The King Company Textile Plant
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The Plant, depicted in 1895.
The King Company Textile Plant
Abandoned Location/Alleged Phenomenon
Geographical/Provincial Data
Location: Saltville Municipality Incorporation Area, New York State, United States
Date of Establishment: 1870
Original Owner: Malcolm L. King and the King Textile Company
Current Owner: Saltville Municipality, New York
Witnesses to Phenomena
Original Witness: Jakob "Jack" Shriner, Employee of King Textiles
Last Known Witness: N/A

The King Company Textile Plant was a textile factory in Saltville, New York, which operated from 1870 until its almost complete destruction in 1895.[1] It was notable for being the largest producer of white cotton shirts in Upstate New York, many of which were high-quality and were marketed to the upper class. King Shirts were worn by individuals in Tammany Hall[2], and are notable for being remarkably long-lasting, due in large part to the amount of pesticides used to 'finish' the fabric, repelling insects that would otherwise infest and consume the shirts[1]. Furthermore, it was one of the first factories in New York State to use a mechanical time clock, as opposed to timesheets.[3]

On October 15th, 1895—the birthday of Malcolm King, Founder and President of King Textiles—the factory burned to the ground in an act of arson. Originally attributed to a communist element[4], the culprit in the arson case was found to have been Jakob Shriner, a German immigrant who was illiterate in English and had no familiarity with either the name or the works of Karl Marx. Shriner's statement was used to send him to an asylum on Wards Island, New York City, where he died of smallpox in 1899. Until his death, he claimed that his statement was entirely true.


Saltville was founded in 1860. A relatively poor community, its demographics were made up of immigrants kicked out of New York City, largely due to religious persecution. The majority of the community were German and Slavic Jews, along with several Catholic families, and a small pagan element that may have practiced Irish fairy worship[citation needed].

In 1870, the King Textile Company, a British textile firm based in Manchester, bought a large plot of land in Saltville for the construction of its first American factory, promising jobs to the inhabitants of the town. By the time it was fully operational in 1872, approximately 50% of Saltville's population—men, women, and children—held a job in the factory, even after the federal abolition of child labor in 1881[5], behavior which was allowed due to the fact that the government of New York State never sent regulators to the King Textiles plant.

The building was constructed with living space enough for over five hundred workers; Saltville, at the time, only had a population of approximately six hundred. As the town grew due to the presence of the plant, it was expanded outwards to accommodate a larger population. In addition, the plant was unusually progressive in that—possibly in part due to the fact that the majority of its workers were Sabbath-observing Jews—it closed operations almost entirely on Saturday and Sunday[6]. A crew of Catholics was left to operate the plant on Saturday, with Romani and Pagan workers coming in to work on Sunday, if available.

Employment of Jakob Shriner

Jakob Shriner(b. 1860(?)) was a German immigrant who had no family, friends, or connections in the United States. His reasons for immigrating are unclear, as records pertaining to the time that he would have arrive in America—either August or September of 1890, based on his testimony in court—were destroyed by flooding during the Vagabond Hurricane of 1903[7].

Facing discrimination and a life as a beggar in New York City, Shriner relocated to Saltville as part of a caravan of Romani and Jews. He found employment at the plant almost immediately, and by all accounts[Whose?] was well-liked and a good worker. Being Jewish himself, he was allowed to take the Sabbath off.

Shriner lived in the quarters at the King Factory, in communal rooms on the third floor, with several other German Jews. His behavior became erratic around the start of October of 1895, following an apparent nightmare.

Implementation of the Time Clock


A National Time Recorder Co. Ltd. Time Clock, similar to what would have been used by employees at the King Textile Plant.

The time clock was implemented in 1893, approximately two years after Jakob began working there. Though no pictures exist, records show that it was purchased from the National Time Recorder Company Limited, a London-based company that made some of the first mechanical time clocks. Transitioning from timesheets to the clock was a rough process, with several workers using the timesheets until mid-1894[3], when they were discontinued.

The clock may have had a fault in its mechanism; workers said that it produced a 'clunking din' when certain workers punched in and out, which was loud enough to be heard across the floor. This is likely due to the mechanism which read the punch cards catching and on certain ones, as several employees needed replacements on an almost-weekly basis[3], with Shriner being the worst offender.

Though no fault of his own, the foreman refused to let Shriner have a different punch card assigned to him, as reprogramming the clock to recognize a different card for him would be more time-consuming than simply giving him a new card every time his tore. One should bear in mind the fact that the cards in question were made of cardboard, and tearing through them, even with a mechanical apparatus, would have been very difficult. Furthermore, maintenance logs for the clock make no reference to having to remove torn cardboard from the mechanism[citation needed].

