Scalamandré Looms Find New Home in History Center
by Robert Dunne

reprinted from the May, 2005 edition of the Courier newsletter

After more than seven decades in New York, Scalamandré is closing its mill and showrooms and relocating to South Carolina, where the manufacturer will continue producing textiles using new state-of-the-art machinery. Besides the Society, only a handful of other museums, such as the Smithsonian and Lowell’s American Museum of Textiles, will possess their historical looms.

“This donation is another step in my goal to preserve the historical authenticity of Manchester,” Viscogliosi said. “I wantanyone interested in the history of this area to be able to see, appreciate, and enjoy part of the foundation on which our nation was built.” Viscogliosi purchased one of the Cheney mansions on Forest Street last year — his second — which many believe saved it from condominium development.

Founded by Franco and Flora Baranzelli Scalamandré in 1929, Scalamandré Inc. became one of the country’s most respected designers and manufacturers of textiles, earning a reputation for historical reproductions as well as innovative designs. Scalamandré has provided furnishings in the White House for every president since Hoover, and among its over 600 historical reproductions are an upholstered chair used by George Washington in his 1789 inauguration and the fringe of an American flag in Abraham Lincoln’s balcony box at Ford Theater where he was assassinated.

Aware that textiles were historical artifacts as much as decorative elements in interior decoration, Scalamandré also operated the Museum of Textiles in New York for over thirty years, allowing the public to learn about both the manufacture of textiles and their historical significance.

Now the four looms, which were still in operation until December of last year, will themselves be showcased as important historical artifacts in the the Society’s History Center. Similar to looms used by the Cheney Brothers silk industry, their display will allow the public to recapture the silk-making experience during the heyday of the Cheney mills. And, according to Society Executive Director Mary Dunne, once they are up and running, they will be the only working silk looms in the state.

“We plan to set up a working ‘tableau’ of a typical silk weaving operation,” she said. “I think these looms will attract people from all over the northeast who are interested in learning about this era in textile history. Even if you know nothing about weaving and textiles, an operating Jacquard loom is a beautiful sight to see.”