Mills Corporation announces with great sadness the passing of
company founder, owner, and retired CEO James Knott, Sr. Mr. Knott was
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(Photo: Webb Chappell)
An inventor, entrepreneur, industrialist and philanthropist, Knott
established Riverdale Mills Corporation in 1980 – transforming it from a
startup with a single wire mesh product into a manufacturing giant with
more than 3,500 different wire mesh product configurations for customers
around the globe.
Great innovators make their mark by challenging the status quo and
finding new ways to do things better. James Knott, Sr. unequivocally fit
this category as a profoundly influential innovator, whose products help
millions of people.
Knott’s Aquamesh® revolutionizes lobster
industryFrom spending summers in Gloucester, MA, Knott saw
firsthand how much time and money lobster fishermen spent fixing their
wooden traps. He was convinced there had to be a better way.
Knott set out to build a more durable lobster trap to keep fishermen on
the water making a living, instead of regularly onshore repairing their
traps or building new ones. He invented and began manufacturing Aquamesh®,
the first-of-its-kind marine-grade coated wire mesh.
His innovative wire mesh lobster trap fished better and lasted far
longer than wooden traps – benefits that eventually won over skeptical
North Atlantic and Canadian Maritime fisherman. Today 85 percent of all
lobster traps in North America are made with Aquamesh.
Dr. Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine Lobster
Institute said: “Jim Knott was a well-respected visionary and an ardent
supporter of the lobster industry. His impact cannot be understated. The
technical changes he introduced to lobster fishing in Maine and
throughout North America were profoundly significant. He singlehandedly
changed and bettered the way of life for so many people.”
Knott was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by the University of
Maine for his commitment to the future of the lobster industry,
innovative spirit, perseverance and positive leadership, willingness to
share his knowledge and ideas, and his outstanding support of the
university’s Lobster Institute.
Riverdale Mills – legacy of leadership in manufacturingJames
Knott, Sr. founded Riverdale Mills Corp. in an old abandoned mill on the
banks of the Blackstone River in Northbridge, MA. There, he worked with
his sons to restore the facility and property, while beginning mass
production of Aquamesh. An integral part of the science leading to
Knott’s innovative wire mesh product was his proprietary galvanized
after-welding and PVC coating processes.
Following the overwhelming success of Aquamesh in the lobster industry,
Knott set out to expand and diversify the Riverdale Mills product line
for other industrial, commercial and business applications.
His virtually impossible-to-climb-or-cut WireWall®
high security fencing is installed worldwide at embassies, transit
centers, ports, borders, military bases, manufacturing and power plants,
and other sensitive locations where perimeter security is a critical
safety and deterrent need.
His welded wire mesh is also used extensively by professionals in the
horticulture, agriculture, aquaculture, construction, and water
After nearly 40 years in the wire mesh business, James Knott, Sr.
touched the lives of millions of people –starting with his customers and
including all the people who unbeknownst to them benefited from his
products with abundant lobster, perfectly cultured oysters, and
protection from security breaches. He had a special place in his heart
for his dedicated employees, many of whom have been with Riverdale Mills
for decades and admired and respected his leadership and humanity.
Personal, Professional and Community LifeKnott’s vision and
creativity are evident in many aspects of his remarkable life and
inspiring career. He earned an economics degree from Harvard College,
studied mechanical engineering at Northeastern University, and served
two years as a lieutenant in the Army. Before starting his own company,
he was CEO of Coatings Engineering Corporation, the world’s largest
custom plastic coater. He was also a long-time Director of the Gilbert &
Bennett Manufacturing Company of Georgetown, CT.
Knott was resourceful and an early adopter of recycling. To build some
of his manufacturing machinery, he repurposed parts from a printing
press the previous tenant of the mill had left behind. When asked once
by a journalist how his company had thrived when so many other U.S.
manufacturers had faltered, Knott responded pointedly, “We keep our
He also modernized the mill with efficiency in mind, restored the
natural habitat, tapped the river for hydropower, and instituted
recycling of all the steel from the manufacturing process.
Knott was an ardent supporter of the lobster industry, funding
scholarships and research. He was also active in the communities of the
local Blackstone Valley and the fishing mecca of Gloucester.
“With the passing of Jim Knott, the lobster and shellfishing industry
has lost one of its most prolific supporters,” said Beth Casoni,
Executive Director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. “Jim
believed in sustainable fishing and supported our efforts to ensure the
viability of the industry and conservation of fish species. On behalf of
the entire industry, we acknowledge his contributions, are grateful for
his involvement, and will miss him tremendously.”
Predeceased by his cherished wife Betty, who died in February after 67
years of marriage, Knott is survived by four children, including James
Knott, Jr., the CEO of Riverdale Mills since 2015, and four
grandchildren. Arrangements are forthcoming.
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