Banning Mill
Second Floor, Carding

After the bales were opened and cleaned in the picker room, the cotton was delivered to the second floor where it was carded. “Carding combed the fibers to align and join them into a loose rope called a ‘sliver’. Hand carders pulled the fibers between wire teeth set in boards. Machines did the same thing with rotating cylinders. Slivers were then combined, twisted, and drawn out into ‘roving’” (A Guide to Lowell, by the National Park Service, 1992).

When John Holder, a former mill hand at Banning, was asked about his father’s job at the mill, he replied, “He worked in the, they called it, I believe it was up there in the card room, where they had big ole slubbers where that cotton was right after they opened it up [in the picker room] … and it starts coming through there and it’s, you know, opening up. And that’s where the beginning of it [the process] and it goes all the way through it and it comes on out down through the spinning room [on the third floor]. So it’s a big process there…”

In 1885, the second floor also housed slashers. In Banning’s early years, from about 1885 to 1889, it manufactured cotton from its raw state into finished yarn. Slashing was part of the cotton cloth process.

On the 1895 Sanborn map, carding is the only activity listed on the second floor. It is possible carding continued in this area of the mill until 1940 when C. L. Upchurch purchased the mill and began manufacturing tire cord and rubber bicycle and motorcycle handlebar grips.

Can you imagine what the mill, full of machinery, looked like at the turn of the century? The pictures above show the second floor as it appears today. How do you think the mill has changed? Can you imagine what it must have sounded like, felt like, or looked like when it was full of carding machines?