Alexander Smith: Weaving a Legacy of Industry and Politics in Yonkers

Alexander Smith embarked on a remarkable journey that intertwined business acumen and political ambition, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of Yonkers.

Smith was born on October 14, 1818, in Mercer County, New Jersey. Raised on his family farm, Smith’s early years were marked by a strong work ethic and a thirst for knowledge. These attributes would shape his future endeavors.

In 1834, the Smith family moved to West Farms, New York, providing Alexander with new opportunities to explore his interests. It was in 1844 that he took his first steps towards becoming an entrepreneur. He established a modest shop in West Farms dedicated to crafting looms and carpets. However, adversity struck when fire consumed the shop, forcing Smith to rebuild from the ashes. Undeterred, he persevered, and by 1864, he had successfully rebuilt his business in the city of Yonkers.

Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Mill
Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Mill – credit: hrvlaborhistory

Smith’s carpet enterprise not only survived but flourished, propelled by his innovative spirit. He invented a groundbreaking loom designed specifically for weaving exquisite carpets. These then attracted the attention of fellow carpet manufacturers who sought licensing agreements with him. Under Smith’s leadership, his company grew to include two sprawling factories that employed over 3,000 workers. This influx transformed Yonkers into a hub of the carpet industry.

Political ambitious unrealized

Beyond his achievements in business, Alexander Smith was an ardent Republican with political aspirations. In 1878, he emerged as the party’s nominee for Congress in New York’s 12th District. However, fate took a cruel turn on election day when Smith fell seriously ill. Tragically, he passed away mere hours after being informed of his victory, leaving behind an unfinished political career and a grieving community.

Alexander Smith
Alexander Smith – credit: Wikipedia

On November 5, 1878, Yonkers mourned the loss of Alexander Smith. He was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery, a final resting place befitting a man of his stature. His legacy, though, endured through the company he founded. Over time, the Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Company evolved through mergers and relocations. It ultimately found its place within Mohawk Industries in Mississippi.

The impact of Alexander Smith’s entrepreneurial spirit is still visible today in the Alexander Smith Carpet Mills Historic District in Yonkers, founded in 1983. This district preserves the historic factory and office buildings that once bustled with the creativity and innovation of Smith’s carpet-making enterprise. It serves as a living tribute to a man whose contributions to Yonkers etched themselves into the annals of history.

Alexander Smith’s life hung as a tapestry woven with threads of industry, innovation, and ambition. His legacy continues to inspire those who follow in his footsteps, reminding us that determination and vision can create enduring change even in the face of adversity.

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