Towards the end of the eighteenth century, inventors improved the steam engine to the point where dramatic increases occurred in industrial production. The increased power sources made possible the building of large factories. Into these factories employers could crowd hundreds of workers to run the new machines. The implementation of a system of interchangeable parts further aided factory development. The term "Industrial Revolution" summarizes the social, political, and economic changes produced by the new system. Samuel Slater, working in Rhode Island, is often credited with starting this revolution in the United States. In 1790 he built the first American steam-powered cotton-processing machine.

This section follows the trends in several industries including transportation, in order to show the development of the Industrial Revolution in America. The first section begins with visits to places that more generally deal with industrial development: the Whitney arms factory in Hamden and the armaments works of Samuel Colt in Hartford. Other chapters cover developments in several major industries, including iron, coal, canals, railroads, and shipping.


Eli Whitney at Hamden

Eli Whitney was born in Westborough, Massachusetts in 1765. From a family of modest means, he had to work hard to gain admission to Yale in 1789. After graduation, he traveled to Georgia to work as a teacher. By the time he arrived in the South, however, his job had been taken by someone else. So he studied law in the home of the widow of General Nathanael Greene.

During his law studies, he heard about the difficulties of cleaning seeds from the cotton fiber. A man of great mechanical ability, Whitney developed a cotton gin that easily removed these obstructions. Instead of this making our inventor wealthy, the invention proved a near tragedy. The unscrupulous could easily copy the machine. Whitney, to little avail, spent tremendous amounts of money, time, and energy trying to stop these patent infringements.

Freeing himself from the cotton gin entanglement, Whitney worked to obtain a government contract to produce muskets. Yale alumnus Oliver Wolcott, Jr., of Litchfield, Connecticut, then Secretary of the Treasury, helped Whitney gain the need contract, signed in 1798. Whitney promised to make 4,000 muskets the first year and 6,000 more within the second year.

This was a tremendous promise at the time because muskets were made one at a time. A craftsman built the entire weapon to insure that all the parts fit. The parts from one weapon could not fit into another weapon because there was no standardization of parts. Needless to say, this severely hampered productivity. However, such was Whitney's faith in himself that when he signed the agreement, he actually contracted to build all the machine tools that would make possible the production of standardized muskets. It took the inventor ten years to produce 10,000 muskets for the Army, but in the process he developed the first practical application of the standardization of parts in the United States.

Eli Whitney Museum
Whitney Avenue at Armory Street, Hamden, CT (Open Wed-Sat 10-3, Sun 12-5, all year)

The site of the Whitney factory is in Hamden, just north of New Haven. The inventor worked from this factory complex, built on both sides of the Mill River, from 1798 to 1825. The main museum building traces the development of the standardization of parts and the Whitney gun factory.

On the east side of the river there is one of four fuel storage sheds remaining. On the west side, across Whitney Avenue, is the Barn (built in 1816 as the focus for Whitney's farm that provided food for the work force). At the corner of Whitney Avenue and Armory Street is the boarding house for unmarried workers (one of the first buildings constructed for the workers).

After Whitney's death in 1825, the factory was run by two of his nephews for ten years and then by trustees of the Whitney estate. Eli Whitney, Jr., took over the management of the factory in 1842. He made 1,000 revolvers for Samuel Colt beginning in 1846. During the Civil War, he produced the 1861 model rifle musket for the army. He retired in 1888, the Armory being purchased by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven.

The factory site went largely unused until the early twentieth century when a series of industries moved in starting with the Acme Wire Company. A talented inventor by the name of J. Allen Heany set up his own version of Edison's Menlo Park at the Whitney Armory site beginning in 1918. Heany died in 1946, but the company he founded used the site until 1979.

Other Sites

See the chapters on New Haven for more sites to see in the area. Be sure to visit the New Haven Green where there are a number of historic churches. The timbers for their construction came from Middletown on the Connecticut River. Normally the British would have prevented this as they had an effective blockade of the coast. But Commodore Hardy, who had held the dying Admiral Nelson in his arms, permitted the barges to pass through the blockade, saying he was not there to blockade religion.

The Center Church is the fourth church building of the congregation of the First Church of Christ. The building was begun in 1812 and is a good example of the Federal adaption of the Georgian style. Its architect was Ithiel Town. The building has a red-brick facade, white columned portico, and white steeple. Below the church is the Crypt, which was used as a cemetery until the early nineteenth century. In 1842, architect Henry Austin (1804-1891), the leading architect of New Haven in the mid- nineteenth century, did some interior remodeling. In 1890 nine art-glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany's Glass and Decorating Company and one attributed to John La Farge were put in, but these were later taken out and only one remains now--is a great arched Tiffany window behind the pulpit. It portrays John Davenport delivering his first sermon. Three of the windows are found in the Buley Library at Southern Connecticut State College.

