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Made in Stamford

A History of Stamford as a Manufacturing Center

An essay written in conjunction with the Stamford Historical Society exhibition
“Made in Stamford” which opened on November 30, 1984.

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by Gregg D. Mecca

Characterized today by its rapid development as a dynamic corporate center, the City of Stamford boasts a long and colorful history as a prosperous manufacturing town.

During the years following the Industrial revolution, Stamford, as well as many other industrial cities of the Northeast, became known for its manufactured products, the wide variety of goods which were Made in Stamford.

Early products manufactured in the city included dyes, licorice, stoves, shoes, and carriages. In 1868, The Yale Lock Company opened its doors for the first time, heralding Stamford's future as The Lock City. Other industries flourished In the later years of the 19th and well into the 20th century, providing the country, and the world, with diverse products ranging from wallpaper and chocolates to postage meters, typewriters, and electric razors.

By the 1950s and 60s, Stamford began to experience a decline in industry as the dominant force in its economy. Many manufacturers ceased operations or relocated away from the decaying northern industrial cities during this period. Stamford lost much of its economic base with the gradual retreat of the Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company which commenced in 1948. However, unlike many cities of similar size and type which were unable to bounce back from the devastating industrial decline, Stamford shifted gears and began to develop a new, broader-based economy.

Today Stamford is home to many national and international corporations. New industry based on the needs of growing technological fields has been successfully introduced and employs a significant portion of the city's population. Although no longer the easily identifiable consumer goods of previous eras, products “Made in Stamford” continue to play an important role in the economy of our city and our nation.

* * *

Stamford, a New England Puritan settlement founded in 1641, was a self-sufficient agrarian community. For two hundred years farming and animal husbandry comprised the base of the economy, and all early industries were closely linked to agriculture. Grist, saw, wire, and woolen mills operated along Stamford's rivers. Spinning, weaving, basket making, harness and shoe making, tanning, carpentry and cabinetry, and blacksmithery were conducted in small workshops or in the home. Marine commerce and construction and fishing-especially oyster fishing-also supported Stamford's people.[1]

As Stamford approached the mid-19th century, it, like the northern United States as a whole, was entering a new economic age. The Industrial Revolution was coming to America, enlarging, specializing, and mechanizing the American industrial process. By 1850 certain requirements necessary for industrial growth, such as technological advances and innovations in the way businesses were financed and organized had been made. The corporation, a device which had been in existence since the 18th century, was well established by the beginning of the 19th century and was becoming more accepted as a legitimate business form. [2]

Banks, sparce before the Revolution, grew quickly in number during the early decades of the 19th century. Stamford Bank, Stamford's first bank, was chartered in 1834 and became a national bank in 1863. A second institution, Stamford Savings Bank, was chartered in 1851. Citizen's Savings Bank, the third, in 1869, and the Stamford Trust Company in 1889.[3]  The growth of banks together with the corporation provided the investment capital crucial for the support of manufacturing.

The American factory was born In the early 19th century. The concept of the factory as a building where workers, mechanization, and power were brought together was developed in England during the previous century with a high degree of success, especially in the textile industry.[4]  American industry now began its transformation from hand craftsmanship and water power to machine production and steam power.

The twenty-year period from 1830 to 1850 saw dramatic advances in transportation that created an environment favorable for the location of industry in Stamford. Land transportation had always been arduous and slow even along the nation's best roads, but travel along the nation's waterways was both faster and cheaper. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 and its immediate success touched off a nationwide canal building boom which was felt in Stamford. In 1831 townsmen approved a plan to extend the east branch of the harbor to the center of town by digging a canal. Completed in 1833, the canal reached to just behind Atlantic Square, allowing schooners and sloops to dock right at the hub of the village. When the railroad tracks were laid, the canal north of the railroad was closed, and beginning in 1868 the lower section was widened to 80 feet and dug to a depth of 9 feet deeper to accommodate more and larger vessels. Salt marshes on either side of the canal were filled in with the excavated dirt, thereby making the banks suitable for industrial development.[5]

The advent of the railroad was a transportation revolution and a significant factor in the acceleration of the industrialization of the northern United States. On December 19, 1848, accompanied by much drama and excitement, the first iron horse passed through Stamford on the New York-New Haven Railroad, placing the town on a major freight and passenger routes.[6]  The opening of the railroad had another important consequence that stimulated manufacturing in Stamford. The railroad brought hundreds of immigrants to Stamford, first the Irish and Germans and later other Europeans. They formed a ready semi-skilled and unskilled labor pool for industry.

