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Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission
Statewide Historical Preservation Reports
The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission produced a document in 1981 which is very informative about Providence and Rhode Island.
Provided here are excerpts of the publication as well as links to the complete publications.
The document was originally issued by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission in 1981. For more information, contact: Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission The Old State House 150 Benefit Street Providence, RI 02903 Phone: 401-222-2678 Fax: 401-222-2968 Email:
Company Excerpts
Table of Contents
Waite-Thresher Company The company was founded by William H. Waite to produce gold jewelry and was incorporated in 1899 as the Waite-Thresher Company when Henry G. Thresher became a partner.
Nicholson File Company William Nicholson, founder of the Nicholson File Company, began his career as a machinist in 1852 in Joseph Brown's machine shop (later Brown & Sharpe). Having opened his own machine shop in the late 1850s, Nicholson formed the firm of Nicholson & Brownell at the beginning of the Civil War to produce parts for Springfield Muskets. In 1864, Nicholson sold his share in Nicholson & Brownell and formed the Nicholson File Company to manufacture files which were cut, forged, and ground by machinery designed and built by Nicholson himself. When Nicholson's company began production it was the first successful manufacturer of machine-made files in America.
Gorham Manufacturing Company The Gorham Manufacturing Company was founded as a small jeweler's shop in 1818 by Jabez Gorham, who made beads, earrings, breast pins, rings, and a gold chain known as the "Gorham Chain." In 1831, the firm began manufacturing silver spoons. Soon the shop began the production of other silver items such as forks, thimbles, combs, and children's cups. In 1841 Gorham's son John joined the firm which became known as Jabez Gorham and Son
Providence Machine Company Thomas Hill, founder of the Providence Machine Company, played an important part in the development of the textile industry in Rhode Island. The Providence Machine Company was the first American Company which successfully manufactured roving machines and fly frames for cotton manufacturers.
Riverside Mills Chapin and Downes originally began by manufacturing woolen, coffin coverings and cassimeres but soon changed their product to astrakhan (a cloth made of wool or wool and cotton, which has a curled or looped pile) and other ladies' cloakings. Although the Riverside Mills gained their reputation from their astrakhan, since it was a cloth not widely manufactured in the United States.
Stillman White Brass Foundry Stillman White started his brass foundry on this site in 1856. By 1869 White's brass foundry was famous not only in Rhode Island but also in New England for the product called "S. Whites Anti-friction Lining Metal" which was used to line bearings. Still-man White's Brass Foundry was also known for a variety of brass, bronze, and composition castings, which were used by steam-engine companies, cotton-machinery manufacturers, and other industries.
Wanskuck Mill The Wanskuck Company established by Jesse Metcalf and Henry Steere in 1862 was one of the many woolen mills formed early in the Civil War when cotton was scarce and army uniforms and blankets as well as civilian clothing were in great demand.
Grant Mill Built around an earlier stone mill structure, this plain, 4-story, brick mill with a flat roof and segmental-arch windows was one of the two Providence mills owned by the huge cotton combine of B. B. and R. Knight, best known for its Fruit of the Loom products.
The Fletcher Manufacturing Company The Fletcher Manufacturing Company, founded by Thomas Fletcher in 1793 for the production of narrow fabrics such as lampwicks, was originally located in Boston. While Thomas Fletcher had produced lampwicks and other narrow fabrics, his sons expanded the operation to include the manufacture of boot and shoelaces, corset laces, twine, yarns, spindle bandings, and kerosene-lamp wicks.
Silver Spring Bleaching & Dyeing Company The Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing Company was formed in 1864 when Henry Lippitt and Charles Merriman bought the buildings, land, and water rights to Frieze and Dow's bleachery on the west side of Charles Street (then part of North Providence).
Irons & Russell Company The Irons and Russell Company began as the Charles F. Irons Company in 1861 for the manufacture of society emblems, pins, and charms. The Charles E. Russell Company also specialized in society emblems, trade emblems, rolled gold-plate pins, and chains.
Champlin Manufacturing Company The S. B. Champlin Company was founded by Stanton B. Champlin and his son, George, in 1872 to manufacture gold rings and gold-filled chain.
James Doran and Sons James Doran and Sons began as a North Attleboro firm, Doran and Hall, in 1885. In 1902, James Doran and his son James, Jr., formed a new findings business in Providence under the name of Doran and Doran, which a few years later changed to James Doran and Sons when Doran's other son, Arthur, joined the firm.
A. T. Wall Company The A. T. Wall Company was founded in 1888 by Ashbel T. Wall to manufacture gold plated wire.
Elmwood Cotton Mills The two stone buildings were erected in 1866 as the Elmwood Cotton Mills by the James Y. Smith Manufacturing Company which manufactured cotton cloths, prints, sheetings, and fancy goods. The company's best known product, called "Elmwood Shirting," was a fancy grade cotton cloth which gave the company a reputation for producing high-quality goods.
