Development of the Mill System Economy in Connecticut
I want eighth grade students to see American History as a process of thinking, questioning, and understanding. In addition to asking students to understand the concept of an economic system, I want them to see the study of history as a process. History should be more than facts, heroes, and holidays. Students should see it as a body of knowledge, and generalizations useful both to interpret past events and to understand present challenges. History should be used to assist youngsters in dealing with what is current. My hope is that in this unit, and others like it, the student will view history as an intellectual mode to be applied when deemed appropriate. Henry Kissinger describes history as “not a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.”
I hope that from this six week unit students will develop a positive attitude about the study of history, but even more I’d like them to gain a positive attitude about themselves. I will expand upon this statement in my strategies and activities. For now, however, let me just say that students will be employed in this unit as active learners. They will be asked to apply data to a series of problems and to arrive at solutions. They will test their hypotheses and assumptions. My goal is for youngsters to see themselves as capable learners. This unit should achieve my goals for studying history.
The period of the early 1800’s is customarily described in American History classes by events leading to the Civil War. Instead of focusing the study of this period on a single event, the war, I plan to develop the idea of a new and different economic system emerging in the United States. A local wire factory that was established in 1818 and still functions today will serve as an illustrative example of this idea for my eighth graders. It is my intention that the mill’s presence in our community will give this project a concrete reality that will inspire and challenge my classes.
To look at the state of American manufacturing between the end of the War of 1812 and the beginning of the Civil War, one need not look beyond the Northeast. By 1850, as the United States pushed its borders from ocean to ocean, 75% of the country’s manufacturing employment was located in the new England states, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. And as late as 1860 this same region employed 71% of all Americans who worked in manufacturing.
Industrialization is a process. It takes place in an area where many types of manufacturing support and supplement each other. A textile mill, for instance, would be located near a source of machine tools which in turn would be located near a source of iron products. Large scale industrialization also implies the creation of a market greater than its immediate geographic region. Furthermore, an industry develops when technical knowledge and “factor endowments” (resource availability, labor, demand) come into contact with each other usually under the direction of a wise entrepreneur. In the Northeast, the development of small but growing plants caused it to become a leading manufacturing region.
The decades following the Treaty of Ghent in 1815 saw Americans discovering rather than developing a sound basis for a national mill system economy.* Much of the system’s foundation appears to have come about naturally. Certainly the cheap and abundant water power, vast amounts of hard and soft wood, hard igneous rocks of all shapes and sizes, and iron ore deposits, although not discoveries of the 19th century, still waited to be fully utilized and appreciated. Domestic manufacturers geared themselves to areas previously serviced by imports as internal trade challenged the supremacy of foreign commerce. A national system of transportation grew and the mills of the Northeast found outlets for their products in the South and West. After the war of 1812, trade became regional, and in some industries (boots, textiles, men’s clothing) it was national in scope. Capital came from shipping interests which had felt competition and harassment from Great Britain.
In addition, banking facilities increased, labor became more specialized, and the Federal Government established protective tariffs. By the second quarter of the 19th century, the United States had evolved into a nation consciously and enthusiastically pursuing a manufacturing course.
Although farmers would outnumber mill workers for several more years, the decade of the 1830’s was the take-off point for manufacturing in the Northeast. Visitors from England were impressed by a product’s low cost which was based on its standardized production and a large-scale output.
Better methods of distribution lead toward a decline in self-sufficiency among many Americans. Indeed by 1830, leading transport lines had begun fierce competition resulting in the Northeast receiving greater service from railroads, steamship lines and canal companies, but at a lower cost than had been the case a few years before. Urban centers, too, had emerged prior to the War and now Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore were bustling commercial and manufacturing centers that acted as examples for disenchanted farmers, and import and export depots for manufacturers and consumers of the hinterland. In retrospect, the decade of the 1830’s must be considered a watershed in American manufacturing history.
