exhibit display boards. The boards still exist, and the exhibit can be taken “on the road” to other locations.