"History of the O'Bannon Mill"
A lecture and slide presentation by Virginia Adams on April 23, 1997 at the Barrington Public Library. Sponsored by the Barrington Preservation Society. Ms. Adams co-authored Historic and Architectural Resources of Barrington, 1993, published by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission.
In 1905, a local man (Mr. Frost ) started the Frost Finishing Co. in Barrington; it manufactured artificial leather. The original 1905 structure remains within the present O'Bannon building. Mr. O'Bannon, from New York, was originally the treasurer. In 1911, O'Bannon bought out Frost. At that time 150 workers were employed in Barrington and there was also a plant in New Jersey. O'Bannon was then the largest manufacturer of imitation leather in the world; the primary customer was the automobile industry. In 1912, the mill building was enlarged, an upper story was added, and the two plants were consolidated in Barrington. The Annawamsutt Mill, across the steet from the plant, was acquired by O'Bannon about this time. By 1917, employment had reached 1200. In 1918, the company switched to arms manufacture (gun cottens). A plant in East Providence (Nonnabo) was also acquired; it shipped material to the Imperial Russian Army via Vladivostok in 1918.
By 1920, The O'Bannon Corporation had grown five-fold. It had two plants in Barrington, one in East Providence, and one in Taunton, MA. Mr. O'Bannon was declared incompetent in 1921 and died two years later. The Corporation went bankrupt in 1926. The Barrington facility was bought by the Cranston Worsted Mills in 1926, and a year later acquired by Collins and Aikman, with whom it stayed until 1959 (employing 325 in that year). The buildings were subsequently owned by American Tourister and Piling Chain(1974). The Annawamsutt Mill burned to the ground in 1995; all that remains of it is the water tower.
The remaining mill building was converted to elderly housing in the early '90's.
The notes from this lecture were taken and submitted by Ken Mason