August 22 – Happy Birthday Ada Shuttleworth

Shuttleworth Brothers' Amsterdam carpet mill.
Shuttleworth Brothers’ Amsterdam carpet mill.

Those who’ve studied the history of Amsterdam know the story of the four Shuttleworth brothers pretty well. Their grandfather was an English weaver who had sent his oldest son William to a textile exposition in Paris France in 1851. William returned from that event with a Certificate of Merit signed by Napoleon III. In 1878, the four sons of William Shuttleworth brought that certificate with them to America along with 14 hand looms and set up a factory in Amsterdam’s East End to manufacture Brussels carpet.

Of the four Shuttleworth Brothers who started the business, the two oldest, John and James would end up having the least influence on the operation and future of the company. The third oldest of the boys, Walter took charge at first and ran the firm until 1902. But apparently, based on what I’ve read about him,  he lacked the cunning and killer instinct necessary to grow a company in the free-wheeling era of massive industrial growth that was taking place in America at the turn of the twentieth century. It would instead turn out to be Herbert Shuttleworth, the youngest of the brothers who would fill that role and become the driving force behind the dramatic merger fueled growth of the enterprise. Herbert replaced Walter as president of the family mill in 1902 and then became the powerful chief executive of Mohawk Carpets, the company formed when the siblings merged their firm with McCleary, Wallin & Crouse in 1920.

As is often the case in a family owned business, to the victor goes the power of succession. It would be Herbert’s two sons, first Arthur and then Howard who would succeed their father as head of the company and then Arthur’s son Herbert L. Shuttleworth who would one day rule Mohasco until almost the day its corporate headquarters abandoned Amsterdam.

Meanwhile Walter Shuttleworth never really recovered from the stress he suffered running the firm’s operations in its early days. By 1912 he had retired from the business entirely and spent the last 13 years of his life battling a weak heart. He finally lost that battle in the spring of 1925, leaving four sons and two daughters who survived him. At the time of Walter’s death only one of his sons worked for the company he had helped start and had headed for a quarter century. The eldest of his daughters, Ada Shuttneworth is today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant.

Ada was born on August 22, 1883. Her obituary, which appeared in the Recorder on September 13, 1972 consisted of all of four paragraphs…

You can read the rest of my story about Miss Shuttleworth in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

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