Union Straw Works
Members of the Carpenter family became engaged in various straw manufacturing operations. In 1843 they built the Great Bonnet Shop at 18-22 Wall Street and in 1845 the Hamlet House at 12-16 Wall St. Erastus P. Carpenter then proposed that many small manufacturing operations in town should be combined into one large company that could dominate the industry. In 1853 the Union Straw Works was erected on this site. It became the world's largest straw manufacturing operation offering employment to more than 6,000 men and women, including factory workers and those employed in a vast cottage industry, sewing and braiding straw at home. Ownership later passed to Wm. T. Cook & Co. and the Bemis Hat Co. The complex was destroyed by fire May 28,1900 and never rebuilt.Birth of the Straw Hat Industry
The making of the first straw bonnet in America is traced to Betsey Metcalf of Providence, R.I. who in 1798 made herself a copy of an imported bonnet on display in a store window. while attending Day's Academy in Wrentham, Betsey shared her skills with her friends, including many from Foxborough. Mary Clark and Ann Leonard were the first in this town to learn braiding and in turn taught Eunice Everett, Sally Mann, Patty Carpenter and her cousin Polly. Eunice was the first person in Foxborough to make a straw bonnet. The success of the young ladies in making products of straw prompted many entrepreneurs to commence manufacturing and an industry was born, bringing unprecedented prosperity and a community identity as the straw hat capital of the world.