The history of Riverdale Mills is a classic American story of hard work, perseverance, and entrepreneurship.
Back in the 1960's and 1970's Jim Knott, Sr., Riverdale's eventual founder, became a leading expert on high
quality industrial coating systems. He was awarded several patents on new and proprietary coatings processes.
Jim had his own industrial coatings company and later sold it to a wire mesh manufacturer. He then went to work
for the company. Along the way, Jim got involved in part-time lobstering with his own boat operating out of the
famous fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts, site of the popular book and movie, "The Perfect Storm".
Jim used the timeless old wooden lobster traps, as had everyone else in the lobster fishery for a 100 years and
more. These traps are pleasing to look at and are now used extensively as coffee tables in the living rooms of
summer shore visitors from Boston and New York. They had the irritating habit of breaking virtually every time
the lobsterman hauled the trap, which could be as often as two or three times a week.
Thinking outside the box as he often did, Jim got the idea that a trap made of wire would be lighter than the
wooden version when out of the water, and would be easier on the lobsterman's back. They would also be heavier
than the wooden version when in the water, so that they would sink quickly and tend to stay in their assigned
place. Finally, the wire traps would be considerably more durable than the wooden ones.
Jim began work on developing a suitable coating system that would protect the wire from the ravages of the hungry
sea. He would concoct a formula, make some samples and try the material in the ocean. This trial and error method
extended over several years until Jim finally got it right. He developed a method to continuously galvanize a
complete, long roll of welded mesh (galvanized after welding or GAW), followed by a similar continuous and
proprietary method to very uniformly fusion bond a thick coating of marine grade PVC outercoating to the galvanized
After years of developing the product to where Jim was confident that the coated mesh, now known as "Aquamesh", could
survive years of hard physical and corrosive abuse in the ocean, Jim was now faced with the equally daunting task of
trying to convince the lobstermen to try the new wire traps. And these old time conservative New England fishermen were
very reluctant to try anything new.
After years of walking the docks of Maine and Massachusetts, Jim was having some success in getting the lobstermen to try
Aquamesh, but Jim's employer told him to forget the lobster trap market. "You won't ever get those lobstermen to buy wire",
So Jim quit and went into business for himself. He bought an ancient, run down former textile and paper mill in Northbridge,
Massachusetts. It turned out to be an historic site now beautifully re-stored. He re-built the dam for the millpond, and
re-built the hydro generators to supply electricity for the automatic welders. And he began turning out high quality, marine
grade aquamesh. Over the years, Jim has expanded the mill several times to where today it occupies over 300,000 square feet
of modern manufacturing space and employs over 100 workers.
Today, Riverdale Mills Aquamesh has displaced 90% of the old wooden traps used by lobstermen in North America. And what does
Jim's old employer say about this, the one who said the lobstermen wouldn't buy Aquamesh? Nothing - they are no longer in business.
Ocean Tough Riverdale Welded Mesh being field tested on the company
lobster boat, "The Snowflower", in Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts.
Today, marine products account for about 60% of Riverdale's sales as the company has spread it's high quality welded mesh into other
markets. One of the fastest growing new markets is welded mesh for security fence and architectural applications, mesh known as
"WireWall". Originally used in very high security applications such as prisons and nuclear power plants, since 9-11, the use of WireWall
has broadened to every aspect of industrial, commercial, military and government security.
WireWall is manufactured at Riverdale on the same production lines using the same high quality techniques, by the same New England
craftsmen that the company uses for its vaunted line of Aquamesh products. The company is committed to maintaining those high
standards of quality and customer service with WireWall that were so painstakingly established over many, many years of diligent
work developing the lobster trap business.
You can't fool a New England lobsterman. If it's not a good product, they won't be buying any more.
Aquamesh and WireWall - two great products manufactured by Riverdale Mills, a great New England manufacturing institution.
By the way, the company still has its own lobster boat, "The Snowflower". As you might imagine, she operates out of Gloucester
Harbor just like the old days. The company uses her to test new wire mesh products in the real ocean, and to give rides to employees,
customers, and anyone else interested in seeing first hand, how today's lobstermen use Aquamesh welded wire traps. You want to go for
a ride? Call 'em up. You just might get George Clooney, playing the part of the Andrea Gail's Billy Tyne as your skipper. And after
your safe return, you and George... or is it Billy, can retire to the Crow's Nest Tavern in downtown Gloucester for a couple of cold ones.