Connecticut’s location, centered in the growing manufacturing region of the Northeast with its long seacoast and major rivers, seemed to make it “a natural” for the development of a mill economy. Manufacturing almost appeared instinctive in the Yankee’s desire for financial gain, greater personal comfort, and in most cases a spirit of civic responsibility. It also allowed greater numbers of people to fulfill these aspirations than were able when the state’s economic elite were involved primarily in commerce and shipping. But these factors couldn’t come into play until almost the third century of Connecticut’s occupation. Until this time, our forefathers’ inventive genius was held in check by their efforts to master their environment. Struggling to survive was a full-time job. And when all was quiet on the homefront, there was the constant reminder that England controlled and discouraged American manufacturing.
Yet, in spite of Connecticut’s industrial leanings and potential, the years following the War of 1812 found her to be very much an agricultural state. Farming in 1820 employed 50,518 people while 17,541 found work in “shops.” Two-thirds of the state’s 275,000 citizens lived on small farms. Just thirty-eight companies were incorporated and only Eli Whitney’s firearms and Simeon North’s pistols had national markets. Five years after the second war with England, Connecticut’s hay crop exceeded the value of cotton and wool textiles by $1,000,000.
But as Connecticut citizens entered the 1820’s, the prospects for manufacturing began to mature. Their state had favorable conditions for a mill system economy. Its area was less than 5,000 square miles and was divided into three geographic areas by rivers. The Connecticut River Valley had good farm land, but areas removed from it were burdened with poor, rocky soil making agriculture a challenge. Although the state had no deep water harbors, it had several good, small ones with New Haven and New London being the best among them. Even in the twenties, Connecticut had good transportation facilities as turnpikes reached its larger towns connecting manufacturers with their markets. As a result of these factors, growing numbers of mills were already taking advantage of excellent water power along the state’s streams and rivers.
Industries were found in rural towns to the degree that they could meet the needs of their residents. In Windham County, for example, looms could be found in most houses and each town had forges, tanneries, and saw and grist mills. Several artisans, too, including cabinet makers, tinners, hatters, and harnessmakers were located within an easily accessible region. The War of 1812 gave many small industries, both in rural and more urban areas a real boost; perhaps out of necessity. The scarcity of foreign goods during the war forced many persons to begin manufacturing products which had previously always been provided for them.
As the war ended, these emerging industries found themselves aided by a coastal trade and the anticipation of a growing sense of economic independence from Great Britain. However, with the culmination of war, Great Britain was anxious to resume its American trade which had ceased with the Embargo in 1807. England’s more established factories could manufacture
transport goods to the United States and still sell them more cheaply than the same item could be marketed by an infant American mill. Connecticut’s budding manufactures needed the support of a strong central government in the form of a protective tariff. They received this aid and were soon to become a leading manufacturing state.
To further understand the evolution of mills in Connecticut prior to the attack on Fort Sumter, one must see the relationship between agricultural and demographic developments during this period. Inventors and inventions, for which Connecticut is now famous, did little to improve its farms. As early as 1750, people were leaving Connecticut to go west. When Tocqueville visited America in 1831, he claimed that the state’s emigration was so great that one-third of the members of the U. S. Senate and one-fourth of those in the House of Representatives were born in Connecticut.
And in 1819, it was calculated that in the preceding thirty years, Connecticut emigrants and their descendants numbered over 700,000 while approximately 300,000 remained.
The exodus continued until 1840. Families grew and land was not available for fathers to give their sons. In addition, soil was poor and worn out. Little knowledge of fertilizers existed, and farmers used antiquated practices and methods. They tried to overcome these obstacles by forming farmers’ associations and attempting to find scientific farming techniques with the help of Yale and the state legislature, but to little apparent avail. The lack of progress in agriculture contributed to the fact that in 1819 the United States’ growth rate was thirty-five persons per 1,000 while that of Connecticut was four or five per 1,000.
Those who fled Connecticut prior to 1840 were not only frustrated farmers but also young, ambitious, and in many cases, rather cosmopolitan in outlook. Rich virgin lands of the west were the beneficiaries of these emigrants, but so too were urban centers of intellectual and commercial life, especially New York. Connecticut clearly provided a number of gifted citizens to other parts of the nation. It is those who remained behind that are of particular interest to this study.
