The Macclesfield of America – Paterson, New Jersey

The Silk Museum

The Silk Museum, 9 June – 22 September 2018.

The centre of America’s silk industry, Paterson, New Jersey is known as ‘Silk City USA’. As part of this year’s Barnaby Festival, tying directly in with the theme of Roots/Routes, The Silk Museum on Park Lane will be hosting an exhibition highlighting the close historic ties between Macclesfield and Paterson, and those who made the journey to start a new life there.

It is not simply a shared industrial heritage which connects the two communities: the silk industry in Paterson was founded by a Bollington man, John Ryle, whose older brothers ran a successful silk mill in Macclesfield. In 1839, Ryle sailed to America and within a few years had his own mill in Paterson. The city was originally created as an industrial area by Alexander Hamilton’s Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures, (the American Founding Father is finding new fame as the subject of award-winning musical ‘Hamilton’). Ryle’s success led to other Macclesfield men moving to Paterson to open mills there and by the 1870s business was booming, as opposed to Macclesfield where it was on the decline. Hundreds of families emigrated there to continue working in the silk industry.

As 2018 is the centenary of the end of the First World War, the exhibition particularly emphasises connections between the two communities at that time. When America entered the war in April 1917, some of those who enlisted in Paterson were born in Macclesfield and many more were the sons and grandsons of Maxonians.

An American flag was received from the Mayor of Paterson in exchange for a Union Jack sent to him by the Mayor of Macclesfield – “to mark the good feeling existing between the inhabitants of Paterson and Macclesfield as allies in the Great War with Germany”. To mark the centenary of the Armistice, flags are again being exchanged between Macclesfield and Paterson. The Stars and Stripes sent from Paterson, and other items relating to the exchange, will feature in the exhibition.

During the Barnaby Festival the museum hopes to have members of Macclesfield’s Family History Society in attendance to help provide information to anyone who is interested in tracing family connections with the New Jersey city. For further details, or if you have tales to tell, get in touch on 01625 612045 or email events@silkmacclesfield.org.uk

The Silk Museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. Admission to the Paterson exhibition is free, admission charges apply if you wish to visit the rest of the museum.

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