American Standard Watch Case Company The American Standard Watch Case Company, founded in 1920. The American Standard Watch Case Company was bought by the Bulova Watch Company in 1948.
Waterman-Weybosset Mills John Waterman's Eagle Steam Mill, a cotton mill, was located in two mills on Dike Street on either side of Troy Street. After 1855, however, the mill on the western side of Troy Street.
1n 1885 Royal C. Taft sold his shares in the Weybossett Mills, and in 1899 William Weeden sold out to the American Woolen Company. Under the ownership of the American Woolen Company the Weybosset Mill produced cloth for overcoats and cloaks.
Cowing and Heaton Mill The original mill, started as early as the 1830s by Martin Cowing, was used as a cotton-dyeing-and-bleaching establishment until the late 1850s.
Allen Printworks The Allen Printworks, more than any other printing establishment in Providence, was a vital force in the textile and cloth-printing industry. Founded in 1830 by Phillip Allen - an engineer, inventor, and governor and state senator - the Phillip Allen & Sons Company originally printed cloth by hand with carved blocks, but as early as 1835 Allen introduced printing machines to his establishment which greatly increased the speed of calico production.
United States Gutta Percha Paint Company The United States Gutta Percha Paint Company founded by J. William Rice in 1886
Valley Worsted Mills Founded in 1842 by John Giles, the Valley Worsted Mill was one of the earliest worsted mills in the United States. Initially the machinery in this early mill was powered by oxen and the product of the mill, worsted yarn, was used by hand knitters.
Narragansett Electric Lighting Company The first electric company in Providence was the Rhod produce electricity for seventy-five arc lamps in downtown Providence. By 1888 the city had 236 electric street lights (compared to 2,590 gas and 1,618 naptha or gasoline lights).
Rhode Island Company Powerhouse The Rhode Island Company was formed in 1902. Owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, this company leased the trolley lines of the Union Railroad Company which ran trolleys to the towns and factories on the outskirts of Providence.
Ernest Street City Sewage Pumping Station and Sewage Treatment Station The first sewer system, which was put into operation in 1872, poured raw sewage into the rivers. It was not long before the city leaders realized that this system was seriously damaging the rivers, and in 1884 the city engineer, Samuel Grey, went to Europe to investigate the latest methods of sewage treatment and disposal. Grey presented a comprehensive plan to the city council in 1886, and the council called in a panel of engineers to study Grey's suggestions. This panel approved the plan in 1887, and in 1889 construction of this massive system was begun.
Horace Remington & Sons Company Horace Remington entered the silver and gold refining and smelting business as an apprentice in the large refining firm of John Austin & Company and several years later became the firm's manager. In 1881 Remington formed a partnership with Charles Barber who retired a few years later.
Sylvester R. Jackson & Company Sylvester R. Jackson & Company, a soap and candle manufacturing firm, was founded in 1841.
Providence Gas Company The Providence Gas Company was established in 1848 by Amos D. Smith and other investors.
Beaman & Smith, The Beaman & Smith Company was founded in 1886 by Elmer A. Beaman and George H. Smith for the manufacture of metal-working machine tools. In 1898 the company incorporated and built a factory on Gordon Street. Beaman & Smith Company was noted for its milling and boring machines, some of which weighed up to 65 tons.
American Tubing & Webbing Company Founded in 1883 by Arthur Caldwell as the American Tubing & Manufacturing Company, the company incorporated in 1891 under the new name of the American Tubing & Webbing Company, and built a new factory in 1896. When completed, it was noted as the largest manufacturing plant in the United States devoted to this line of business.
City Machine Company Founded in 1865, the City Machine Company produced fly frames and roving frames for cotton-yarn manufacturing.
Vesta Knitting Mills In 1883 Rudolph Berry established a company to manufacture ribbed, knitted underwear and hosery made on circular-knitting machines. This type of jersey underwear for women and children previously had been imported from France, England, and Switzerland.
Monohasset Mill Monohasset Mill was established by Paine & Sackett in 1866 as a woolen mill.
Atlantic Delaine Mills The first mill of the Atlantic Delaine Company was built in 1851 by General C. T. James to manufacture delaine;
Dyerville Mill The Dyerville Mill was founded by Elisha Dyer, a successful Providence commission merchant. Dyer, like many Providence merchants, reinvested his money in manufacturing as trade became less profitable. By 1849 the Dyerville Mill employed thirty men and thirty-five women who turned out 800,000 yards of calico cloth a year
John & Thomas Hope Company The John & Thomas Hope Company was established in Providence in 1850 and provided a unique and much needed service for the printing industry. John Hope invented the first efficient pantograph engraving machine.