The coming together of all of these forces in American life gradually transformed Stamford from a quiet, homogeneous farming town into a bustling, diversified manufacturing city in the half century following the Civil War.

* * *

The appearance of all the elements of modern industrial society did not mean that such a society was created in Stamford overnight. The factory did not signal the immediate disappearance of workshops or home manufacturing. Relying on the water power of the Mill River as water fell over the dam near Main Street, between 1850 and 1852 George Watson operated the only pottery known to have existed in Stamford. The operation was dependent on the water for washing the clay and providing the power to break it up and grind the glaze.[7]

An early and important Stamford manufacturer which straddled the pre-industrial and industrial eras was the Stamford Manufacturing Company, situated at today's Cove Park. The Stamford Manufacturing Company was organized in 1844 by brothers John and Henry Sanford, who purchased the two flour mills constructed at the Cove in 1791 by William Fitch and John W. Holly. A pre-Industrial Revolution manufacturer, the company first relied on tidal flows for power before converting to steam power. The company ground dyewoods for dyes, processed spices, and made licorice. Stamford Manufacturing Company continually grew in size and prominence. Through the 19th century the company was a leading local industry and one which served to place the city on the world map. It was said to have been the largest operation of its kind in the world. Dyes of various colors developed by the company were highly acclaimed and sought after. Though partially destroyed twice by fires, the company rebounded. In the 20th century the development of synthetic analine dyes cut deeply into the company's markets, and the outbreak of World War I seriously interfered with its business. The company stayed in business until 1919 when on February 19 a third conflagration levelled the factory and forced a total shutdown of operations.[8]

James Sheffield operated a workshop at the Cove between 1856 and 1879. Sheffield's prime customer was the neighboring Stamford Manufacturing Company, which he supplied with tools and metal barrel hoops. In 1878 Sheffield mortgaged his steam engine, boiler, and pump, sold his land the following year, and apparently went out of business.[9]

Another significant Stamford manufacturer with an early beginning was the Stamford Foundry Company, begun by George E. Waring about 1830 at his small foundry on Long Ridge Road near the New York State boundary. Waring conducted a large business in the production of stoves of all kinds, and also of agricultural implements, cast iron fences, and grills for many years after 1830. In 1836 Waring moved his foundry to the head of Atlantic Street, then to West Main Street at the Mill River's edge, and finally to Canal Street just south of Atlantic Square in 1851. The Stamford Foundry Co. was the only stove foundry in Connecticut and the oldest stove foundry in the nation. It manufactured wood- and coal-burning cast iron heating and cooking stoves as well as ranges of every size and variety. Stamford stoves were used in homes, churches, factories, stores, hotels, warehouses, and even aboard ships. The foundry, which remained in business until 1954, eventually manufactured gas and electric stoves, some of which may still be found in kitchens around the world.[10]

Beginning in 1853 the lumber company of Hoyt, Getman and Judd carried on a large business at the canal dock. As the company grew, the manufacturing segment of the business was separated from the mercantile aspects and incorporated in 1855 under the name of the St. John Wood Working Company. St. John's manufactured quality house trimmings, sashes, blinds, and hardwood finishings for which it earned a high reputation. The company operated until 1935 while Getman and Judd carried on in the lumber business until 1965.[11]

The advantages of Stamford's water and rail links attracted the attention of Linus Yale, Jr., and Henry R. Towne, who had begun a partnership in the manufacture of locks in Shelbourne, Massachusetts. Linus Yale was an inventor and manufacturer of bank locks eager to expand his small business when Henry R. Towne, an engineer, met him, took an interest in his work, and saw in it the opportunity for the development of an important new industry. The success of the Yale Lock Company, as the partners' firm was originally called, was based on the cylinder or five-pin tumbler lock patented by Linus Yale in 1861. It was compact, offered many combination variations, was virtually pick-proof, and had a lightweight key.[12]