Trinity Episcopal Church was also designed by Ithiel Town. But it is in the Gothic Revival style and completed in 1816. It is composed of traprock with brown-stone trim. The interior has groups of columns.

The origins of the United Church (North Church) go back to the Great Awakening. The White Haven Church was then divided in 1769 when a group of its members seceded to form the Fairhaven Church. In 1796 the two congregations reunited and the United Church was then built. The church design was adapted by David Hoadley (1812-1815) and is of the Georgian style. It has a simple columned facade. In the interior is fine paneling and a glass chandelier. There are tablets dedicated to Roger Sherman, New Haven's first mayor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and other local dignitaries.

Samuel Colt at Hartford

Samuel Colt was born in 1814. His father was a merchant who lost a fortune in the West Indies trade. Further misfortune struck six year old Samuel when his mother died -- the Colt children having to be placed in foster homes for a while.

Early in life Colt showed an interest in technical matters. When he was only seven he took apart his first pistol. At the age of ten he went to work in his father's silk mill in Ware, Massachusetts, where he made a crude underwater mine.

Colt went to a college preparatory school at Amherst, Massachusetts, but his mischievousness got him pulled from school and sent to sea at age sixteen. While aboard ship the idea of how to make a multishot pistol occurred to him. It is said that Colt had become convinced of the need for a revolver when he witnessed a bloody insurrection of black slaves in Virginia. He thought that a revolver would provide more protection for the slave owner against a large number of slaves. Colt whittled a rotating cylinder designed to hold six balls and their charges.

Back from the sea, from 1832 to 1836 Colt engaged several gunsmiths to develop prototypes of rifles and pistols. The cocking of the gun mechanically turned the cylinder of the revolver. Unfortunately, one of the prototypes did not work and the other exploded.

In order to get his hands on additional funds in order to further develop the revolver, Colt toured Canada and the United States giving demonstrations of nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. He billed himself as "Dr. Coult" and charged twenty-five cents to see the demonstration. Intoxicated ticket holders, under the influence of the gas, would perform silly actions much to the delight of the audiences.

In 1835 the inventor obtained the first Colt patent in England. The reason for beginning with England was that if he had first patented his revolver in America he would have no protection in England. In 1836 he received a U. S. patent.

Paterson, New Jersey became home to Colt's Patent Arms Manufacturing Company, which manufactured a small number of arms here in 1836. However, hard times were about to hit.

Soon after entering the White House, the Depression of 1837 began. President Martin van Buren spent the rest of his term preoccupied by this economic downturn. He got Congress to establish an independent treasury, which remained the government's basic fiscal-financial institution until the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Largely because of the depression, Van Buren was not reelected. William Henry Harrison won that post in the election of 1840.

The plant at Paterson failed because of the panic of 1837. Other factors were the lack of governmental need for armaments, the tendency of the weapons themselves to occasionally malfunction, and Colt's discovery that his business partner had cheated him on the royalties. Colt started litigation against his partner, who in turn threw the company into bankruptcy. In 1842 the Paterson company closed its doors for good.

Although Colt experienced some bad luck, his five-shot Paterson pistols were making a name for themselves among those involved in armed conflicts. The pistol won acceptance by troops fighting against the Seminole Indians in Florida and by the Texas Rangers.

The United Sates declared war with Mexico in 1846. The government sent a representative, Captain Samuel H. Walker, to convince Colt to resume manufacturing his revolvers. Colt at this time had no factory at all. So he contracted with Eli Whitney, Jr., son of the inventor of the cotton gin, to produce 1,000 pistols. In one year Whitney produced approximately 1,100 Whitneyville Walker pistols at his factory in the town of Hamden (Whitneyville) on the outskirts of New Haven.

In 1847 Colt established an armory at Hartford, near the corner of Pearl and Trumbull streets (close to the site of the old Hartford Insurance Company building). He later moved the factory to a larger building between Grove and Potter Streets.

To set up his factory, Colt removed the special tooling, which he owned, from the Whitney factory. Whitney, however, accused Colt of also removing some of the basic Whitney machinery. Whitney demanded, to no avail, that the machines be returned.

