Back to School: Celebrating the Rich History of Bates & Students August 18, 2015 08:07 1 Comment

It's back to school season! You may be thinking, "What does Bates have to do with my kids going back to school?" But in fact, there is a rich history of children and students in Bates' past. We round up five of the most interesting stories and designs from our past in the post below.

1. College Student Focus Group

Back in the 1950s, the Bates Manufacturing Company's Sales & Marketing Team was based in New York City. At that time, they were trying to figure out how to enter the lucrative and quickly growing market of college students.

In mid-century America, young men and women who went off to college tended to stay in dorms for the four years that they attended the school. Many students often came from well-to-do families that could afford top of the line bedding collections that would last the four years while their children attended college - a perfect opportunity for Bates.

The ingenious team at Bates decided that the best way to navigate this market was to head straight to the source, the college students themselves. Little did they know that one of the couples they chose to be in the focus group as well as their advertising would later become the President and First Lady of the United States:

Source: Bangor Daily News, Originally featured in Vogue & Harper's Bazaar.

2. Pictorial Bedspread Designs for Children

Among collectors, some of the most sought after antique linens baring the Bates name today are the pictorial bedspread designs for children's bedrooms. The designs included many different themes from cartoon characters to trains and cowboys. 

These bedspreads were mostly produced in the 1950s using jacquard looms to capture the detailed designs with a variety of yarn colors. Today, the favorites among collectors include the Cowboy and Train themes:

Source: Pinterest

Source: Chenille-Bedspread.com

3. Disciplined Fabrics for Making Clothes at Home

One of Bates' most popular divisions in the 20th century were their disciplined fabrics. The fabrics came in a variety of prints and colors and were designed by some of America's leading creative professionals. We still get notes today from folks looking for the high quality disciplined fabrics Bates made for their at-home sewing pursuits. Many families depended on these fabrics to make their children's clothes for the coming school year:

Source: Pinterest

4. Civil War Recruitment

Through Bates' long history dating back to the 1850s, the company saw several wars during which it shifted to war-time production along with its fellow American manufacturers. The Civil War was one of these times that Bates shifted to focusing on the production for the Union Army.

While many of the men in Maine were called to join the Union Army, Bates' looked to the available workforce to increase its production, and at this time, that included children. Children were especially valued for their small hands and stature that allowed them to work in places and on machines that weren't as easily accessed and managed by adults. Thankfully, we no longer employ children in our factory:

Source: Portland Press Herald

5. Founder of Bates Financially Backs Bates College

Our last story of Bates' history with students and young people focuses on the college that shares its name, Bates College. Founded in 1855 just down the road from the original Bates Mill in Lewiston, Bates College was named after the founder of the Bates Manufacturing Company, Benjamin E. Bates. In addition to being the name sake, Bates also backed the college financially. Today, Bates College is one of Maine's finest institutions of high education:

Source: Bates.edu

These are just a few of the student stories from Bates' rich history dating back more than a century. Have a story of your own? Please share in the comments!