The mill was built in 1904 along the Willamette River in the St. John’s area of Portland, Oregon - one hundred years after, and at the same spot where the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped overnight in 1805. Though times were tough, the mill managed to keep its doors open during the Great Depression of 1929, eventually growing to 18 buildings, employing 450 people and processing 4 million pounds of wool a year in its heyday of the 1950’s.
World War II kept the mill busy producing military blankets and wool melton uniform fabrics. Portland Woolen Mills was awarded the prestigious ‘E’ award by both the U.S. Army and Navy for its contributions to the war effort. The mill developed the ‘Skymaster’, a popular ‘smoothly styled zipper-robe for added comfort when traveling by air, rail, highway or water with none of the disadvantages of bulky, hard-to- pack motor robes or blankets.
The mill produced its own monthly newsletter that covered everything from major company and trade news to departmental musings such as ‘All the single girls in the spinning room have gone into mourning since George Curtis got married last month.’
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