Colt had a seven-year extension of his basic patent. This gave him a dominant position that made him a millionaire. This enabled him in 1854-1855 to establish another factory in Hartford, this one at South Meadows. In 1856 he married Elizabeth Hart Jarvis, twelve years his junior. Their wedding in Middletown, Elizabeth's home town, was spectacular. Colt and his friends came to the wedding via a yacht on the Connecticut River. The couple then took a four-month honeymoon in Europe, which included a stop to see Czar Alexander II, who was an enthusiastic Colt customer.

Colt's patent expired in 1857 and the competitors rushed in: Massachusetts Arms Company; Whitney; Manhattan Arms Company; and many others. Colt died in 1862 at South Meadows. The Colt factory burned to the ground in 1864, but was rebuilt. Ownership passed from the Colt family a few years after Samuel Colt's death, when Mrs. Colt sold the factory to New England industrialists.

Museum of Connecticut History
231 Capitol Avenue, State Library (Open Mon-Fri 9-4:45, Sat 9-1, all year)

This museum has an outstanding collection of Colt firearms. The labeled guns allow the visitor to follow the improvements in the revolver over time and also see some fantastic pistols made for publicity purposes. Especially beautiful is the Colt 45 Peacemaker Revolver with a Tiffany Grip, Centennial Prototype, Serial #1. Also in the museum are displays of Connecticut clocks, portraits of Connecticut governors, and copies of important Connecticut government documents, such as the Fundamental Orders of 1638.

Wadsworth Atheneum
600 Main Street (Open Tues-Sun 11-5, all year)

Opened in 1844, this is the oldest public art museum in the United States. Designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis in Gothic Revival style, this art museum contains a portrait of Samuel Colt. Here also are several paintings by John Trumbull of Lebanon.

The museum was begun by Daniel Wadsworth, the son of Jeremiah Wadsworth, who had been George Washington's Commissary General in charge of supplies. In 1793 the insurance business began informally in Hartford under the leadership of merchant and financier, Colonel Wadsworth. He and three gentlemen started a fire insurance company. Wadsworth married painter John Trumbull's niece, Faith. They had a mansion located where the Atheneum now stands.

Painter Frederic Edwin Church convinced Daniel Wadsworth to get Thomas Cole to take him as a student. Appropriately, the museum also has a number of Church's paintings, along with other Hudson River school canvases.

After seeing the above two museums take a driving and/or walking tour of the Colt Industrial District.

Armory (private)
Van Dyke Avenue

This is an easy structure to find because of its star-studded blue onion dome tower on the East Armory building. Notice the colt on the top. The dome seems out of place, but Colt had seen similar ones on his trips to Russia and Turkey and thought this would be a marvelous attention-getter for his new business. The armory is of brick and Portland brownstone. Colt picked the South Meadows area because it was only about two miles from the city center and close to the Connecticut River and railway lines. To properly use the grounds he had to build a dike to stop the annual floodings. The building -- the largest privately owned armory in the world -- went up in 1854. Two years after Colt's death, this part of the factory complex was totally destroyed by fire, but quickly rebuilt.

Armory Workers' Tenements (private)

Behind the Armory between Van Block Street and Huyshope Avenue

Ten houses remain of the complex built by Colt to house his workers. Among others groups, many Germans worked in the armory as mechanics. These tenements--plain houses that are typical of millworkers' housing built just before the Civil War--are forerunners of modern low-cost housing.

Colt Park
Wethersfield Avenue

This park exists on land donated to the city of Hartford by Mrs. Colt after her husband's death. There is a memorial to Samuel Colt in the park. Notice the statue of Colt as a young sailor whittling a model of the revolver. From here one can see the blue onion bulb of the Colt factory.

James B. Colt House (private)
154 Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford, CT

In 1856 this Italianate style home was constructed for the brother of Samuel Colt. It later became home to General William Buel Franklin, who was the vice-president and general manager of the Colt factory.

Armsmear (private)
80 Wethersfield Avenue (next door to the James Colt house)

Colt and his wife lived in this 1857 Italian villa amalgam with near eastern elements, such as the onion domes and the pagodalike tower. Armsmear means "meadow of arms." It is now a residence for retired Episcopalian churchwomen. The drawing room has some Colt memorabilia.

During Colt's day, peacocks and deer roamed on the grounds of the estate. In a man-made pond stood a sculpture of a rampant colt. In addition, an enormous green house dominated the back area. This structure produced over a ton of grapes each year and many thousands of figs, peaches, and nectarines.