In 1868 Towne and Yale decided to move their business to Stamford, choosing a site between the canal and the railroad along Pacific and Market streets in the South End. Although Linus Yale died suddenly on Christmas Day 1868, Towne pressed ahead with construction of the factory and opened in May 1869. Towne acquired sole ownership of the company, and in 1883 renamed it the Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company. He acted as company president until 1915 and chairman of the board until his death in 1924.[13]  Gifted with exceptional organizational skills, Towne instituted a modern factory system to replace what had formerly been done by hand.

Yale & Towne produced some of the most outstanding hardware in the country and made notable advances in the design of post office boxes and locks and blocks and pulleys. The success of the Yale & Towne Company was so complete that the company rapidly expanded its physical plant and work force. In the company's first three years of operation the number of workers rose from 30 to 150. By 1892 the company occupied 21 acres in the South End (the complex eventually topped off at 25 acres) and employed nearly 1,000 people out of a total population of nearly 16,000 or one in every 16 Stamford residents. In 1907 that number had risen to 3,000 and by 1916 it had reached 5,000.[14]

The city's largest single employer and manufacturing firm, Yale & Towne dominated Stamford's economy within 25 years of its establishment and continued to do so until it departed in the 1950s.[15]  The predominance of the firm is reflected in the nickname The Lock City chosen by the city in the early 1900s. The seal of the City of Stamford also bears a depiction of two Yale & Towne keys.

Although Yale & Towne was the outstanding manufacturing company during the 19th century and for quite some time afterward, it was by no means the only one in Stamford. Located at Waterside, the B. Keith & Co. manufactured drugs and chemicals beginning in 1865.[16] Carriages and wagons were made in town by several establishments, among them The Phoenix Company, and the shops operated by Hugh Neil and William Wilson & Co. at Mill River Bridge and Canal Street, respectively.[17]  Water pipes, stove linings, fire bricks and pottery goods were manufactured by Union Fire Brick and Drain Tile Works which operated first at Waterside, then at the Canal Dock from 1845 until 1896.

Simon Ingersoll, a Stamford native who was well known as a prolific inventor, invented in 1871 a steam rock drill. His American Wonder Rock Drill sold widely in this country and abroad and was used extensively in railroad construction and in the mining and quarrying industries for boring shot holes for blasting. Ingersoll incorporated the Ingersoll Mfg. Co. in 1882 at a Canal Street location and manufactured ratchet drills, pumps, well curbs, and other machinery.[18]  In 1873 Edwin Hoyt, Jr., patented a washing machine which he claimed had new and useful improvements. Hoyt's machine was designed with two wooden rollers and two composition wiper blades through which the clothes were drawn by hand.[19]

For a number of years beginning in 1873, billiard tables were a Stamford-made product. In that year H.W. Collender established his firm in a large five-story factory at the head of Pacific Street. The H.W. Collender Co. was the leading billiard manufacturer in the country, employing 200 persons in 1881. Though it was entirely destroyed by fire on the night of February 14, 1883, at an estimated loss of $200,000, Collender rebuilt and opened as the Collender Wood Working Co. in 1885. Shortly thereafter the firm merged, forming the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., and the manufacturing of tables was discontinued at the Stamford factory.[20]

Apparel for the head and the foot could be purchased from Stamford-based manufacturers. In 1881 the manufacture of straw hats by the Stamford Straw Hat Works began. The company was reorganized in 1892 as the T.B. Smart Co. The factory located at Pacific and Walnut streets produced hats at an annual rate of 20,000 cases or nearly one million hats per year. Smart employed 300 persons, two-thirds of whom were women who sewed and braided the straw into hats.[21]  Women's and children's shoes of the latest styles could be purchased from Lounsbury & Soule Company. Begun as a small workshop In Long Ridge in 1858, the company moved into a new factory on Broad Street in 1885 where in 1892 it was turning out 1,500 to 1,800 pairs a week using the labor of about 100 persons. Lounsbury & Soule remained in business until 1923, and the factory it operated was until recently occupied by Dress Barn. a women's clothing store.[22]

