Robert L. Bloomfield led the Athens Manufacturing Company for more than 30 years

Photograph courtesy of the Bloomfield family

Robert Lee Bloomfield (1827-1916) moved to Athens in 1853 with his wife, Ann, from his home in Rahway, New Jersey, when he was just 26 years old and quickly became successful as a merchant. In 1863, he was able to purchase controlling share of Athens Manufacturing Company stock and become the factory agent. He led the factory for over 30 years and retired at age 70.

When he first arrived in Athens, he set himself up as a merchant selling men’s clothing and, among other items, products from the Athens Factory.

Photograph courtesy of the Bloomfield family

David Lewis Earnest photograph collection, Hargrett Library, UGA

Bloomfield had a reputation for being a deeply religious Episcopalian and for taking a great interest in the spiritual lives of the people who worked in the mill. In 1871, he built St. Mary’s Episcopal Church to serve the factory workers. The steeple–now known as the R.E.M. steeple–still stands by Nuci’s Space at the corner of Williams and Oconee Streets.

Bloomfield was known for running a tight ship. He knew his workers, they lived in homes he owned, and he provided them with groceries (“meat, meal, and flour”) that were deducted from their pay envelope when they were paid every four weeks. When workers were absent, he checked on them and verified their excuses.

Editorial, The Southern Weekly Banner, November 1, 1881, Georgia Historic Newspapers, Digital Library of Georgia

Editorial, The Atlanta Constitution, March 1, 1896

Cite this Article

McPherson, J. (2024, January 6). Robert L. Bloomfield. Complex Cloth.