This is the first of several posts regarding recent findings at the South Caroliniana Library on the grounds of the University of SC, Columbia. I highly recommend the Caroliniana Library as it is an official state repository for CS records, etc. and has rendered an incredible amount of research information in the past.
Several months ago, Rick Hatcher, NPS Historian at Ft. Sumter, mentioned that I needed to check out the William Middleton (1809-1883) papers as they held something I'd find of interest. Among the many war-dated letters describing the scenes and fortifications around Chrleston was this little gem:
Letter to Wm Middleton, Charleston
From Salem, NC, August 24, 1864
_ H Fries
We will exchange cloth for wool giving one yard like sample No. 1 for 2 1/2 pounds wool, of No. 2 for 2 pounds wool, of No. 3 for 1 1/2 ponds wool & of the kersey, 1 yard for 1 pound of wool. The wool to be washed and clear of burs and trash. When sent unwashed we estimate the net washed weight.
We might sell you some cloth this season at such rates as we are selling when the cloth is bought. We can not set prices for any length of time ahead."
What's so unique about this letter is that samples #1 and #2 are still enclosed in the collections envelope! Sample No 1 is a very thin, tightly woven, woolen broadcloth which is a very dark charcoal grey. It exhibits a very fine nap on both sides and is truly a beautiful article. Sample #2 exhibits a fine nap on both sides but is not as tightly woven. Consequently, this article is a very light grey (at least right now) but shows a white woolen warp under the nap. I just wish the third and forth samples were enclosed. I could only imagine what the domestic kersey would have looked like. I know some of our NSR bretheren have researched the Fries Mill; could y'all (or anyone else) provide some additional information on this unique operation? I believe Ben Tart holds a copy of one of their dye books/manuals too. As a whole, war-time Southern mills with the capability of producing an all woolen product were somewhat rare so hence my interest.
Currently, I'm working with the SC Confederate Relic Room & Museum to have pictures taken of these samples. The library outsources their photography and each picture is $35. I have concerns about the company getting the detail & magnification I'm looking for so hence the RR's involvement as they are likewise interested from a textile standpoint. When photos of quality are obtained and the obvious permission(s), I'll make sure to post them here for everyone's purusal.
Palmetto Living History Assoc.