A wall covering desired by many Victorian ladies in Europe and America for the decoration of their homes began to be manufactured in Stamford in 1883. The wall covering known as Lincrusta-Walton was patented by Mr. Walton and first produced in England by the Lincrusta-Walton Manufacturing Company. Because of its popularity in this country, a joint stock company was formed here and a factory constructed on 8 3/4 acres on lower Canal Street. Lincrusta-Walton wall covering simulated the look of wood carving and embossed leather. It was tough and elastic, it could be stamped or raised into any pattern, and it could be painted. Frederick Beck, who conducted the Stamford business, purchased the concern and around 1890 renamed it Fr. Beck & Company.[23]

The closing decade of the 19th century witnessed the establishment of new manufacturers in Stamford, increasing the scope of Stamford-made products. The South End, the roughly triangular area bordered by the Sound, harbor, canal, and railroad, took on the role as the town's principal manufacturing district. Factories were built along the canal, and railroad spurs were laid directly into the interiors of the factory yards.

Some of the manufacturers to settle in Stamford late in the century were Davenport & Tracey Co. in 1887, maker of piano plates and hardware; Schleicher & Sons in 1892, a manufacturer of pianos; the Stone and Taylor Company in 1891, producer of wood and paper boxes; the Stamford Hosiery and Suspender Co., producer of suspenders and stockings; and the National Mosaic & Tile Company in 1893, a maker of tubes and tiles for interior floors and exterior ornamental trimmings.[24]

For a short time of about four years, the Eagle Bicycle Company on lower Atlantic Street built a new safety bicycle in Stamford. The company's founder, Leonard B. Gaylor, patented a high wheel bicycle of an improved design which added a handbrake and placed the small wheel in the front and the large wheel in back, rather than the front, in order to give the rider better balance. The Eagle Bicycle Co. was organized in 1883 with capital amounting to $50,000.[25]

Shortly after the turn of the century in 1902, brothers Max and Abraham Baer moved their company, Baer Bros., to Stamford from New York. It was there in 1888 that the men had begun the business of jobbing bronze powders imported from Germany. By the time they settled their firm in Stamford, the brothers had entered into production themselves. Shortly after opening a factory on Canal Street, they enlarged their business to include the manufacture of gold and aluminum paints and the operation of a shellac bleachery. As operations expanded, Baer Bros. opened a second plant on Fairfield Avenue which they maintained in continuous operation until 1958. The company's product line grew to include paints, enamels, varnishes, lacquers and shellac, gold aluminum bronzes, and leaf.[26]

Only twenty years after the typewriter had come into practical use, a Stamford resident, George C. Blickensderfer, invented a new kind of typewriter 1892 in his small workshop at the rear of his Bedford Street home. In order produce his invention, he founded The Blickensderfer Manufacturing Company in 1889, renting space on Garden Street until the construction of a spacious factory on lower Atlantic Street in 1896. Blickensderfer's typewriter, which featured the principle of revolving type, became the world's best seller, and the company became one of the world's largest typewriter manufacturers. His model #8 was one of the first and said to be the best portable typewriter invented. The Blick typewriter could be outfitted with different type styles and for foreign languages. When World War I cut off the company's large export markets, Blickensderfer invented a belt-loading device for machine guns and received enough orders from the French government to keep the company solvent. George Blickensderfer died in 1917, and three years later his company was taken over by the L.R. Roberts Typewriter Company.[27]

Another Stamford resident whose product became nationally and even internationally known was Charles H. Phillips, inventor of milk of magnesia. Phillips, a pharmacist from England, moved to Glenbrook where he established the Phillips Camphor and Wax Company. It was in Stamford that he concocted and received a patent in 1873 for hydrate of magnesia mixed with water which he called Milk of Magnesia. Phillips produced milk of magnesia as well as other pharmaceuticals at his Glenbrook firm which incorporated in 1885 as the Charles H. Phillips Company. After Phillips' death in 1882, his four sons ran the corporation until 1923, at which time it was acquired by Sterling Drug, Inc. Phillip's Milk of Magnesia is of course still manufactured today, but the last familiar blue bottle to be filled in Stamford was in 1976 when production at the Glenbrook plant was phased out.[28]

