Rummaging through a hundred+ year-old mill building while repurposing it for diverse uses in the 21st century leads to some interesting discoveries. 

On the second floor of Kilburn Mill, we found this bounty of unique paper. The rolls of parchment provide a direct link to Kilburn’s more recent textile past. 

They are rolls of “markers” – apparel patterns from a former tenant – a company which left a large footprint on the building. Indeed, Madewell Manufacturing at one time defined Kilburn Mill and was a leader in the textile industry across the nation. 

Madewell began life 1937, manufacturing its signature jeans and dungarees for workingmen and hands-on professions. Later, the company would branch out into all manner of clothing, including women’s fashion, and even produce a popular bell bottom jean in the 1970s. 

Before the turn of the last century, it’s run in New Bedford at Kilburn Mill was done. But J.Crew resurrected it in 2004 and transformed the company’s name, logo and even history into a women’s clothier.

J. Crew’s acquisition of Madewell didn’t exactly sit well with offspring of its founder, Julius Kivowitz, who escaped Russian pogroms to begin a new life in America. Buzzfeed carried the story about that several years ago, which you can read here

Recently, J. Crew and Madewell generated better headlines when it was announced its clothing was now Fair Trade certified.

And today, still sitting in Kilburn Mill, are the original Markers used to manufacture Madewell clothing for the world from right here in Kilburn Mill in New Bedford, Massachusetts. 

As Kilburn Mill continues its transformation into a home for all sorts of small businesses and individual endeavors, it’s nice to be reminded of the time when one person with a dream came here all the way from the Russian Empire to create a new world for himself and his family…and in the process created  an iconic American brand which survives to this day. 

It’s part of the heritage of Kilburn Mill to turn dreams into reality. We’re honored to carry on the tradition.