Updated - 08162019
The garment industry (more accurately referred to as the textile industry) was a huge part of the economy of early Auburn. Several textile factories contributed to both the employment of many Auburn residents as well as the wealth of their individual factory owners.
Auburn had factories that manufactured textile fabrics and cloths, neckties, kerchiefs, clothing, sport wear, stockings, and shoes. A few of these factory buildings are still in existence while other early structures were either dismantled, re-purposed as private residences or destroyed by fire.
"Artistic Knitting Mill" - The Artistic Knitting Mill was located in a sturdy two story brick factory which was once located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Front and Washington Streets in Auburn. The cornerstone of the building indicates that the Artistic Knitting Mill began production at this location in 1922. This building no longer exists, having been destroyed by fire and subsequently razed. A gravel parking lot is presently located on the site where the building once stood.
A partial listing of prior employees and/or owners of the Artistic Knitting Mill include:
Boltz, George J.
Boltz, Maud I.
Lilienthal, Richard S.
"Auburn Knitting Mills" - In 1880 a broom factory was founded by John Diefenderfer, his son William H. Diefenderfer and co-founder William G. Faust. The broom factory was subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1885. When rebuilt, the manufacturing of hosiery was started by William H. Diefenderfer and William G. Faust. The facility became known as the Auburn Knitting Mills.
The textile complex once known as the Auburn Knitting Mills was located between Elm Street and Cedar Alley as well as between Second and Third Streets. The core building of the Auburn Knitting Mills factory is believed to have been initially constructed in 1887.
In 1895, the Auburn Knitting Mills expanded its production to include the manufacturing of underwear.
William Faust was killed in 1911 while attempting to cross the train tracks near Canal Street of Auburn in his truck. A locomotive struck the vehicle and Faust died from his injuries. William Diefenderfer purchased his interest in the mill and continued manufacturing hosiery and underwear.
A replication of a news snippet found on an obviously falsified newspaper format (see picture on right) suggests that a burglary actually occurred at the Auburn Knitting Mill. The timeline for this criminal act is assumed to have been between the years 1887 (the year the mill was built) and 1911 (the year William Faust died) based on the reference "the hosiery mill of Faust and Diefenderfer". A subsequent inventory of the plant revealed that 23 dozen of "fast black half hose", weighing approx. 200 pounds, were missing.
In 1914, William Diefenderfer died. The mill continued operation under the ownership of William's son, Guy H. Diefenderfer Sr.. The mill was manufacturing bathing suits and "beach pajamas". Around this time, their production also include the making of sweaters.
A newspaper article inferred that the mill employed at least "60 to 70 hands" in 1915...which seems excessively high unless the word "hands" is taken literally meaning individual hands (i.e. - thirty to thirty-five people possessing a combined total of 60 to 70 hands) rather than figuratively meaning "individual workers.
In February 1918, during a phase of expansion in which the roof was being raised to add an additional story to a portion of the structure, the supports gave way and contractor A. B. Binner was trapped in the collapsed debris. Fortunately, Mr. Binner was not seriously injured. Guy H. Diefenderfer Sr. was the proprietor of the mill at this time.
During World War II, knit pajamas were being manufactured at the Auburn Knitting Mill. After the war was over, Guy's son, Guy H. Diefenderfer Jr. and Gerald Swoyer, a son-in-law of Guy Sr., entered the business. When Guy Sr. passed circa 1950, Guy Jr., Swoyer and his wife, Kathleen Diefenderfer Swoyer, assumed the responsibility of running the business. When Guy Jr. died, the Swoyers assumed full ownership of the mill.
By 1971, the building had undergone at least two major renovations and expansion. However, on Thanksgiving Day (November 25th, 1971), tragedy struck again. Around 2:30 p.m. a neighboring resident, Sarah Ebling, noticed flames at the site and called in an alarm. A conflagration was sweeping through the historic wooden structure in which thirty-five people were employed. Approximately a dozen fire companies responded to battle the flames using fifteen different pieces of equipment during the inferno.