In 1898 a David versus Goliath battle took place between Elisha Mix, Jr., founder of Excelsior Hardware, and the mighty Yale & Towne Mfg. Co. When Yale & Towne demoted Mix and cut his pay, he secretly worked after hours at his own lock-making company which he located in Bridgeport so as not to arouse the suspicions of Yale & Towne management. Mix came from a line of talented lock makers. His father, Elisha Sr., was a lock maker and his grandfather, James Mix, was a die maker for some of the first locks manufactured in the county. Soon Mix informed Yale & Towne that he was quitting to run his own firm, and the company promptly fired his son Moseley, who also worked for the lock giant. When Mix was unable to sell his Stamford home to move to Bridgeport, father and son moved the operation in 1901 to Woodland Avenue in the very shadow of the Yale & Towne complex. Excelsior Hardware Company has the distinction of being the oldest manufacturing company begun and still operating in Stamford. The first products manufactured by the firm were trunk and drawer locks. Excelsior later added suitcase and automobile trunk locks to its line. Today at its several locations in the South End Excelsior continues to manufacture a long and varied line of locks and luggage hardware.[29]

As industry in Stamford expanded and began to dominate the economic base of the town, the industrialists assumed a vocal and active role in the life of the community. Two organizations formed by leading industrialists were The Stamford Board of Trade in 1890 and The Manufacturers' Association in 1905. The intentions and aims of the groups were alike. They both promoted Stamford and sought to increase dialogue between business leaders and to improve the city's transportation facilities. The Manufacturers' Association, moreover, directly involved itself in city government and acted as a strong force in the promotion and acquisition of increased municipal services. The Association lobbied for efficient fire and police protection, good streets and sidewalks, and stringent regulations governing public health and safety.[30]

In 1907 and 1909 the Gillespie Brothers, publishers of the Advocate, issued special industrial editions in recognition of the importance of manufacturing in Stamford. Several new industries had now joined the roster of Stamford manufacturers in the first decade of the century. Among them were: The Remington Oil Engine Company, which produced an industrial engine at its Pacific Street plant between 1907 and 1922; the Atlantic Insulated Wire and Cable Company, makers of interior, aerial, underground, and submarine wires and cables from 1903 to 1923 at the canal; the Zapon Company, which arrived in 1904 to make lacquers, finishes, and coated fabrics; Star Manufacturing Company, producers of glycerine soap, furniture polish, and lubrication oil; and Bishop Boxes, which fabricated boxes and paper bags.[31]

Model airplane operation received a great boost in 1911 from two brothers in Stamford who developed the first internal combustion reciprocating model airplane engine. Whitney Echert, and his brother, whose name is unknown, maintained what seems to have been a basement enterprise on Pulaski Street where they carried out their Baby Engine Company's business and maintained a sort of experimental shop and probably assembly plant as well. Their model engine, called the Baby Engine, weighed 3 3/4 pounds, had a capacity of 1/2 horsepower at 9,300 r.p.m. and sold for $35. The Echerts' engine is thought by some to be the earliest model engine produced in the United States. The Echerts' move west sometime in 1914 apparently Initiated the demise of the Baby Engine Company. Although in business for a short time, the brothers heavily promoted their engine to model airplane builders. They offered to furnish engines to any builder in the New York aero Club who would compete in a gas model meet. The meet, which took place probably in the fall of 1913 (the exact date is not known) at Mineola Field, Mineola, Long Island, made history as the first gaspowered model airplane meet in the United States and probably in the world.[32]