Church of the Good Shepherd
Colt Park, Hartford, CT

Designed by Edward T. Potter in High-Victorian Gothic style and consecrated in 1869, Elizabeth Colt commissioned this church to honor her late husband and her children (three of four children dying in infancy). The Portland brownstone church served the armory workers. Notice the revolver motif in the church. The Armorer's Entrance has a variety of gun parts on the columns. There is a large memorial window of Christ and Joseph in Egypt set in the west wall.

Parish House
155 Wyllys Street, next to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Hartford, CT

In 1894 Elizabeth Colt's last remaining child, Caldwell, died mysteriously at the age of thirty-six while on his yacht off the coast of Florida. Some say he died of complications from tonsillitis, while others said a jealous husband shot the bachelor. In his memory Mrs. Colt had architect Potter design this Parish House. This was the architect's very last building. He even came out of semi-retirement of some twenty years to please Mrs. Colt. If the brownstone building looks a little like a ship (especially so in the interior), it is because Mrs. Colt asked Potter to have the building reflect the sports and nature interests of her son.

Other Sites

See the chapters on Wethersfield and Windsor and chapter 107 on Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain for sites to visit in the Hartford area. See the Geographic Cross-Reference for other sites in the region. West of Hartford is the Hotchkiss-Fyler House at 192 Main Street (Route 8 Exit 44), in Torrington. It is a 1900 Victorian mansion with original furnishings, parquet floors, mahogany paneling, hand stenciling, greenhouse, carriage house. The adjoining museum features displays on folk art and industrial history.

Be sure to see Hublein Tower on Talcott Mountain Trail in Simsbury located within Talcott Mountain State Park. Enter the park off Route 185. The walk here is little more than two miles long. In 1810 Daniel Wadsworth build a fifty-five foot tower on Talcott Mountain as part of his country estate, Montevideo. The tower blew down, but he erected another one in 1840. Fire destroyed it in 1864. Forty years later another tower was built.

In 1914 Gilbert Heublein, a food and liquor producer, commissioned West Hartford architect Roy Bassette to build a concrete, seven-story tower to replace the one then currently on the hill. It took two years to build because the materials had to hauled up the side of the mountain by horse and wagon. The Heubleins used the tower as a summer residence. Heublein had his study on the main floor, the master bedroom on the second, and the ballroom on the sixth, where the observatory is now located. On a clear day, you can see as far as New Hampshire.

The Cheneys of South Manchester

From the days of the Revolution, around the town of Mansfield near Hartford, manufacturers produced raw silk. The federal government wanted to protect this fledgling industry and so passed a protective duty.

In the industry's heyday there were 500 mills producing silk in America. But the Cheney brothers of South Manchester were the first to master the intricate art of silk weaving in this country. Their firm was the largest and probably the most profitable of all the silk manufacturers.

The eight Cheney brothers invested in the growing of mulberry trees, importing thousands from China and France. Their silk plantation in Burlington, New Jersey had over 100,000 trees. Unfortunately, the depression of 1837 bankrupted the brothers' enterprise. In addition, the northern climate proved too inhospitable to mulberry trees.

In 1838 three of the Cheney brothers along with a close friend formed the Mt. Nebo Silk Mills in a village a few miles east of Hartford. Here they manufactured spool silk. Ralph became the president, but Ward actually ran the business. Here their silk complex had a peak employment of 5,000 workers living in a model manufacturing village. Indeed, their business had a national reputation for the humane treatment of its employees. The village contained a library, school, farm, store, grist mill, and fire department, while offering many other services as well.

Their endeavors got a big boast when brother Frank invented a power spinning machine, patented in 1847, that combined in one machine the ability to double, twist, and wind the silk. In 1855 Frank also invented a way to spin waste silk.

In 1859 Frank went to China to pick up a year's supply of silk. He also sailed to Japan, newly opened to trade by Commodore Matthew Perry. The silk he sent back was among the first to reach America. Frank later married Mary Bushnell, daughter of Horace Bushnell, the famous liberal preacher.

The Cheney's humane treatment of their workers obviously spared the brothers from the labor strikes that so plagued similar silk manufactures in Paterson, New Jersey. And yet just as in Paterson, their silk business collapsed in less than a decade.

Cheney Home

Cheney Mill

Iron in the Housatonic River Valley

Iron making was one of America's first large scale industries. The earliest working iron furnace was erected at Braintree, Massachusetts in 1644. The industry proceeded apace and by 1775 there were actually more furnaces and forges in the thirteen colonies than in all of England and Wales.