Fire companies from Auburn, Deer Lake, Landingville, Orwigsburg, Port Clinton, Pottsville (both the West End Aerial truck and the Yorkville Company), Schuylkill Haven (both the Liberty and the Schuylkill Hose Companies) and Summit Station were hampered in their efforts due to the wind and cold temperatures. The last fire company to depart the scene left eight-and-one-half hours after the alarm had been sounded. A minor re-ignition at approximately 8:00 a.m. the following morning resulted in the Auburn Fire Company to return to the scene until the blaze was finally extinguished.
The fire was suspected to have started at the point where the electrical power lines entered the building. At one point a bystander noticed the paint on an exterior gasoline pump beginning to blister from the heat and a responding fire company had to redirect its attentions to dousing the pump with water in order to cool its temperature before another disaster might occur. Obviously due to the intensity and duration of the blaze, the existing wooden structure was totally destroyed. Gerald Swoyer, husband of the great-granddaughter of the original founder John Diefenderfer and granddaughter of original founder William H. Diefenderfer, was the owner of the Auburn Knitting Mill at the time of this blaze. Guy H. Deifenderfer Jr. had passed approximately ten years prior to this incident.
Impressively, a year and two months after the tragedy, the Auburn Knitting Mills had demolished & razed the burnt remnants of the mill and had finished construction of a brand new brick & mortar structure to replace the original factory. The company sent out letters announcing the opportunity for the public to visit the site and view the new facilities. The newest addition to the plant was an one-story cement block building containing 15,902 square feet of manufacturing and office area. Portions of the old plant were also restored and the company boasted a 20% increase in manufacturing space to allow for expanded operations in each department. The majority of knitting and sewing equipment which had been primarily damaged by water was salvaged plus new equipment was added. All of the displaced employees resulting from the fire were offered re-employment. In 1975, the mill was sold to John Hester.
Sadly, like so very many textile industries across America, the Auburn Knitting Mills days of production were limited. Over the decades the owners had built a successful business from scratch, had expanded and employed dozens of Auburn-area residents, had survived a roof collapse and had arose from the ashes of a tragic fire like an industrial Phoenix only to eventually succumb to the cruel effects of international economics. The building is still present and is presently primarily used for storage.
A few of the known employees of the Auburn Knitting Mills over the decades include:
Anderson, Herbert (employment date unknown)
Anthony, Jennie (employed 1936)
Bainbridge, Betty (employed 1955)
Bainbridge, James (employed 1965)
Baver, Brenda (employed 1968)
Boyer, Lillie (employed 1946)
Bressler, Ruth (employed 1950)
Deibert, Athena (employed 1954)
Deibert, Harold (employed 1950)
Dewald, Doris (employed 1969)
Diefenderfer, Guy H. Sr. (second generation owner)
Diefenderfer, Guy H. Jr. (third generation owner)
Diefenderfer, William H. (co-founder)
Faust, William G. (co-founder - 1887)
Fidler, Verna (employed 1950)
Franko, Marcella (employed 1942)
Guers, Barbara (employed 1949)
Hain, Ronald (employed 1971)
Homewood, Douglas (employed 1970)
Hummel, Joanne (employed 1951)
Kissinger, Meta (employed 1938)
Lawrence, Bettie Lou (employed 1968)
Long, Geraldine (employed 1971)
Long, Harold (employed 1955)
Luckenbill, Ruth (employed 1971)
McCool, Leora (employed 1925)
Mengel, Iva (employed 1942)
Mengel, John (employed 1911)
Mickshaw, Doris (employed 1955)
Rausch, Edith (employed 1936)
Reedy, Jeannette (employed 1934)
Santella, Faye (employed 1964)
Sowers, Sarah (employed 1942)
Sweigert, Meta (employed 1910)
Swoyer, Gerald (third generation owner)
Swoyer, Mrs. Gerald Diefenderfer (third generation owner)
Webber, Phyllis (employed 1965)
Weston, Dawn (employed 1954)
"Auburn Manufacturing Company" - The Auburn Manufacturing Company operated from the same brick factory previously inhabited by the Artistic Knitting Mill. This building, constructed in 1922, was situated at the northwest corner of Front and Washington Streets. One product manufactured by this company was "Ladies Underwear". Years after the Auburn Manufacturing Company no longer inhabited the structure, the building was destroyed by a catastrophic fire. The ruins were demolished and removed and the site is now an empty lot.