In 1915 the New York headquartered Erskine-Danforth Corporation opened a factory at 490 Pacific Street for the manufacture of Danersk furniture and home accessories. Danersk furniture was previously crafted in North Carolina until for economic and growth reasons the company moved operations and practically its entire staff to Stamford. New York remained the location of the company's office and showroom. Danersk furniture was advertised as attractive, soundly crafted, high quality furniture at an inexpensive price. Apparently the Depression and resulting sharp fall off in the purchase of consumer goods during the 1930s caused the demise of the Erskine-Danforth Corporation. The company disappears from the City Directory after 1932 and until 1938, at which time it reappears under the name The Danersk Craftsmen, Inc. The revitalized company was located in Noroton on the Post Road opposite Ring's End Road until 1943 when it relocated to Garden Street in Stamford.[33]

It was in the second decade of the 20th century that the company that would become the city's major employer after the departure of Yale & Towne, Pitney Bowes, started operations in Stamford. In 1917 the firm began business as the Universal Stamping Machine Company on Pacific and Walnut streets. Co-founder Walter H. Bowes had started selling check-endorsing machines in 1909. In 1910 he began the design of stamp-cancelling machines for use in post offices, and in 1914 he conceived plans for a practical machine capable of stamping postage, postmarking the date, and recording the amount of postage stamped. Then in 1919, Bowes joined wits and talent with Arthur H. Pitney, who since 1900 had been working on a postage meter of his own in Chicago, to form the Pitney Bowes Company. The company's business was stimulated when it was chosen to supply the postage meters to the postal system after Congress had authorized the meter system in 1920. Pitney Bowes made postal history on November 16, 1920, when the first postage meter was set, locked, sealed, and placed in service to dispatch prepared mail for Pitney Bowes. Today the firm is the largest manufacturer of postal machines and has expanded its operations to include the manufacture of other office machines and equipment as well.[34]

Henry Ford's successful invention and introduction of the automobile in the early 20th century sparked an American love affair with the automobile which, of course, still continues today. For a few years in the 1920s cars actually rolled off an assembly line here in Stamford. In 1924 Victor W. Page opened an automobile company about which little is known. The plant on Milrose Avenue turned out the Page Aero type four automobile. The company hailed the car because of its driver design, durability, and riding qualities. Priced at $650, the Page automobile was billed as the Poor Man's High-Grade Car. Its engine was air cooled, required no water, and got 25 miles to the gallon. The firm achieved limited success and closed in 1927.[35]

The automobile industry gave rise to a host of allied industries, one being the manufacture of tires and tubes. Not many years after he made his home in Stamford after having left his native Germany, Arnold L. Schavoir gave up his job at the Blickensderfer Mfg. Co. to begin his own business selling, repairing, and retreading automobile tires. By 1914 Schavoir entered into the manufacture of auto tubes at his shop on Lee Street. The Schavoir Rubber Company extended its operations five years later to include the manufacture of rubber toys, dolls and balls, and mechanical rubber goods. In 1923 the company moved to Shippan Avenue and ten years later in 1933 into a former printing plant on Fahey Street in Springdale behind Emmanuel Chapel. Arnold Schavoir died in 1936, and his company went out of business in 1940.[36]

Another automobile-related industry was concerned with the manufacture of ball bearings. The Norma-Hoffman Bearings Corp. grew from its small beginnings in 1911 in the Bronx to become an important manufacturing firm after relocating in Stamford in 1924. At its facility on Hamilton Avenue, Norma-Hoffman turned out bearings for airplane engines, instruments, battle-ships, cruisers, submarine chasers, and for anti-aircraft guns. It had contracts to supply such large companies as Boeing, Lockheed, and Pratt & Whitney. The company pioneered the development of many distinctive types of bearings and was one of the top firms in its field. By 1941 Norma-Hoffman employed some 1,200 people in its factory and research lab. In 1969 Norma-Hoffman was bought by the German company FAG (Fischer Aktien Gesellschaft, translated Fisher Joint Stock Company) which ten years later moved the production of bearings elsewhere. FAG maintained a distribution center and corporate headquarters in Stamford and refurbished the factory buildings to form an industrial park now occupied by half a dozen manufacturers.[37]