The constant departures of Connecticut citizenry compounded by no significant growth in population gives evidence that the state had reached its full potential “to support, by agriculture, under agricultural conditions of that time, a larger number of people that she already had.” The population in 1820 was 275,248. If there were to be an increase in this number in the foreseeable future, it would have to earn its keep in an occupation other than farming.
Yet, in spite of the vast numbers leaving the state, labor was the mainstay of the emerging mill systems. Connecticut’s water power was good but no better than many states. Few minerals-iron ore and copper being the exceptions-were found within its borders. In fact, two of the most successful early industries, tinware and hats used imported materials and no water power. Neither was capital in great supply. The one essential factor was cheap and abundant labor.
Even though cheap or free western land must have been an incentive to disappointed farmers, Connecticut mills don’t seem to have wanted for an adequate labor force. Research shows that an abundance of cheap labor existed in the first half of the 19th century. In 1813, a pistol maker in Berlin paid an apprentice $6 to $8 a month and a skilled worker $12 a month. Board was $1.50 to $2.00 a month. In 1832 a male textile worker earned $1 a day’ a woman earned 35c; and a child’s wage was 21c for a day’s work.* Some factories, such as those in New Britain, paid their employees only once a month. These wage scales were no different from those of neighboring states and were higher than European standards. To increase earnings, many breadwinners attempted to hire-out their entire families which usually consisted of themselves, their wife and four to six children. An agent for a Pomfret cotton mill tried to convince a failing farmer that his entire family could earn $450 to $600 a year at his mill; whereas the year before the farmer probably earned $180 to $200. It was labor as much as anything else that contributed to the early success of the mill economy.
The manner in which mills distributed their products was essential to their survival. I defined industrialization earlier as, among other things, a process whereby goods are manufactured for an area greater than the factory’s immediate region. The successful 19th century mills developed markets far beyond their direct environment. The Connecticut River could be navigated two-thirds of its distance within the state and rivers in the two other sections of the state were navigable for ten to fifteen miles. Although these rivers were valuable for transportation, they were not sufficient enough to support the economy of a major manufacturing state. Although by the early 19th century Connecticut had an excellent turnpike system, railroads were a necessity. By 1845, three railway lines crossed the width of Connecticut.
(See Appendix A). Lines connected manufacturing towns to each other and the coast. Railroads helped many towns to prosper financially, but these were cities already beginning to flourish. Cities that were declining before 1820 were not aided by railroads. There was little rail activity in the northwest and northeast sections of the state. When trains did come to these rural areas they brought inexpensive goods and produce from the trans-Mississippi West. Railroad development in Connecticut aided the manufacturing areas “but condemned the old country towns to an economic death.
One of the ironies of this study is that rail transportation which for so long held out hope for small or distant mill towns, when it finally arrived blew a final whistle on the town’s very existence.
The success of Connecticut mills is told in the business they acquired outside the state. Proximity to New York City was an advantage especially for an industry such as hat manufacturing in Banbury. But the state’s manufacturers developed a national clientele particularly in the non-industrialized South. Carriages from New Haven and Danbury’s finest hats found demanding markets throughout the South, especially in Charleston. State tinware was sold in Detroit and as far west as the Mississippi Valley. And Georgetown’s sieves and cheese safes were distributed in Charleston and in Ohio’s Western Reserve.
The character of the Yankee peddler has been recounted and romanticized throughout state history. It appears that his role became limited by the 1830’s. By this date, most major manufacturers had retail outlets in major regional cities. The peddler, as with the small rural mill town of Connecticut, seems to have fallen victim to the state’s progress in financially wise marketing techniques. A report of 1832 by the Federal Government found 75% of Connecticut manufactures going to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Providence, or Baltimore. From these cities, products were distributed to the interior or exported.