Auburn shirt factory - The actual name of this factory is unknown at this time. A vintage non-professional postcard identifies the structure as a "Shirt Factory" but provides no other information pertaining to the business. An industrial directory for the state of Pennsylvania circa 1920 lists an "H. A. Kline" of Auburn, Schuylkill County as being a manufacturer of shirts but it is uncertain as to whether Kline was affiliated with this structure. The building still exists but has been repurposed for private residential use.
"Craftex Mills Inc. of Pennsylvania" - Craftex Mills was founded in Philadelphia in 1903. The factory's original product was the manufacturing of piano scarves. After a few years of production, the factory shifted its focus to woven jacquard fabrics. The actual manufacturing of the fabrics was relocated in the late 1960s to their Auburn, PA mill, referred to as their "weaving facility", located just east of Auburn adjacent to Rt. 895.
An April 1974 newspaper clipping stated that Craftex Mills was constructing a $550,000 addition to their factory and their projected goals were to employ 300 people with a payroll in excess of one and one-half million dollars within three years of the project's completion. At the time of this news release, Robert B. Blum was the President of the Craftex Mills company, S. J. Seder served as executive Vice-President of the company and Gerald Kaplan served as the company's legal counsel.
After decades of production, the Auburn facility was permanently closed in 2009 due to economic factors. A more comprehensive list of many of the prior employees of Craftex Mills is in the process of being created in order to provide the information to this website. Our appreciation goes to prior employee Beverly Kerschner for her assistance in the research of the history of this industry.
Individuals who were affiliated with Craftex Mills in the capacity of owners or employees include:
Blum, Robert Jr.
Blum, Robert Sr.
Moyer, Kay Sunday
(Note: Some of these names were spelled based on their phonetic pronunciations and may be incorrect. If you know of any corrections or additional names, please contact us via the "Visitor Input" page.)
"Diefenderfer's sewing factory" - Although written reference exists pertaining to "Diefenderfer's Sewing Factory", this terminology is believed to have been an improper reference to the "Auburn Knitting Mills" owned and operated by the Diefenderfer family.
"GEM Undergarment Company, Inc." - Very little information is currently available about the GEM Undergarment Company, Inc. other than this local page-insert advertisement implies there was a production plant in Auburn, PA. The name of Henry Trumbo was found in near proximity to a vague reference about GEM Undergarment but it is unclear as to what role, if any, Trumbo played in this industry. A Henry Trumbo and his son Henry Trumbo both lived in Auburn in the mid-1800s; however, this advertisement would have been post-1900.
"Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company" - The building which once contained the original portion of the Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company was constructed in November of 1914 by the Auburn Board of Trade. This building was occupied by George W. Hubler's shoe company in March of 1915. The founder, George W. Hubler, had been involved in the manufacturing of shoes since 1889. George W. Hubler married Carrie L. Beck Hubler on March 25, 1894. The couple had a son George H. Hubler. Mr. Hubler purchased the building from the Auburn Board of Trade by 1918. The Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company began production of the manufacturing of children's, misses' and infant welt shoes. Mr. Hubler retired circa 1945 and a new corporation was formed under the name of Hubler Shoes, Inc.
Early Monday morning on July 17, 2006, at approximately 2:00 a.m., an eleven year old girl named Amanda Dietrich was watching television when she noticed flames in the vacant factory building adjacent to her home. She awoke her family and the apartment building located at 427 Bear Creek Street in which they lived was quickly evacuated. Young Amanda is hailed as a hero for her actions as the fire destroyed not only the factory but the apartment building as well. The fire caused an estimated $1,250,000 in damage and was considered the largest fire in the area in the past twenty-five years. Although the small brick structure at the northern end of the complex was saved, the majority of the factory building and the apartment building were a total loss and subsequently were demolished.
At one point the shoe company employed approximately 75 people. A partial listing of known employees of the Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company and/or the Hubler Shoe Company are listed below in alphabetical order by surname:
Aungst, Mary Lou
Baer, Mickey (Rudy)
Balthaser, Thelma R. Long Long Nagle Neyer*
Bender, Ray F.
Berger, Keith "Skinner"
Carl, Lester R.