Stamford can claim a number of firsts. Another significant innovation occurred in a loft of a Stamford home where the electric dry shaver industry was born. Colonel Jacob Schick made by hand the first electric shaver for which he received a patent in 1928. Schick's invention was two decades in the making. He had tinkered with the idea and design since before 1910 while serving in the army in Alaska and the Phillipines. Schick had a successful army career. During World War I he was placed in charge of the transportation of American troops to England and also served as head of the Division of Intelligence and Criminal Investigation. Schick sold his first shaver in 1931 to Lanier P. McLachlen, a banker in Washington D.C., for $25. By 1940 Schick employed 1,000 workers at his Garden Street factory. Schick died in 1937, but the industry which he founded continued in Stamford until 1955 at which time the firm moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[38]

A newcomer to Stamford in the 1930s was Machlett Laboratories which, although new to town, had a beginning that went back to 1897 in New York City. Machlett's, as the company is popularly known, was founded by Ernest Machlett of Germany who as a widower with two children came to the United States to work at his trade as a glass blower and expert in engraving, etching, and grinding glass. His son Robert, whom he had schooled in precision glass work. persuaded his father to set up their own business. E. Machlett & Son was incorporated in 1899 as a small supplier of precision glass laboratory equipment. Robert Machlett was a man of uncommon ability. He pioneered in the field of x-rays. Two years after Roentgen's discovery of the x-ray in 1895, Robert Machlett created the first practical x-ray tube in America and devoted his life to perfecting the device. Many subsequent advances in the technology, such as water-cooled tubes and x-ray proof tubes were introduced by Machlett. As a result of his work with x-rays, Robert Machlett fell victim to the effects of radiation and died in 1926. His son Raymond, however, continued in the field and perfected the process of producing tubes filled with rarefied gasses free from impurities. In 1931 Raymond reorganized his father and grandfather's company into Machlett Laboratories. In 1934 he moved the company from New York to Springdale where it expanded and has continued to be a leader in the research and development of x-ray technology and equipment.[39]

Over the span of a century of industrial development, Stamford was the home, native or adopted, of many ingenious and inventive people. Peter M. Sivertsen was just such a person. Sivertsen was a Norwegian who immigrated to New York City where as a young man he took a job in a Brooklyn delicatessen. At the delicatessen Sivertsen observed both the limitations and deficiencies of the meat slicers then in use and set out to invent a better one. Sivertsen patented a gravity-fed bed slicer and launched a new corporation, The Globe Slicing Machine Company, with partner Lewis Novoting. In 1939 Sivertsen and Novoting moved their factory to Stamford on Selleck Street where the company continues to design and manufacture food slicers, meat choppers, scales, and meat and bone saws.[40]

Two companies both catering to the enhancement of women's beauty moved to Stamford in 1940, adding to the wide variety of Stamford-made products. In June 1940 the Northam Warren Company opened a 17,000 square foot plant in a spacious setting on Barry Place off Fairfield Avenue. At the time The Northam Warren Company was the world's largest manufacturer of manicure and deodorant products, having grown rapidly from its start by Northam Warren in 1911. Northam Warren manufactured Odorono deodorants and Cutex brand nail polishes and polish remover. In 1960 Cheesebrough Ponds acquired The Northam Warren Company.[41]

The second manufacturer of beauty products was Clairol Inc. The firm is presently the major producer of hair dyes and is an important company in its field. Clairol's beginnings go back to Paris in the 1930s when Lawrence M. Gelb, a manufacturing chemist, learned of a new formula for hair coloring. When he returned to New York, Gelb began to mix and bottle the hair coloring on a small scale for beauty salons in the city. As sales strengthened, Gelb purchased the formula, which he marketed as Clairol Oil Shampoo Tint. In 1940 the Clairol Company moved its research, manufacturing, and distribution operations to rented space on Fairfield Avenue. At its Stamford location, Clairol invented Miss Clairol Hair Color Bath, the product that revolutionized hair coloring. Not only was it the first formula to lighten, condition, and naturally color the hair in one simple application, it could also be applied by women on their own at home. Clairol grew rapidly, and within a dozen years of moving into its new building on Commerce Road in 1950, the company was in need of a new home. In 1965 Clairol purchased a 46-acre site once the property of the private Daycroft School, and in 1968 the company moved into its new plant. Today the Clairol product line is known world wide and has expanded to include hair and skin products, cosmetics, and personal appliances.[42]

* * *

Manufacturing grew steadily and strongly in Stamford for nearly a hundred years. Stamford's industries brought the city recognition, fostered development, attracted new residents, provided employment, and built a secure economic base for the city. The number of products Made in Stamford multiplied each decade until after World War II when fewer industries were attracted to Stamford and some of those In the city moved to new locations or closed their doors. As Stamford had partaken in the coming of the Industrial Revolution to the Northeast beginning in the 1840s, so, too Stamford shared in the industrial decline of the region during the post war years.

