Archives & Special Collections
New Bedford Textile School Chartered in 1895
In 1895 the Honorable Samuel Ross, member of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Court and a prominent New Bedford resident, helped sponsor a bill that authorized the creation of three state textile schools in Massachusetts, in the cities of New Bedford, Fall River and Lowell. The result was the establishment, over the next nine years, of Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River (1904), the New Bedford Textile School (1899), and the Lowell Textile School (1895). As chartered, the New Bedford Textile School was to provide “instruction in the theory and practical art of textile and kindred branches of industry.”
The first building, designed by Nathaniel C. Smith, was begun and completed in 1899 at 1213 Purchase Street in downtown New Bedford. The city of New Bedford matched construction funds with those provided by the state. It was a three-story building with offices and classrooms and was outfitted with the latest textile mechanical equipment. A second building was added in 1902, adjacent to 1213, (later expanded in 1905). A chemistry/engineering building was constructed in 1911 which added more classrooms, a gymnasium, and an amphitheater.
Classroom instruction emphasized both the theory and practice of all phases of manufacturing, finishing and distribution of textiles, and was intended to refine the skills of local mill workers by offering both day and evening classes. Trade school instruction in textiles was widely recognized as important in Europe and by the establishment of NBTS and BDTS, American was finally catching up with Europe and could now compete globally. The first course offered was the “General Cotton Course.” Diplomas were granted for a 2-year course of study in the day program, and certificates were awarded for completing courses in the Evening School.
On July 1, 1918, the New Bedford Textile School became a state institution, with the Commonwealth assuming most of its financial burden. A 17-member board of trustees was appointed by the governor, including the mayor of New Bedford and the head of the New Bedford public schools. To consult the trustees’ records, URC 1 (PDF), please contact the Archives and Special Collections. For further reading, see also the bulletins, catalogues, and yearbooks of the New Bedford Textile School, which have been digitized and are available through the Internet Archives.