Filbert, E. Stuart
Hess, C. W.
Hubler, George H.
Hubler, George W.
Mason, Harry W.
Metz, Jim "Lurch"
Reeser, Perma E.
Schrader, Earl "Red"
Steffy, Jim "Ken"
Steffy, Steward "Tink"
Webber, Anna Mae
*Thelma R. Long Long Nagle Neyer Balthaser was the daughter of Robert M. Long and Mary Ann Mengle Long. As a result, her maiden name was Long but she married Clayton H. Long (d. Jan. 1962), Charles J. Nagle (d. Oct. 1963), Paul K. Neyer (d. March 1979) and Norman W. Balthaser whom she predeceased. Thelma has the dubious distinction of possibly having the longest string of names in Auburn's history.
Hubler Shoes, Inc. - Hubler Shoes, Inc. was a generational successor of the original Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company. As a result, the history of the Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company and its eventual evolution into Hubler Shoes, Inc. is documented under "Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company" only.
"Jyll Industries" - A vague written reference to "Jyll Industries" of Auburn, PA is all that is currently known about this possible Auburn-area factory. Anyone who might be able to shed light on this, or any other of these industries, please contact us via the "Visitor Input" page.
"L' Art De La Mode, Inc." -
Necktie factory - Vague historical references mention a "necktie" or "neckwear" factory in Auburn but doesn't identify an exact geographical location nor provide the actual name of the factory.
"Nester Knit" -
"Nice Knitting Mills" - These two promotional pencils advertise for the "Nice Knitting Mills" of Auburn, PA with a slogan which states "Where (the) world gets its terries." Very little information is known about this industry. One individual stated the factory may have later inhabited the same building as the reconstructed Auburn Knitting Mills once occupied, but that is unconfirmed. If you have any information regarding this company, please contact us via the "Visitor Input" page.
Orchard Street knitting mill - This small brick structure overlooking the railroad tracks is located at the east end of Orchard Street. Although the building has been a private residence for many years, it was previously utilized as a church. Unsubstantiated information suggests the building was once also a textile factory which possibly manufactured silk stocking but no further information is currently available on that topic. The name of the industry once located within the building is unknown at this time.
Silk stocking factory - See: "Orchard Street knitting mill"
"Tijan Leather Company" - The Tijan Leather Company was located within the same structure that once housed the rebuilt Auburn Knitting Mill east of Third Street. Many area residents complained about a strong stench generating from this location caused by the company's leather curing process. The company was adjudicated as being in violation of zoning ordinances and could no longer operate at this location.
"Windsor Knitting Mill, Inc." - This sign for the Windsor Knitting Mill, Inc. of Auburn, PA was once photographed in the brick structure that once housed the Geo. W. Hubler Shoe Company adjacent to Bear Creek Street. The implication is that the Windsor Knitting Mill may have been operating out of the building after the Shoe Company closed but that is unconfirmed at this time. Whether the sign still exists is unknown.
Womer's rag warehouse - This brick structure is believed to have been constructed in 1922 to house the Artistic Knitting Mill. At some point, the ownership transferred to the Auburn Manufacturing Company. After the Auburn Manufacturing Company no longer inhabited the building, it was occupied by a business run by someone whose surname was Womer. Residents have referred to his industry as a "rag warehouse" in which he manufactured rags but the actual name of that business and the exact nature of his product is unclear. A massive fire consumed the structure, fueled in part by the rags within the building, resulting in its demise. The ruined shell of the building was subsequently razed for safety purposes.
Wright's knitting mill - Vague written reference to "Wright's knitting mill" is unclear as to its location nor is it clear whether this was a predecessor of "Wright's Knit Wear" or simply a generic term for that company.
"Wright's Knit Wear" - Wright's Knit Wear factory was located at 800 Market Street of Auburn. This vintage "Pocket-Tee" shirt in its original package is one of the few pieces of memorabilia from this company in the Auburn Area Historical Society's possession.
Miscellaneous - The picture on the right was found amongst other Auburn-area memorabilia. The possibility exists that this photograph depicts the interior and employees of one of the area textile mills but it is uncertain. If you have any information that pertains to this picture, please let us know by visiting our "Visitors Input" webpage.