The frequently mentioned Joel Munsell, in his "A Chronology of Paper and Paper-Making," tells us this story of the rag trade in Troy in 1801. Paper made from tree pulp is a relatively new development; one reason old documents have survived so long is that paper used to be made from cotton and wool fibers, most commonly collected from rags.
"1801. Mr. David Buel, postmaster at Troy, New York, published the following homily under the head, "Please to save your Rags." The press contributes more to the diffusion of knowledge and information than any other medium; rags are the primary requisite in the manufacture of paper; and without paper the newspapers of our country, those cheap, useful and agreeable companions of the citizen and farmer, which in a political and moral view are of the highest national importance, must decline and be extinguished. The paper-mills of the state, could the poor and opulent, the farmer and the mechanic, be persuaded into the laudable frugality of saving rags, would turn out ample supplies of American paper to answer all demands . . . The ladies in several of the large towns [of Massachusetts and Connecticut], display an elegant work bag, as part of the furniture of their parlors, in which every rag that is used in the paper-mill, is carefully preserved. Were this example imitated, this state would not be drained of its circulating cash, for paper and other manufactures, which American artists can furnish. The poor by the mere saving of rags, may be enabled to procure paper and books, for schools and family use, or more agreeable articles of dress or consumption. The rich, who regard the interests of their country, will direct their children or domestics to place a bag or box in some convenient place, as a deposit for rags, that none may be lost, by being swept into the street or fire; the sales of which savings will reward the attention of the faithful servant, and encourage the prosperous habit of prudence and enterprise."The first paper mill in the northern part of the state, not coincidentally, had opened in Troy just eight years earlier, in 1793. Although built by Mahion Taylor, he sold it almost immediately to the Webster brothers (cousins to the famous Noah of dictionary fame), publishers at the old Elm Tree Corner in Albany, along with Mr. Ensign and Mr. Seymour. It was located on the west side of the Poestenkill.