If iron manufacturing was an important industry in early America, it was even more important in Pennsylvania, where it became the leading industry. This state has been the foremost producer of iron in America since 1750. This part discusses a few iron villages in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, following a brief description of how iron makers made iron in early America, 1715 to 1839.

While the United States got off to a good start in iron manufacturing, they did not keep pace with the new technology. An Englishman named Henry Cort perfected a puddling furnace, which allowed the ironmaker to make wrought iron directly in the furnace (thus skipping the necessity of making pig iron first and then hammering it into wrought iron). Although this process was patented in 1784, it was not introduced into the United States until 1840. Also around 1840 charcoal was slowly replaced by anthracite coal and coke.

Due to such factors as these, America's iron industry developed slowly. In 1850 the United States produced only 500,000 tons compared to Great Britain's 3,000,000. Three-fifths of the nation's iron needs were being supplied by iron imports, mainly from Britain. American iron masters, however, finally came to terms with the new technology and this spelled the end for the iron villages discussed in the following chapters.

In 1731 Daniel Bissell of Windsor obtained a grant from the colony of Connecticut for a good-sized hill, called Ore Hill, two miles outside Lakeville Village. Later this was mined and turned into an unattractive lake in the shape of a huge starfish, still seen beside the highway between Lakeville and Millerton, New York. The iron ore was the best grade yet discovered outside Sweden. Seven men took it away from him, among them: Philip Livingston, John Ashley of Sheffield and Dr. Elisha Williams, at this time rector of Yale. These men established a forge at Lakeville.

The seven investors and their successors bought up most of Mr. Lamb's properties. Thomas Lamb of Springfield, Massachusetts purchased land in the area of Lakeville Village. He became the town's largest landowner and dominated the town's commerce and industry. He also got a grant to a hill between Lakeville and Salisbury where now the Davis Mine Lake sits. He got ore from Ore Hill via relays of pack horses that traveled across Lakeville Town Hill, where the Hotchkiss School now stands, to his Lime Rock forge. Lamb never was that committed to the area because his family remained in Springfield. He himself lived in Lime Rock.

Samuel Forbes and his brother Elisha appeared in Canaan prior to 1762. They muscled in on the seven proprietors of Ore Hill. In turn, they sold the property to Colonel John Hazeltine and Ethan Allan and his brother. These men opened the first real furnace in the valley. The Lakeville furnace was the only one in blast in the Housatonic Valley before the Revolution. There were several other owners prior to the Revolution. War Governor Trumbull took over the property for state use. The iron furnace and foundry at Salisbury has been called the "iron capital of the American colonies" and the "arsenal of the revolution" for it produced most of the cannons for Washington's army, as well as the swivel guns for the fleet of privateers. The factory turned out close to a thousand each of heavy and light cannon, besides ammunition and miscellanies.

Forbes also ran a forge at Canaan producing anchors.

In 1799 the furnace came into the hands of Luther Holley, father of America's greatest iron dynasty. His son John (1777- 1841) built the beautiful, delicately proportioned house, now on the hill opposite Lakeville's line of wooden business blocks. In turn, his son Alexander Hamilton Holley (1804-87) became the lieutenant governor in 1854 and the governor in 1857.

The Holleys bought the Lakeville Furnace and finished the one on Mt. Riga. This started in 1810. Moved the main center from Lakeville to Mt. Riga. Terminated in 1847 after an accident destroyed much of the structures. Holleys promoted and financed building of Housatonic valley railway.

The Salisbury furnaces supplied most of the musket barrels for the Springfield and Harpers Ferry arsenals, and generally a large share of the ordnance for the army and navy. There were forty furnaces in blast in sixty miles between Lanesboro and Kent.

Third generation of Holley, Alexander, became lieutenant governor of Connecticut and then governor. He changed over to the production of steel. Alexander Lyman Holley (1832-82), draftsman and machinist, brought the Bessemer steel-producing process from England to America. He himself took out fourteen patents improving the Bessemer process and plant installation. He made a career of building steel plants, and transferred the action from Salisbury to Troy, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Gary, and Chicago. The Salisbury industry went into decline. On the shore of Lake Wonoscopomuc, half a mile from his father's beautiful house, he built the Victorian mansion "Hollywood" which still stands under the big pines with its octagonal tower.

In 1731 the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut decided to lay out the 60 square mile town, known later as Salisbury. In 1738 officials offered the town for sale at public auction in Hartford.

