In 1846, Henry Hale Stevens incorporated Stevens Linen Works and began production in the old Merino Woolen Company which had been started in 1812 as a cooperative wool spinning mill. The building, located in Dudley, Massachusetts, is still used to manufacture top quality kitchen textiles, including their world-famous calendar towels, today.
Stevens was attracted to this site because of the existing buildings and the availability of water power from the lake formed by the woolen company for power. His goal was not to continue the production of wool but rather to begin the first organized manufacturing of linen in the United States. Mills in Europe were already producing linen, but in the US, it was still a cottage industry. Most farms and rural homes had a small patch of flax in their gardens, which they then mixed with local wool to produce a fabric known as linsey-woolsey, for their daily clothing. Steven's vision was to make linen on a large scale to replace the European imports. He imported machinery and workers from Scotland and production began the following year.
Over the next 100 years the mill would produce a number of products all based on linen and would go through various periods of growth particularly during war time. A new building was added in 1857 on which was carved the company's enigmatic motto, "All Was Others. All Will Be Others". What was to become the main mill building was built during the Civil War and other additions were built during the two World Wars.
In the first third of this century, Stevens Crash Towels had become the standard for dish towels across the country. At the end of World War II, the electric dishwasher was developed and, along with the introduction of "Turkish" toweling, greatly reduced the demand for linen towels. As demand was dropping, a mill employee came up with the idea of printing calendars on the towels. The first linen calendar towels were produced in 1954 and the Stevens kitchen linen program was off and running. Today the company produces over 2,500 products including kitchen linens, baby linens, tote bags, and calendars.