Capital investment to begin a business is essential, yet in Connecticut money for this purpose was not abundant. [For a discussion of the process of capital accumulation in early 19th century Connecticut, see Unit VII of this volume] The state was not one of the leaders in this area. In 1800 Connecticut had five chartered banks with a total capital of $595,000. Massachusetts by this date had twenty-two chartered banks with a total capital of $8,042,000. some initial investment came from shipping and commercial interests which diverted their profits when they felt thwarted by military or economic pressures from Great Britain, Not only was some capital forthcoming from this segment of the financial community, but it also contributed a needed amount of business acumen. But a general scarcity of capital meant use of poor equipment as well as the inability of mill owners to keep up with frequent technological breakthroughs by Connecticut inventors. Despite financial hardships of the 1830s and 1840s, by 1850 Connecticut mills employed 30,000 workers.
(See Appendix B major Connecticut manufacturing sites in 1850).
The source of capital is still somewhat of a mystery. Shipping interests contributed, as did banks when not affected by national panics. Many mills, however, seem to have started out so small that vast amounts of capital were not necessary. Several began in cellars or shops attached to homes. Some were started as trades to supplement the none too prosperous occupation of farming. The businesses that developed and succeeded in the early 19th century were those which were careful to avoid overexpansion or investment in a product whose success was not assured. Again the shrewd nature of the Connecticut Yankee comes into play. My guess is that much of a mill’s working capital came from within as it developed and grew.
The relationship in Connecticut between developing industries and conservative politicians during the years 1815 to 1860 should be understood. The period was highlighted by rather forward-thinking governors who were constantly held at bay in their ideas by fiscal ultra-conservatives in the Assembly. The governorships of Oliver Wolcott, Jr. (1818-1830) were particularly favorable to businesses, These men offered tax incentives ti industry, asked for appropriation of money for further development of roads and canals, and supported the passage of general incorporation laws in the 1830s. Many of these became reality in some form, but oftentimes it was long after the petitioning governor had left office.
The early 1830s saw the National Republicans or Whigs come to power in Connecticut. Although this party opposed President Jackson and embraced Henry Clay’s American System of federally funded national roads and canals and a high protective tariff, the years of the 1830s and 1840s continued to be dominated by fiscally conservative legislatures regardless of which party was in power.
Attractive incentives, suggested by governors, became modest when the Assembly voted. Despite the lack of official assistance, no real roadblocks ware put in the way of manufacturers during the first half of the 19th century. But Connecticut manufacturing continued to grow during these years. It is a further credit to the driving nature of the state’s entrepreneur that in view of a less than enthusiastic government policy toward manufactures, he was able to succeed in making the state an industrial success.
Connecticut’s early attitude toward immigrants demonstrates the apparent conflict between politician and entrepreneur. With the departure of so many natives to the West at the time of the emerging factory system, one would think immigration would be a natural answer to rebuild the state’s labor force. But in the earlier decades of the century, this was not the case. During these years, immigrants were not welcomed. Special permission of the legislature was required for them to own land and voting rights were granted by town fathers with great reluctance. Rural Yankees viewed this group as unwashed, strange intruders upon their landed and traditional value system. Not until the 1850s, when urbanization and industrialization were underway, did immigrants begin to play a role in Connecticut life, and then only under guarded conditions and suspicious eyes.
As we look back at the industries that were successful in 1850, particularly manufacturers of firearms, brass, clocks, and silverware, we see that all had certain clear characteristics in common. All benefitted from successful inventors and entrepreneurs living within the state. Other than water power, none required a great need for resources. As evidenced by the marketing techniques of manufacturers such as the hatters of Danbury, these industries developed an early recognizable priority in their fields. All began operations in a time of adversity and were prepared to take advantage of the periods of prosperity that followed, And each took full advantage of developing railroads to satisfy their national markets. In 1850 these manufacturers, and many more who aspired to their position, were taking advantage of population changes in the state. With the growth of manufacturing and the diminishing attraction of western lands, people were turning to the cities in great numbers. Between 1840 and 1850, 24,000 citizens had left farming which represented a drastic reduction of those earning a living in agriculture-from 61% to 34%
By midcentury, Connecticut had become an urban state.
