One of the leading businessmen of early 20th century Hawley, Pennsylvania was Michael Joseph (M. J.) Leonard. He operated a substantial knit goods and silk manufacturing business that stood across Hudson Street from Bingham Park, until the late 1990's. The three story factory, made of red brick, at one time was nicknamed, “The Brick Sweater.”
HAWLEY - One of the leading businessmen of early 20th century Hawley, Pennsylvania was Michael Joseph (M. J.) Leonard. He operated a substantial knit goods and silk manufacturing business that stood across Hudson Street from Bingham Park, until the late 1990’s. The three story factory, made of red brick, at one time was nicknamed, “The Brick Sweater.”
He and his wife Anna built a fine home at 308 River Street, raising five children.
Leonard was also president of the Hawley Bank.
On October 7, 1863, Leonard came into this world, the son of Irish immigrants, John and Ann (Gillavery) Leonard. The 1860 and 1872 Hawley maps shows the home of “J. Leonard” in the Irish enclave known then as Shanty Hill (Marble Hill), on North Street, corner with Grandview Avenue.
Mostly likely the elder Mr. Leonard worked for the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) gravity railroad, like many of his neighbors. As a boy, Michael went to work for the PCC, where he stayed 15 years. In the 1900 census, Michael was listed as a (rail) car inspector. He attended the local schools.
He then learned the trade of knitting and for a while was in the employ of United States Knitting Company, a Hawley firm that started in 1898. That year the company opened the brick factory at the corner of Hudson and Spruce, on what is today a vacant lot. The factory was built on the site of a long established general store (Curtis & Evans), among other structures on Hudson that were lost in an inferno.
In 1908 the firm became known as the Hawley Silk Company; M. J. Leonard was named General Manager. Jules Brandes of Paterson, NJ, a center for silk mill interests, was Secretary and Treasurer; E.C. Mumford of Honesdale was President.
Leonard was joined in business by Max E. Pester, forming L& P Knitting Company. Pester (1868-1937) and his wife Annie made their home on the Prospect Street right behind the factory, on the hill.
An industry journal in 1910 listed L& P Knitting Co. as producing sweaters and sweater coats. They utilized 12 knitting and eight sewing machines, run by electric power. There were 20 on the payroll at that time. They used a firm, H. Lee Mallory Co. as their sales agent in New York.
Wool, worsted and zephyr yarns were used.
The 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance street map for Hawley shows that L & P Knitting Co. was by that time utilizing the first floor, and Hawley Silk Company occupied the second and third.
Hawley Silk Co., in 1910, employed 30 and operated 1,200 spindles, run by electricity. George Mederer was superintendent.
The Sanborn map indicates they had a night watchman, making hourly rounds.
Leonard eventually bought out Brandes’ interest. Accounts published in 1926 reported that two companies shared the premises, and between them, more than 100 people were employed. The building had approximately 140,000 square feet of floor space. The second and third floors were occupied by the Hawley Silk Company for the preparation of silk for weaving and the first floor was used for Leonard Knitting Company. M. J. Leonard was President of the firm. Fine knit sweaters, jackets and coats and other items were produced.
In the September of 1910, the Hawley Bank was organized, and opened for business January 19, 1911. Leonard became interested in banking and financial affairs as the bank was preparing to open, and was one of their large stock holders. The bank was first located in the Jos. Skier building at the northeast corner of Main and Keystone, while they built their own facility at 212 Main Avenue.
He was elected as one of the directors in January 1913. In September 1916 he was selected to serve as bank president, the third since the bank opened. He held that office until his death, 16 years later. Leonard was president of the Hawley Bank when they made their final move in 1929, having erected a substantial building on the northwest corner of Main and Keystone (presently, PNC Bank).
The Leonard family was still living outside the borough in 1911, when in November he was elected as treasurer of Palmyra Township (Wayne County). Marble Hill within Palmyra. He also served as an elected school board member representing Palmyra Township. Leonard was a Democrat.
In January 1912, the Wayne County Commissioners established committees in the 28 municipalities across the county, to advocate for decent and proper burial for any veteran of the Civil War, Spanish American War or any preceding war, that were unable to afford burial expenses. M. J. Leonard was selected to serve for Palmyra Township, along with E.A. Marshall.
During the 1st World War, Leonard was active on boards and committees devoted t patriotic service, including the Liberty and Victory Loan campaigns.
M. J. Leonard and his family were affiliated with St. Philomena’s catholic Church (Queen of Peace). He was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hawley Council of the Knights of Columbus, holding the fourth degree, and was a member of the Maccabees.
In addition, Leonard was a member of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.
In 1899, Michael J. Leonard and Anna V. McCarthy, were married.
She was born in Hawley, September 7, 1871 to parents were Thomas and Mary (Calloway) McCarthy. Anna had a four year college education, and was active in social work.
The Leonards had five children, John P., born in 1900; Vincent G., in 1903; Eugene A., in 1906 and twins Mary and Joseph, born in 1912.
Evidently it was time for expansion of their living quarters.
A news item in the Honesdale Citizen reported on February 21, 1913, that Leonard has recently completed a “modern residence” at 308 River Street in Hawley Borough. He also purchased the lot across the street along the river bank, for a lawn, which the Hawley newspaper columnist commented was a very wise idea.
The columnist described the Leonards’ house as a colonial dwelling “that bespeaks hospitality from its wide porch to its doors and windows, by hiding them from sight of from the passing trains on the E. & W.V. railroad (which was visible across the Middle Creek).
“It is not so long ago that River street as considered an inferior part of Hawley; but that day is past, and people owning property there are very fortunate,” the Hawley columnist penned. “Were Mr. Leonard’s example followed and the river bank converted into a beautiful lawn from the upper bridge [which crossed the creek from near Wangum Avenue to meet Columbus Avenue at Marble Hill] to the new garage, that would be to Hawley what the river common is to Wilkes-Barre.”
Michael Joseph Leonard was 69 when he died from a sudden coronary attack on October 12, 1932.
His wife Anna was also 69, when she died at a hospital in Allentown, February 15, 1942.
Their son John became business partner with his father at the knitting mill, and was so listed in the 1925 Hawley directory. In the 1930 census, Michael was listed as manufacturer in silk and wool; his son John was manager and son Vincent was assistant manager, in the same trade- presumably at Leonard Knitting Mill.
John P. Leonard was in charge at Leonard Knitting Mill in 1935. That year, his brother Vincent was manager at the state liquor store in Hawley. John, Mary, Vincent and Eugene were all living at home at 308 River Street with their mother.
John and Vincent both graduated from the Pierce School in Philadelphia. Eugene attended the Bellefonte Preparatory School.
Hans Anke relocated his knitwear manufacturing business to the Leonard Knitting Mill building, after losing a factory on Church Street in the 1942 flood. Anke Knitting Mill was still in operation in the 1980’s.
Changing tastes after the 2nd World War, along with increasing foreign competition using cheaper synthetic materials and lower paid labor were making it harder for American textile companies to stay in business.
The “Brick Sweater” stood until 1997. The landmark had sat empty for some time, and the Borough determined it was unsafe. The structure was taken down, and the lot, currently for sale, has remained empty.
[Editor’s note: Anyone with more information on Anke Knitting Mill, including your stories and pictures, are welcome for a future article highlighting this company in more detail. Please contact the writer at The News Eagle.]
Pennsylvania: A History (1926) edited by George P. Donehoo (found at the Hawley Public Library)
History of Hawley, PA (1927) by Michael J. McAndrew
Vintage newspapers found at fultonhistory.com
Ancestry.com/ census records
The Blue Book Textile Directory of the United States & Canada (1910)