Bushnell Tavern
Across the road which leads up the hill from Town Hall, Salisbury, MA

Now a private home bigger than the original built in 1742. Here, in 1777, may have occurred an entertainment in honor of Baroness Riedesel, wife of the commander of the Hessian soldiers who had just surrendered at Saratoga.

Mt. Riga Blast Furnace Ruins
Mt. Riga is reachable by a 3.5 mile winding roadway, Washinee Street, which leads up from Town Hall

They can be seen just below the outlet to Large Pond, one of two big mountain lakes

Village Center of Lakeville

Here stood the famous Lakeville furnace and foundry.

Holley-Williams Mansion
On a hill above the town center commanding an excellent view of Penknife Square, Lakeville, CT

Build on a mount above the road, the original house on this site was built before the Revolutionary War. In 1807 John Milton Holley enlarged and transformed it into a Greek Revival home. The house became the seat of the Holley dynasty of Salisbury Iron Kings. Ms. Margaret Holley Williams bequeathed it to the Salisbury Association in 1971. The rear door of the entrance hall opens onto the rose garden. Note the ball-fringed curtains in the parlor. Also here note the recessed arches that flank the parlor fireplace. In one is a spinet and in the other is the dining room door.

Beyond the Holley-Williams House in a splendid walled park overlooking the lake, Lakeville, CT

This was the home of Alexander Hamilton Holley. One of the founders of the Iron Bank, and sponsor of the Housatonic Railway. His son was the one who took the iron industry out of Salisbury.

Mine Pond
One mile from Lakeville on the Millerton Road (Route 44)

This muddy little lake was once Ore Hill. From here two trails led up Mount Riga and one - now Rt. 112 -- across Lakeville Town Hill to Lime Rock, passing the present day site of the Hotchkiss School.

Sloane-Stanley Museum and Kent Furnace
Route 7, Kent, CT (Open Wed-Sun 10-4:30, mid-May to Oct 31)

The drive north along Route 7 to Kent is very beautiful. Be sure to stop at Bull's Bridge, a covered bridge three miles north of Gaylordsville. There are nice views of the river here. Notice the glacial potholes, created by the swirling mixture of water and rocks digging into the soft marble of the river valley. There is a water fall flowing over the dam just north of the covered bridge.

From here drive north to the Schaticoke Indian Reservation. Along the road is the grave yard of the Indian reservation. One grave says "Eunice Mauwee: A Christian Indian Princess." Another headstone has the saying: "Youth forward slips, death soon nips." Driving further north one arrives at Macedonia Brook State Park.

The Sloane-Stanley Museum has a large collection of early American tools, many dating from the seventeenth century. Included are such items as fire and police alarms, a carpet beater, brooms, and a winnowing machine. The author/artist Eric Sloane has had a life-time interest in such tools and there is an art gallery here with some of his highly realistic paintings of tools set beside the actual tools the artist used in the paintings.

The museum shows a video on the artist, which is very moving. The artist stresses that he wants to make people more aware of their surroundings. He notes that early Americans were more cognizant of the things around them in order to make ends meet. Noticing things around him is what made him to decide to be an artist. Working as a sign painter in Taos, New Mexico, one day he saw in the skies three complete storms forming. This moved him so much that he decided to leave sign painting. He went to M.I.T. to learn meteorology, but found it too mathematical. So he went back to early American weather diaries and almanacs. He then starting collecting them. From this start he became interested in early American tools.

The museum has the artist's recreated studio. There is also a replica of an early New England log cabin built by Sloane. His favorite work was his book Diary of an Early American Boy. He built the cabin that he described in his book so children could "feel the shape" of the past.

Also on the grounds are the ruins of Kent iron furnace. Built in 1826, it became a major producer of pig iron, reaching fifteen tons a day before closing in 1892. The ore was mined in South Kent and from as far away as Salisbury, Connecticut and Richmond, Massachusetts.

Kent Falls
Route 7, just north of Kent, CT

The water here falls over four platforms that are graduated steps.

Other Sites

Stop and see the Hitchcock Museum in Riverton. This museum is now housed in the former Union Church of Riverton, built in 1829 by Lambert Hitchcock and other parishioners. It has a collection of chairs made by Hitchcock, America's greatest maker of decorated chairs. From 1826 until his death in 1852 he mass produced chairs in the town. There is also a restored Hitchcock factory on its original site along the Farmington river. Craftsmen and women at the Hitchcock factory showroom demonstrate their various skills.


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)