Georgetown, Connecticut has never been an urban center. Nevertheless, it is home to the Gilbert and Bennett Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer that exemplifies the flourishing 19th century mill. Georgetown is a village that presently is located where the towns of Wilton, Weston, and Redding intersect. The first mention of the village refers to a grist mill established on the Saugatuck River in 1730. This is an area that few would recognize as Georgetown today. References to the Georgetown of today* note that another grist mill was erected in 1764 on the Norwalk River. The mill was very heavily used as it was located on the main road between Norwalk and Danbury (the modern Route 7).
In 1980 the company employs 500 workers in four locations and is a leading producer of chicken wire, garden fencing, and gates. Currently the mill is in the same location it established in 1834, but this is now a suburban region. However, the village of Georgetown still possesses vestiges of a mill town. The businesses that surround the factory are a combination of those that live off a large industry but also serve the needs of a suburban community. These include taverns, liquor stores, small restaurants, gas stations, and repair shops. The specific factors for its success correspond directly to the general characteristics for all thriving mills both in Connecticut and throughout the United States. For these reasons, as well as its nearby location and present rate of success. Gilbert and Bennett is an excellent specimen for the study of the mill economy. A discussion as to how other Connecticut mills could be used in this project is detailed in the strategy statement on page 212.
Benjamin Gilbert was a Weston tanner who in 1818 wished to use excess animal hair from his business to make hair cloth sieves. He used hog, horse, and cattle hair for the bottoms of flour and gravy sieves. Gilbert began using surplus hair that was too matted and curled for sieves in making stuffing for mattresses and cusions for the carriage industry. The business grew appreciably and in 1838 Mr. Gilbert admitted his son-in-law, Sturges Bennett, to partnership. In 1830 the partners were forced to move from Gilbert’s basement to a small mill near the Norwalk River in the village of Georgetown.
The mill began experimenting with wire cloth sieves in 1834. In order to manufacture this type of product a carpet loom was employed. A carpet loom required more power than could be generated from the stream at the 1830 location, so another mill was established directly on the Norwalk River. This site provided the necessary energy to run the larger wire looms.
The introduction of wire screening signalled the end of Gilbert and Bennett as a domestic-type industry. While cloth was still being used in sieves, much of the work was done by neighbors in their homes. With the advent of wire bottom sieves in 1834, manufacturing depended for most of its production on machines and was too complex to be carried on in homes. The mill became a self-sufficient industry. All work was now done at the mill site. A saw mill was established for making sieve frames in 1848 and in that same year, steam power was first introduced as a source of power. A wire mill was built on the factory premises in 1863 to provide “facilities for drawing iron wire.” Prior to this, the manufacturer had purchased iron wire from a mill in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Gilbert and Bennett had become a self-contained mill industry.*
Other characteristics of a successful 19th century mill were the development of national markets and adaptability to changing economic conditions. Gilbert and Bennett sieves were sold throughout the South and as far west as the Western Reserve of Ohio. In 1852 a shop was opened in New York City. But what seems equally as important as developing sound markets was the ability to develop new markets and adapt to their changes. The management at Gilbert and Bennett appears to have done this masterfully throughout parts of animal hooves. The glue manufacturing process had not been successful because glue was being dried on cotton netting. When the glue had dried, the cotton backing couldn’t be completely removed. The young Georgetown company resolved this problem by manufacturing wire hex netting upon which glue would be dried. When the glue dried, it could be separated from the wire netting with little difficulty. A product with a successful market was developed. Gilbert and Bennett met the greatest challenge of its first forty-three years at the outbreak of the Civil War. Its southern markets for sieves and carriage cushions had been cut off. As imminent disaster seemed apparent, they shifted their mill’s capacity to the manufacture of insect window screens. These proved to be a vast improvement over cheese cloth which had previously been used for this purpose. An other successful market had been developed.
