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Plymouth Carding Mill

Plymouth Carding Mill Before it can be spun into thread or yarn, wool must be combed, or carded, to straighten the wool fibers and remove impurities. Water powered carding machines made it much easier and faster to prepare the wool for spinning by performing this fiber-straightening operation which was easier and faster than using hand tools. It would take a family months to prepare as much wool by hand as a carding machine could card in a day. Mechanical carding machines used a series of rollers covered Plymouth Carding Mill with metal brushes to comb, straighten and roll the wool into "rovings."

Built in 1850 near the Middle Rouge River in Plymouth, Michigan, the Carding Mill carded raw wool brought by local farmers. John Gunsolly ran the mill for 40 years, from 1850 to 1890. The carding machines were used to produce carded wool which Gunsolly shipped out East to larger textile mills, where the wool was turned into cloth. Local customers would pay him for his services by giving him some of the wool he carded for them. The farmers returned home with carded "rovings" or wool rolls, ready for spinning into yarn.

Plymouth Carding Mill Between 1840 and 1880, Michigan farmers raised millions of sheep. Farmers could either turn their own wool into yarn or cloth at home, have it process, or sell the raw wool to a merchant who shipped it to eastern markets such as Boston, Massachusetts. By the 1880’s, small carding mills in Michigan could no longer compete with larger and more profitable woolen mills in the East and South.

Plymouth Carding Mill Henry Ford frequently accompanied his father William to this Carding Mill along with farmers from many miles around. William Ford took the wool from his sheep by horse-drawn wagon on the 2-3 hour trip to this mill where they would have their wool carded to sell to local wool merchants. Henry Ford’s fond memories of his trips to this mill with his father inspired him in 1929 to relocated the empty and abandoned mill.

In addition to the Carding Mill, John Gunsolly operated a gristmill and cider mill in Plymouth, Michigan. Gunsolly increased his opportunities to become a successful businessman with this group of mills, since each mill only stayed open for a few months out of the year.

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