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Broom Craft Studio

The Berea College Broommaking Department began operation July 6, 1920, but the idea began around 1911. College President William G. Frost initiated the establishment of the broom enterprise because there was not enough campus work for male students during the winter months at the time, and broom making promised work for men year-round. During the later half of his presidency, Frost believed that Berea should provide every student with the opportunity to work to pay for her or his education. Broommaking was one of several enterprises created to address this goal. Frost retired during June 1920, so the program actually opened under his successor, William J. Hutchins. Reports indicate that, as hoped, broom making did became a stabilizing industry of the college labor program by providing work for men outside of the agricultural season.
The first broom making supervisor was Joel R. Arnold. Work was originally located in the Trades Building (now the north side of Stephenson Hall) on the second and third floors. By 1924 the broom industry was producing 8,700 brooms a year. A campus railroad siding came up behind the building and railroad access allowed the broom enterprise to reach a national market. At its peak, Broomcraft produced over 150,000 brooms each year and employed two-hundred workers. Most were Berea students but some were men from the community.These brooms were primarily practical floor/sweeping brooms without braiding, decorative elements, or artistic touches. They were primarily sold in bulk to distributors.

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