John Bracewell by Rev. Geo. B. Spalding, D. D.

John Bracewell was born June 18, 1837, in Clitheroe, England. Clitheroe is a busy cotton-manufacturing town on the Ribble, and in the greatest cotton-manufacturing district of the world, Lancashire.

The father, Miles Bracewell, from his early boyhood had been engaged in printing calico, having served his apprenticeship with James Thompson & Sons, who owned and managed the Primrose Print-Works. James Thompson was a famous manufacturer, his enterprise and liberality being known throughout Europe. For many years Miles Bracewell had charge of the "color department" in the Primrose Print-Works. He afterwards went into business for himself, and at the time of his death was the senior partner and principal owner of two print-works,—one at Oakenshaw and another at Kersal Vale.

It was while the father was in the service of James Thompson, that John Bracewell, then a very small boy, was regularly apprenticed to this distinguished manufacturer. The institution of apprenticeship, in anything like its English thoroughness, is little practiced in this country. For a long period in England the term apprentice was applied equally to such as were being taught a trade or a learned profession. The term of seven years was regarded as much a necessity for the learner in any craft, as for the scholar seeking to attain the degree of doctor, or master in the liberal arts. Although the laws which formerly made the apprenticeship compulsory have been abolished in England, yet the principle is universally recognized there in the form of a voluntary contract. Of its immense advantages in the way of securing the most thorough knowledge, and highest skill in the learner, no one can doubt. Mr. John Bracewell, who probably to-day holds the foremost place among those engaged in his business in this country, is a living argument for the excellence of the apprentice system. He began his tutelage as a lad. He began at the lowest round in the ladder of his advancement, and was long and rigidly held at each last until he could safely mount the higher one. There was a very superior French chemist employed in the Primrose Works, and no little of the boy's studies were under him.

When eighteen years of age, Mr. Bracewell had established such a reputation for proficiency in the mysteries of color that he was offered a fine position in a great carpet manufactory in France, but his father advised him to decline this flattering offer, feeling that the responsibility was too great for one so young. That subtle but irresistible influence which for so many years has been drawing such tides of population from Europe to America was already settling the question as to the country where this young man was to work out his great success. Only a month after he had declined to go to France, he received and accepted the offer of a position as assistant manager in the Merrimack Print-Works, Lowell, Mass. There he remained five years and a half, winning for himself a distinguished reputation by the energy and skill of his management. Certainly it argues some unusual qualities in his work while there, some extraordinary gifts and capacities in his nature, that could have led the Cocheco Manufacturing Company to call this young man of twenty-three years of age to its most responsible position, that of superintendent of its print-works. There were no less than thirteen applicants for this office. The directors, with entire unanimity, made choice of this youngest of them all, and gave to him the unlimited charge of the most important department of their great industry. Soon after entering upon his new duties, Mr. Bracewell took advantage of the suspension of work in the manufactory, made necessary at that period of the civil war, to enlarge his scientific knowledge by attending lectures on analytic chemistry at Harvard College. He studied with great thoroughness this science during a five months' course, and at the same time directed the many repairs and changes which were being made in the print-works at Dover. With the beginning of the year 1861, Mr. Bracewell took up his residence in Dover. The remarkable enterprise and judgment of the new manager made themselves at once felt. For just twenty years he continued in his position. These years witnessed a series of brilliant successes. He showed himself to be a genius in his profession. To his originating, creative mind he joins an unusual power of adapting to his own uses suggestions coming from whatever source. By his sheer abilities, his indomitable energy, his quickness of insight, his tireless perseverance, and his perfect command of the minute details of every branch of his work, Mr. Bracewell soon lifted the Cocheco goods to the very head of their class, and held them there to the last day of his service. The production of the print-works very nearly quadrupled during this period.

In 1864, Mr. Bracewell was married to Mary Harriet Hope, of Lowell, Mass., whose noble character death has made the more precious to many friends. There were born to them three daughters and one son, all of whom are living.

During Mr. Bracewell's residence in Dover he endeared himself to all classes of people by his large-hearted liberality, his great geniality, and his keen personal interest in whatever affected the welfare of the city or the condition of every individual in it. He was an ardent supporter of his church, which he greatly loved, and every good cause in the community. He was quick to suggest, and ready to lead any movement which was helpful to the material and moral advancement of Dover. With a view of benefiting the city, and also as a sound investment for his own advantage, Mr. Bracewell built, in 1879, a substantial and attractive block, consisting of nine stores, which spans the Cochecho river. It bids long to stand, a fitting monument of his public spirit and wise foresight.

Though born and educated an Englishman, he became an ardent, patriotic American citizen from the very day that he touched American soil. His pride and hopes for America are as intense as any native son's. His love for Dover is as tender and steadfast as though its air was the first he breathed. The church with which he first united, he still regards as his home. He long served her as a most efficient superintendent of its Sunday-school, and when he was about to remove his residence from Dover, out of a great desire to see the church freed from the burden of a debt of thirteen thousand dollars, Mr. Bracewell, by his payment of a tenth of the sum, led on others to such generous donations that the debt was speedily extinguished.

Mr. Bracewell may still be regarded as a New Hampshire son, and a citizen of Dover. His nature will not allow him to lose elsewhere the very great interest which twenty years' sojourn here has created in him. It may well be expected that he will some time return to permanently abide among friendships whose preciousness he and his host of friends so fully appreciate.

In January, 1881, Mr. Bracewell received an offer to go into business at North Adams, Mass., and as the physicians thought his wife's health would be better there than in Dover, he decided to make the change. The directors of the Cocheco Manufacturing Company, by offer of an increase of salary of from ten thousand to fifteen thousand dollars a year, and other inducements, sought to retain Mr. Bracewell in their employment; Mr. Bracewell, however, removed to North Adams, purchasing a third interest in the Freeman Manufacturing Company of that place, and the same success which was acquired in Dover has followed his abilities into the great business which he represents at North Adams. The Windsor calicoes, and other products of the Freeman Manufacturing Company, already stand in the market among the foremost of their class.

In 1877, Mr. Bracewell received the degree of Master of Arts from Dartmouth College,—a distinction well earned and worthily bestowed. During Gov. Prescott's term of office. Mr. Bracewell served as a member of his staff, with rank of colonel.

Mr. Bracewell's remarkable activity has not been shut into his business. The intensity of his nature comes out to an undiminished degree in his politics, his friendships, his public spirit, and his religious faith. His sympathies are quick and universal; his enthusiasms are communicative and inspiring; his affections are tender and loyal.