The American Screw Company - The American Screw Company was made up of the Eagle Screw Company, incorporated in 1838, and The New England Screw Company, incorporated in 1840. These two firms, which manufactured machine and wood screws, merged in 1860 under the direction of William G. Angell, one of the founders of the Eagle Screw Company, to form the American Screw Company. By 1886 the American Screw Company was one of the three largest screw companies in the country.
Luther Brothers The Luther Brothers firm, run by William and Edward Luther, was founded by William Luther in 1870 to manufacture novelty jewelry. Though not the originators of the electroplating process, the Luther Brothers firm introduced electroplating to its factory as soon as the patent for the process expired in the 1870s. By 1890, the company was the largest manufacturer of electro-plated novelty jewelry in the United States and Europe.
The New England Butt Company The New England Butt Company, established in 1842 by N. A. Fenner, originally manufactured cast-iron butt hinges.
Fuller Iron Works The Fuller Iron Works, established by Frederick Fuller in 1839. The Fuller Iron Works produced heavy-machine castings, water pipes, steam engines, and other heavy-metal products.
Jesse Metcalf Building Named for the founder of the Wanskuck Mills and owned as an investment property by his daughters, Eliza Raedeke and Sophia Baker, the Jesse Metcalf Building was built especially for jewelry-manufacturing businesses.
Coca-Cola Bottling Plant Coca-Cola began its Providence bottling operation at 477 Smith Street in 1917.
Davol Rubber Company The Davol Rubber Company, founded by Emery Perkins and Joseph Davol in 1874 as the Perkins Manufacturing Company, was the result of two years of experiments and inventions by Joseph Davol. Although the manufacture of rubber goods such as boots and shoes was well established in the United States, and there were a few such manufacturers in Providence, the processes used by Davol to manufacture drug and surgical supplies were entirely new to this country. In 1878, Davol assumed control of the company which he renamed the Davol Manufacturing Company. Incorporated in 1882 as the Davol Manufacturing Company and in 1884 as the Davol Rubber Company, the firm was the international leader in the production of rubber drug-and-surgical supplies by 1888 and had markets for its goods in South America, Germany, Australia, China, and Japan, as well as in all parts of the United States.
Barstow Stove Company The Barstow Stove Company was established in 1836 by Amos Chafee Barstow. Barstow had first been a stove dealer on Weybosset Street and later was proprietor of the City Furnace on Broad Street. Barstow built a new stove foundry on Point Street in 1849. The first ranges turned out at the Barstow factory were called Bay State Stoves.
Coro Company The Coro Company, which started as the Cohn & Rosenburger jewelry firm located in New York City, formed a Providence branch in 1911 at Abbott Park Place.
Merino Mills The Merino Mills, one of the earliest mills in Olneyville, was established in 1812 by John Waterman, who reputedly built the 18th-century farmhouse nearby on Ponagansett Avenue. The mill was built to manufacture merino cloth.
Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company The Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company which was of worldwide importance to the growth and development of the precision-tool industry, began as a small, watch- and clock-making company founded by David Brown and his son Joseph in 1833. When David Brown emigrated from Providence to Illinois in 1841, Joseph Brown took over the business and began making small tools and lathes in his shop on South Main Street. Joseph Brown's first important invention was an automatic, linear-dividing machine which made possible the production of the vernier caliper in 1851. In 1853 Lucian Sharpe, who had been an apprentice with Joseph Brown since 1848, was made a full partner, resulting in the new company known as J. . Brown & Sharpe.
California Artificial Flower Company The California Artificial Flower Company (known as Cal-Art) was founded in 1922 by Michael D'Agnillo, an Italian immigrant, who turned his hobby of making paper and cloth flowers into a means of support. The flowers were first used by stores in their display windows, but soon were sold to the general public as their popularity increased for home use.

Speidel Chain Company, run by German immigrant Albert Speidel. The Speidel Chain Company manufactured gold watch chains for several years before and after World War I. During the post-World War I era, however, changing fashions and social customs fostered the development of casual, moderately priced watches-such as the expandable bracelet watch designed by Speidel's brother Edwin in 1930. This bracelet was manufactured by Automatic Chain Company (the successor to the Speidel Chain Company) until 1935 when Edwin Speidel formed his own company, the Speidel Corporation. ------------- 1951, Edwin Speidel set aside part of the factory, by that time owned by the Speidel Corporation, for the manufacture of Desitin ointment. The Desitin Chemical Company occupied part of the Speidel factory until 1963.

Fall River Iron Works The Fall River Iron works which manufactured iron nails was founded in Fall River in 1822. In 1845, however, the iron company bought this Providence waterfront lot from Thomas Halsey and soon after built a warehouse and office building.
