Klotz Throwing Company
A remarkable time capsule of American manufacturing deep in Maryland coal country.
The Klotz Throwing Company, nestled in the mountains of western Maryland, was a silk mill that once employed about 300 workers full-time before shuttering in 1957. Miraculously, the factory remains eerily untouched: Worker cubbies still hold shoes, combs, tins of Noxema, and empty jars of apple butter from lunch breaks gone by.
Like much of the Appalachian region’s heavy industry, the silk mill business in Maryland has seen better days. The Klotz Throwing Company was once a major employer for the tiny town of Lonaconing, but one day in 1957 it closed its doors, since production had become cheaper overseas.
Under the ownership of Herb Crawford, who tended to the building for 40 years, the mill cheated death. Crawford was swindled into buying it, but held no grudges. He kept it open for photographers and visitors, but as the building crumbled, this became increasingly difficult.
If permitted, embarking on a self-guided tour will take awhile to wander through three floors and then some. For many, it is absolutely worth the trouble. Transistor radios sit at attention on top of rows and rows and rows of spindles that used to take the silk that came in from Japan and turn it into thread for apparel production. Everywhere one looks, there is a tiny piece of history. Very few places on Earth remain so utterly frozen for 60 years.
Update May 2019: Herb passed away in February 2019. It’s uncertain if his children will keep letting photographers in to photograph it.
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