Salt was a remarkable man in many ways. Not only was he the first to recognize the value of alpaca fiber, but he also respected and valued his employees at a time when working and living conditions for the common person was rough at best. His charity was boundless, and it was estimated that he gave away 500,000 pounds to charitable causes during his lifetime.
Titus Salt, the oldest of seven children, was born in Yorkshire, England, on Sept. 20, 1803, to Daniel and Grace Salt. After failing as a farmer, Daniel moved his family to Bradford and became a woolstapler. In 1824, Titus joined the family firm as a wool buyer, with Daniel Salt & Son becoming one of the most successful textile companies in Bradford.
In 1833, Daniel retired, leaving Titus to run the company. Under his guidance, the company prospered. Shortly after taking over the company, he took a chance and bought some neglected bales of alpaca fiber at a Liverpool warehouse. He experimented with it, and found it spun into soft, lustrous cloth suitable for fine ladies' dresses. He decided to process alpaca and alpaca-wool mixes full time, and Salt became a very wealthy man by the age of 40. He even owned his own alpaca herd!
Salt's company expanded to six mills and was the largest employer in Bradford. Bradford, however, was feeling its growing pains, as it was considered the most polluted town in England. The town emptied its sewage directly into the River Beck, which was its drinking water as well. Cholera and typhoid constantly broke out, with 70% of textile workers' children dying before the age of 15. It boasted the lowest life expectancy in England -- a meager 18 years of age!
In 1848, Salt became mayor of Bradford. An innovative man, he had already installed less polluting smoke burners in his mills. He tried to persuade the council to pass a law to force other mills to use these efficient smoke burners, but to no avail. Salt realized he could never convince the other business men that their factories were damaging people's health.
Out of concern for the health of his employees, Salt bought a 26-acre tract of rolling countryside three miles from Bradford on the River Aire. He built a large mill, and over the next 20 years he built a model village for his employees as well. He called this village Saltaire.
It was a village ahead of its time. It had a hospital, church, school, park, library and many shops. In addition, Salt included almshouses for the poor and elderly. Always concerned for his employees' health, Salt provided fresh water to be piped into each home from Saltaire's own 500,000 gallon reservoir. Gas was also provided and every family in Saltaire had its own outhouse. He also had public baths and wash houses built for the villagers.
His mill was designed to make use of the latest technology. Salt outfitted it with innovative air, water, and noise pollution control devices. The mill was involved in all facets of alpaca wool processing. It could output 30,000 yards of cloth each day.
Sir Titus Salt died on December 29, 1876. It was estimated that 100,000 people came out in bad weather to take part in his funeral. In fact, the mausoleum where he was interred remained open until January 13, 1877.
So why Saltaire? One obvious reason is that we're located in a coastal town of Connecticut and have actual salt air of our own. Another reason is that we're as concerned for our customers as Sir Titus Salt was concerned for his employees. We'll do everything in our power to ensure your success in the alpaca industry.
"Titus Salt used to ride through the village on a horse, cutting down washing lines (which were stretched across the streets) if they had dared to do their washing on the Sabbath! I don't know if this actually happened, but a lot of people told the same story."
-- former Saltaire resident
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