Destruction of the Plant

At approximately 12:30 AM on October 15th, 1895, Jakob Shriner (who was possibly not sober at the time) entered the main factory floor with a bottle of high-proof alcohol and a box of matches. Knowing that unprocessed cotton was highly flammable following a minor fire in the factory in 1893[8], he doused several spools of it with the liquor.

While letting it soak, he claims to have taken up a wrench or hammer (his account on this varied) and smashed the time clock 'thoroughly and violently'. He then doused the doors to the living quarters with water, in a measure to prevent the fire from spreading. Shriner then spread the cotton over as wide of an area as he could, positioned himself by the door, and lit the match.[9]

While the exterior of the building was largely stone, the interior had several wooden elements, so while the alcohol used as the initial ignition source burned off quickly, the cotton used as kindling quickly ignited several wooden structures inside, including the office of the foreman, as well as the apparently flammable pesticides used to finish the shirts made there.

Remarkably, there were no deaths as a result of this fire, but several life-threatening injuries resulted from the crush that occurred when attempting to exit the plant through auxiliary doors.[9]. Several hospitals in Oneida county admitted the workers.

Of the time clock, nothing was found, barring a sign that had once read "Property of the King Textiles Factory, Saltville". The words "King Textiles" had been dented to the point that they were unreadable.[3]

Statement of Jakob Shriner

The following statement was taken by a detective from New York City, where Shriner was apprehended. The detective is known only today as 'Detective Bouchard'; due to its oddly eloquent style, it is thought that it was embellished by Bouchard in some way.

Have you ever slept in a room with a ticking clock? The noise it makes, it can be sickening. If the gears stop, your heart can skip beats. It is how my grandfather died, so we never, ever keep clocks in the house.

When the clock was first put in at the factory, we were told that we did not have to use it, not at first. I avoided it as much as I could, but was told I would be given a three-cent raise if I started using it, and times were, ah, not so good, so I started using it.

Every day, the damn thing would growl and eat my card. It didn't clank, I don't care what anyone else said—it growled. I felt like it was biting into my card. It tore off a chunk at the wrong place, in one of the holes, making it useless. They had to punch a new one, every week, a new card.

One day, it wouldn't come out, wouldn't even tear. I used a stone to hit it to get my card out, and it didn't growl—it ROARED. But it surrendered my card, back into the slot, and the foreman didn't see I had dented his machine, so all was well.

…then I returned to the quarters that night. I walked into the front door of the boarding rooms, and I found myself on the factory floor. The machine still had the dent in it. I thought I must be dreaming, but I got to work so I didn't dream of being fired. I, er. Punched the clock? Yes, that's it. I punched the clock, and got to work.

People were crying throughout the first hour. I didn't notice it until I turned to attempt to make conversation with someone else working the frame beside me—her eyes were wet. I knew she was having troubles at home, and thought her upset, so I didn't think of it. But then I looked across the frame—the man on the other side, always so cheerful, though we didn't speak each other's languages. Crying, downtrodden, looking downwards.

The factory never smelled nice—it smelled of sweat, certainly, and dirt, and the fibers got in your nose. But we were never allowed away from the frames that day. Not once. The woman next to me soiled herself, and that made her cry harder. Worms came up out of the floor to eat it, and I was told to stomp on them, lest they get to the fiber.

When the second hour started, we were all called away from our positions. We were all stinking, sweaty. The sun was unreasonably hot out for October—or was it July? January? Time melted together. I looked out the window and saw snow, then night, then soot-blackened birds in sweltering springtime. The foreman yelled at us, but I couldn't understand him. None of us could. He was speaking every language at once, and none. We knew we would be fired if we didn't listen to him.

We tried our best to figure out what he wanted. The machines weren't broken. The spools were well-fed. The cotton was clean. The shirts were being treated. One of the children went over to ask him more clearly what he wanted, and—in English this time—he said that he would demonstrate.

He took the child and tied one of his hands in with the spools of the spinner I was working on. He told me to get back to work—I said that I would hurt the child. He said to get back to work, and that I would be fired if I didn't.

I thought I would just get his fingers, at first. He whimpered as the skin came off, just a small burn. But then he realized his hand wouldn't un-catch, and was pulled into the machine, unraveling into the spools. There was—there was no blood, I can't explain it. It was like he was made of cloth, but the cloth had eyes and bled. He stopped screaming when I unraveled his mouth, but I couldn't stop, because I knew they would dock my pay.

I did not see what happened to his yarn after that, because I was told that I had to come and work on the treatment of the shirts—something that I did not know how to do. I told him this, and he said I must learn, or I would be fired. There were two women who worked the treatment, like always, but they did not speak any language. How could they? Their mouths drooled the pesticide.