Rumford Chemical Works. Named for Count Rumford, an 18th-century scientist who founded a professorship at Harvard, this company was founded by a former chairman of the Harvard Science Department, Eben N. Horsford, who devoted his life to the study of nutrition, especially the chemical process involved in the conversions of grains into breads. The products of the Rumford Chemical Works manufactured in East Providence included Horsford's Cream of Tartar Substitute, bread preparation, baking powder, Rumford Yeast Powder, and Horsford's Acid Phosphate.
Providence Steam Engine Company The Providence Steam Engine Company is said to have had its start as early as 1821 when John Babcock, an early steamboat builder, worked on or near this waterfront site. In 1830 Babcock's son, John Babcock, Jr., and E. L. Thurston combined their mechanical expertise to establish a steam engine company.
Hicks Boiler Works Hicks Boiler Works was founded in 1861 by Gideon Hicks who had previously worked nearby at the Providence Steam Engine Company plant. Hicks' company specialized in the manufacture of stationary and marine boiler works.
Oakdale Manufacturing Company The Oakdale Manufacturing Company, formed in 1891 by the merger of three Providence dairy companies, bought the William Butler warehouse and refitted it for the manufacture of "butterine."
American Electrical Works The American Electrical Works, founded by Eugene Phillips in 1870 for the manufacture of insulated electrical wires
Fulford Manufacturing Company-manufacturers of brass and steel beds, metal ornaments, and stampings.
J. P. Haskins Building Built by J. P. Haskins, a "box manufacturer whose factory was located nearby, the J. P.Haskins Building is a handsomely detailed 4-story brick factory with a corbeled cornice and window hoodmolds.
Burdon Seamless Filled Wire Company, founded by Levi Burdon, was the first company to manufacture seamless gold-and silver-plated tubing used by jewelry manufacturers. By 1892, the company was producing 5,000 ounces per day of tubing and wire which was in demand by the growing jewelry industry.
Providence Dyeing, Bleaching and Calendering Company The Providence Dyeing, Bleaching and Calendering Company was founded in 1814 as the Patent Calender Company when Henry Hoppin, Hercules Whitney, Edward Mason, Jr., and Daniel Bates bought the third steam engine to be used by the textile industry in Rhode Island.
National and Providence Worsted Mills Charles Fletcher, an Englishman who had acquired his knowledge of worsted production in the famous worsted mills of Bradford, England, built the Providence Worsted Mill as a spinning mill to produce worsted mohair and genappe yarns, but upon rebuilding the complex in the 1880s, Fletcher added the National Worsted Mill, a worsted-weaving mill which he initially operated as a separate entity from the Providence Worsted Mill.
Woonasquatucket Print Works The Woonasquatucket Print Works was founded by G. M. Richmond and Victor Carr in the 1840s. By 1849, the print works, which specialized in calico printing, occupied six buildings.
The Queen Dyeing Company, incorporated in 1895, was led by William Penn Mather who had been involved in the machine industry in Manchester, England. The company specialized in a dye called analine-black which was used primarily for women's petticoats.
The American Emery Wheel Works The American Emery Wheel Works was established in Boston and moved to, its factory in 1898. The company, headed by mechanical engineer H. A. Richmond, manufactured a full complement of emery wheels and stones. These grinding wheels and stones were used by many of the manufacturing concerns in the city, and this was the only Providence-based firm of its kind.
Corliss Steam Engine Company George H. Corliss, a native of New York State, moved to Providence in 1844. An inventor and engineer, Corliss devoted his energy to discovering ways of improving the steam engine. Corliss was awarded several medals and honors including a gold medal at the 1867 Paris Exposition. In 1876, Corliss built the vertical "Centennial Engine" to power the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
Providence Tool Company The Providence Tool Company was founded in 1845. Beginning as a small business located on Wickenden Street, it employed 40 workers in the production of heavy hardware and railroad supplies. Later the company began manufacturing sewing machines and muskets.
Steere Worsted Mill The Steere Worsted Mill was founded as a part of the Wanskuck Mills under the direction of Henry J. Steere, who was also the co-founder of the Wanskuck Mills. The Steere Mill made its first shipment of worsted yarn in 1884.
Congdon & Carpenter Company By 1790, Joseph Congdon was offering “lately come to hand, and now for sale, A Quantity of Iron-Stock, for the Use of Forges, amongst which is a large Proportion suitable for Blacksmiths' Business.” A considerable market awaited, for in addition to a steady demand for tools, firearms, maritime instruments, and farming implements made of iron, the incipient industries of Providence, Pawtucket, and the hinterland increasingly required Congdon's wares. Hurried orders to organize and equip an army placed heavy demands on textile and machine manufacturers, who in turn relied on Congdon & Carpenter to supply their needs.
Congdon and Carpenter Founded in 1792, Congdon and Carpenter operated its metal works in two locations on Canal Street
Updated 20 March, 2008

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