The founders of Gilbert and Bennett constantly demonstrated the flexible character made famous by successful 19th century inventors. As the New Haven shippers at the time of the Embargo and the War of 1812 refused to fold, but invested instead in the carriage industry, and as the Farmington Canal became the roadbed of a railroad, so too did Gilbert and Bennett’s management consistently show their skills of adaptability. Whether using a carpet loom to manufacture wire netting or using excess animal parts for glue or cushion stuffing or using woven iron wire cloth which had been earmarked to be used in southern sieves for the making of window screens, these men of vision demonstrated over and over again the traits of a successful 19th century manufacturer.
Manufacturing in the years following the Civil War was marked by a distinct movement of people from rural to urban areas. The number of manufacturing sites became more concentrated while the number of workers increased as did the value of their products. (See Appendix E). Factories were locating in cities that were serviced by railroads. Turnpikes, too, influenced factory sites, but railroads were of greater importance to post-war manufacturers who now depended upon steam to power their mills. Steam power was dependent upon coal and coal was a raw material transported in bulk by rail. Steam power added a great degree of flexibility to the modern manufacturer. The mill owner was no longer a slave to a specific location on a river, nor was he at the mercy of seasonal variations in the amount of water available in an out-of-the-way stream. Steam power, made available by rail transported coal, allowed him to make consistent schedules for production.
The tri-town region of Wilton, Redding, and Weston in mid-Fairfield County shows the two worlds of 19th century industry. The area possessed both small, water dependent mills and a large manufacturing company that adapted successfully to post Civil War conditions.
The year 1860 saw “sixteen busy shops” along the Norwalk River from its source in Ridgefield to the Norwalk town line (see Appendix F). By 1923 there were four or five. Wy the demise of these once active mills?
Mills along the Norwalk River in Wilton and Redding as well as those in Weston collapsed for the very reasons that factories in Norwalk, Danbury, and Bridgeport prospered. These small mills ware dependent on water for their source of power. They didn’t move to steam because they weren’t located on major rail lines where coal could be readily imported. Also, most mills were not large enough for this type of major transformation. The largest mill in Wilton in 1860 manufactured shirts. It employed twenty-four people. The small mills of Fairfield County couldn’t compete with factories in larger cities which manufactured their product faster and cheaper, if not better than they could. The small, interior mill town that could not attract a railroad not only suffered from access to raw materials. It also was at a disadvantage transporting its products to markets. But the ultimate death knell for the water-powered mill was the sophisticated marketing practices that larger manufacturers and their profits could afford. Big companies opened retail stores to sell directly to their customers. Catalogue buying allowed shoppers to conduct their business through the mails, eliminating the need for peddlers. And advertising in newspapers signified that 19th century manufacturing had become a multi-faceted, big business. Weston, Wilton, and Redding mills were in a struggle to survive, and they were in way over their heads.
Another key to developing urban centers of manufacturing after the Civil War was immigration. Before 1850 immigrants were outwardly deterred from settling in Connecticut by property ownership restrictions. By the 1870s and 1880s, however, foreigners were seen as a cheap and abundant source of labor. Immigrants were drawn to large cities because many were ports or located on important transportation lines. Once there, unskilled factory jobs, usually in areas in or within walking distance of their neighborhoods, provided the necessary employment and security. Although harassed by the Know-Nothing Party members in the 1850s, and again in the 1880s and 1890s by the American Protective Association, and inspite of main-line Democrat and Republican conservative, anti-labor, anti-immigrant attitudes, immigrants were here to stay. In 1890 Connecticut had a rural population of 123,097 and an urban population of 623,161. And by 1900 foreign-born residents made up 59% of the state’s people.
Yet Georgetown’s wire mill, Gilbert and Bennett, not only survived but prospered. (See Document G). It succeeded because its management made the same necessary decisions that leaders of all successful American industries were making. In Gilbert and Bennett’s case, these were the same steps they had been taking since its establishment in 1818. The Georgetown mill continued to adapt to changing markets and economic conditions and they wisely foresaw future trends and developments. Gilbert and Bennett also benefitted from a vast amount of good fortune.