One of them kissed me, and my mouth burned. I tried to pull away, but cotton took me by the neck and forced me to her. My tongue burned away, and I found myself drooling onto the finished shirts, fabric becoming red and green with the poison and my blood. I tried wiping my mouth on the shirt, and my blood ate through it.

We broke for lunch—I thought it a reprieve. But everything in my pail had moldered, and the milk I had brought home was curdled. I was so hungry, but could not eat. I lacked the money to go to the grocer and even buy myself an apple. I tried to eat the food, and though I could keep it down, my blood and the poison mixed with it, and I found myself sobbing.

It proceeded like this after lunch. We threw more into the spools, unravelled them, and I would be forced to kiss the Giftfrauen—the poison women, and do work on the finishing. I could feel myself crying more and more, to the point where I thought my eyes would fall out.

When the foreman announced we would work another shift due to our laziness, all nodded. We worked an additional half of a shift, and then clocked out. I walked out of the same door I came in to. Another day had started, and the foreman was yelling at me for being late. The clock ate my card, and he threatened to fire me if I didn't fix it myself.

That shift was the same. More people unraveled, more poison down my throat, more blood on the shirts. I could not take it anymore, and as we were feeding another into the spools, I began to weep. But I knew the Sabbath would come soon, I had come in early so I could leave before the Sabbath began. When the bell rang—I hadn't even eaten my lunch at the time!—I put my card back into the clock, and with it, one of my fingers. I knew it would only work that way.

I do not remember my Sabbath. But I must have spent it, for I walked back in for the next shift. And the next one after that. And after that. For what seemed like years and years, I came into my shift, until one day, I could not tolerate it.

Have you ever seen the needles we use on the spools? They are far sharper than they look. I have cuts on my hand from them, dozens of cuts. When the foreman told us we would no longer be taking Sabbath, I broke. I could not defy the commands of God himself. I drove my head into the spinner. I felt my eyes burst as the needles dug in, only to awake in the quarters, surrounded by friends who looked concerned. A nightmare, I thought, but so vivid.

Then I went to the loom the next morning. One of the children who worked in the plant was missing. It was the boy who we had spun into cloth, and when I looked upon a shirt that had been finished, I saw a green stain on it that could not be removed, the same green as his eyes.

I burned it, I had to burn it. It is a Moloch! The entire thing, a Moloch! An altar we sacrifice ourselves on, and for what? Pocket change!


Though his statement was disbelieved by the public at large, the fact that he had experienced this apparent hallucination or nightmare brought serious scrutiny on the King Textile Company. When it was discovered that they still employed child labor at the factory, Governor Levi P. Morton ordered the plant shuttered. State prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for both Malcolm L. King and the foreman, Phillip Watch; however, both of them disappeared from a ship en route to England in November 1895.[10]

While the inside of the factory was gutted by fire, the structure itself remained standing. It was finally demolished in the 1920s, when construction began on the New York Parkway system in order to make way for what is now NY-28. A sub-basement is believed to still exist[by whom?], but has been rendered inaccessible to the public.

Shriner died of smallpox in an asylum in Ward's Island, New York City four years later. While given a chance of freedom (or at least better living conditions) if he recanted, he refused to do so, saying that what he said was true until he died. He was buried in a potter's field.

Saltville itself experienced a period of economic decline, a local depression that nearly resulted in the town being abandoned. By 1897, only four families remained in Saltville, and much of their time was spent praying for salvation. However, discovery of a large magnetite deposit in 1898—the fourth largest in New York state—transformed it into a thriving community largely made up of miners. Magnetite is a mineral very rich in iron, and its natural magnetic properties made it ideal for use in the growing amount of dynamo generators across the nation. By 1903, approximately 60% of all dynamo generators in the state of New York used Saltville Magnetite in some form. (For further details, see the Wikipedia article on the Oneida County, New York Depression.)

Comments by the Author

Article by FlavaFlavionol

Since the fire, the factory has become somewhat of a local legend n Saltville, which is a boring town besides. Other than a plaque saying where the factory used to be, the only thing that might remotely draw tourists is an old Irish manuscript in the local library; granted, it is a beautifully-illuminated manuscript, but it's almost impossible to see, with the fact that it's kept in climate-controlled darkness for 23 hours a day.

That being said, something bugs me about this—that being the use of the word 'Moloch' in Mr. Shriner's statement. Those of you who study Near East Mythology may be familiar with the fact that it is a name for a Caananite deity, whom children were sacrificed to, something that would reasonably have been known to a man of the Jewish faith. I find the use of that word interesting, however, because the word may have roots in the Caananite word for 'King'.

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