Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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COBB, Jonathan Holmes, manufacturer, born in Sharon, Massachusetts, 8 July, 1799; died in Dedham, Massachusetts, 12 March, 1882. He was graduated at Harvard in 1817, and numbered among his classmates George Bancroft, Caleb Cushing, and Stephen H. Tyng. Mr. Cobb was one of the first to interest himself in the cultivation and manufacture of silk in the United States. In 1825 the annual importations of this material amounted to $10,250,000, in consequence of which congress adopted measures directing public attention to the desirability of producing silk at home. Meanwhile Mr. Cobb succeeded in raising the silk-worm in Dedham, and in 1829 called the attention of the Massachusetts legislature to the fact. This body directed that a work be prepared on the subject, appropriating $600 for the purpose, and Mr. Cobb was asked to write the book. Of his "Manual of the Mulberry-Tree and the Culture of Silk" (Boston, 1831), numerous copies were distributed by the members of the Massachusetts legislature. In 1833 the printing of 2,000 copies was ordered by congress, which were circulated throughout the United States by the members of that body. The New England silk company, under the superintendence of Mr. Cobb, began operations about 1835, with a capital of $50,000. It employed sixteen sewing-silk machines, and, under the protective duty of forty per cent. on sewing-silk, made arrangements to manufacture 200 pounds a week. A factory was erected, which at that time was the largest building in the town, but it was destroyed by fire in 1844. From these efforts has come the silk industry of to-day, which produces in the United States annually more than $25,000,000 worth of silken fabrics, of so excellent quality that they are frequently sold as of foreign manufacture. In 1820 Mr. Cobb established the "Village Register," and in 1831 was instrumental in founding the Dedham institution for savings, of which, for many years, he was secretary. For forty-five years he was register of probate, and for twenty-eight town-clerk.
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