As mentioned earlier, growing 19th century factories moved to steam power. Because of Gilbert and Bennett’s rather isolated location, it derived its power not from coal but from water turbines. In 1848 water pressure became a constant with the purchase and control of Great Pond, a reservoir located 5.27 miles northwest of the mill on the Norwalk River at the Ridgefield-Redding town line.
The post Civil War era saw the mill moving away from sieves as the backbone of its production, while continuing to profit in the prewar markets of insect screening and glue drying nets. To these were added poultry wire, coal and ash sifters, and ox muzzles. By 1885, Gilbert and Bennett’s place as a flourishing 19th century industry. A fire destroyed the plant. Damage amounted to $200,000 for which the mill had $40,000 of insurance. The decisions that were made in rebuilding the properties insured Gilbert and Bennett’s success for generations to come. Although the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad traveled through Georgetown as early as 1852, it was during the 1874 reconstruction that the railroad was convinced to run a spur line into the mill proper. Also, Gilbert and Bennett was reorganized as a joint stock company and the machinery that adorned the new buildings was the newest and best possible. The mill was opened and operating within the year.
The development of the industrial economy in 19th century America was fundamental to the development of the United States during the same period. One cannot be understood without studying and understanding the other. If we understand an economic system as the process of human production, exchange, and consumption, then we understand the process of 19th century American History: its strengths, its failures, its aspirations, and its conflicts.
The parameters for understanding this process as well as the realization of its factors are available to us in the history of the United States, Connecticut, and our individual localities. The parameters are similar, if not identical, and their characteristics are interrelated and oftentimes overlapping. To attempt to grasp them is to attempt to comprehend the process of history. To neglect to see this historical system at work is, to say the least, unfortunate.
The strategies I plan to follow in achieving my goals in
The Development of the Mill System Economy
are ones of discovery and confrontation. Concepts will be developed, tested, and applied to original problems through individual and group assignments as well as large group discussion and sharing. The unit will proceed at comprehension and application levels of learning.
I’m confident that students will leave this unit with a good factual understanding of the emerging mill systems of America, Connecticut, and their individual locality. This can readily be pre-and post-tested. But a more vital part of my strategy is to achieve the objective of having students become aware of the process of history. 1 expect students to see that history not only happens on newscasts and in textbooks, but also in their own neighborhoods. As a result of this unit, they should see the linkage between events preceding and following the emergence of mills (War of 1812 mill system national markets), and also the connection among events within a given time period (mills machine industries railroads). I intend that my strategy and techniques enthuse students about the study of history and cause them to see its value and usefulness.
A teacher in a town other than Wilton ought to be able to use the research in this project on a mill development on a national and statewide level by making appropriate additions or deletions. Then, by using a local mill site, one that is still functioning or one that has ceased to operate, teachers can establish their own local field study. Students should then be asked to apply their knowledge of the mill economy on a national and statewide level to circumstances in their specific locale. Among the introductory general questions to be asked would be the following:
1. In what ways was this mill indicative of the 19th century mill system?
2. If it succeeded, why did it succeed?
3. If it failed, why did it fail?
4. In what ways was it different from mills of its time? Why did these differences occur?
The mill that I intend to use is still functioning. It was and is very successful. This provides certain concrete links between the past and the present. But I think it would, perhaps, even more fascinating to show students the remains of a once-busy mill or a partially preserved mill dam and ask them to speculate and imagine the mill from its remains.
Why do your parents work? (where they do; as hard as they do) Why do both your parents work? Why do they travel as much as they do? Why don’t your parents get jobs where they only have to work six months of the year? These jobs are available! GET THEM TO SEE THAT THEIR PARENTS HAVE CERTAIN NEEDS THAT WORK FULFILLS.
Student will be asked to think back to previous concepts that we have discussed: migration, colonization mercantilism, revolution. Why have we used concepts? To put “things” in categories to better organize our thinking.