Spoiled Silk is the story of two immigrants from the Rhineland, William Brueckmann and his wife Katherine, who started a new life in America's first industrial city, Paterson NJ, nourishing a vision of their adopted country that was never to be. Committed to a socialist dream, they struggled to improve the lot of their follow immigrants and, at the same time, to raise a family in the midst of the turbulence that surrounded them. Their efforts contributed in the long run to improved working conditions in American mills, but their dream of a socialist America was never to be realized.
It was in 1913 that the workers in the Paterson textile mills, having learned that a new kind of loom would put many of them out of work went on strike against the mill owners. In desperation, they called in Big Bill Haywood and the Wobblies of the I.W.W. to help them. The Paterson authorities moved quickly to crush the strike by forbidding the strikers to hold public meetings. Alone among elected local officials, William Brueckmann, Mayor of the neighboring town of Haledon, defied the Paterson authorities and their police department and upheld the constitutional rights of the strikers by giving them a safe haven in his town. His action marked the beginning of a long and bitter struggle that brought thousands of workers to the open fields of Haledon and forced the city of Paterson to its knees.
The strike is an important chapter in the history of the American labor movement. For William and Katherine Brueckmann it did not however, mark the end of their struggles. Spoiled Silk also chronicles the prejudice they had to face during the First World War and the pressures that eventually drove them to compromise with post-war America and its Good Times. It was a compromise that would bring with it a different kind of tragedy and sorrow, the death of an only son and their own drawing apart from one another.
The recent interest in immigrants to America has almost overlooked the largest group of immigrants, the German Americans. Spoiled Silk is a moving story about two of them. Vividly told, Spoiled Silk brings to life the experiences of these valiant people in the early decades of the century just past.