Following World War II, Stamford manufacturers faced problems common to all industry in the Northeast as peacetime production resumed. As they retooled, manufacturers found that their factories, many well over a half century old, were outdated and inefficient in terms of speed and cost of production. The walk up, multi-storied factories impeded assembly line production and made internal transport of materials difficult. Manufacturers sought to construct new factories based on modern design principles that placed all phases of production on one level for maximum efficiency. New sprawling factories, however, needed open expanses of land that were either unavailable or unobtainable in the urban areas of the Northeast because of zoning regulations, land costs, and high property taxes.

Simultaneously, industry faced increasing labor costs and strife. During the war, many shops were unionized for the first time. With the end of the conflict, unions began to place new demands on management, principally for higher wages. The stepped-up union activity resulted in labor strikes throughout the Northeast. In November 1945, members of the machinists' union at Yale & Towne Manufacturing Co. walked off the job for 21 weeks over the issues of the closed shop and wage increases.[43]  This kind of labor unrest, combined with the difficulty of expansion for new factories and higher costs of doing business in the Northeast, led to management's increasingly frequent decision to locate to the South, where these factors were less predominant.

At the end of World War II, manufacturing accounted for more jobs in Stamford than all other employment categories combined. But by the 1950s, as the exodus of industries was taking place, more people were engaged in non-manufacturing jobs than in industry. The decision of Yale & Towne in 1948 to reduce the size of its workforce symbolized the erosion of manufacturing's influence in Stamford's economy. In 1955 the company sold its plant, leasing back only 1/3 of the space for its own use. I n 1959 the company, Its workforce already cut to 450 employees, closed down completely, ending a long and significant chapter in Stamford history.[44]

Its economic base eroding, Stamford sought solutions. To make more industrially-zoned land available, the city in 1953 worked with the newly-formed Urban Redevelopment Commission to turn blighted land in the heart of the industrial district into an area suitable for light manufacturing or research and development. In another effort to attract the latter type of firm, the city in changed its motto to The Research City.[45]

The nationwide trend among corporations to relocate from major cities to suburbia in the 1960s and 1970s changed the scope of Stamford's economy. Beginning with the arrival of GTE in 1973, Stamford entered into a new era as a base for major corporate headquarters, and land in the urban renewal area originally designated for light industry was given over to office buildings and hotels.[46]  Office, service, and retail jobs grew quickly while the number of manufacturing jobs increased more slowly. Although industry has continued to decline slightly during the last two decades, manufacturing in the 1980s is strong and the industrial base is solid. According to the Stamford Economic Assistance Corporation (SEAC), approximately 350 manufacturing firms operating in Stamford in 1981 gave employment to about 20% of the city's population.[47]

Current products Made in Stamford are concentrated in chemical and allied products; electrical and electronic machinery, equipment, and supplies; machinery; and measuring, analyzing, and controlling instruments.[48]  Though it plays a smaller and less visible role in the economy of Stamford, today's industry is robust and plays a vital role in the economic well-being of Stamford and its people.

Gregg D. Mecca
November 1984


© Stamford Historical Society 1984

[1] Estelle F. Feinstein, Stamford From Puritan to Patriot, 1641-1774 (Stamford: Stamford Bicentennial Committee, 1976), 103-123.
[2] John A. Garraty, The American Nation: A History of the United States to 1877, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 259, 262.
[3] For a history of early Stamford banking, see Edward T.W. Gillespie, Picturesque Stamford (Stamford: Gillespie Brothers, Inc., 1892), 217-226.
[4] Garraty, 259.
[5] E. B. Huntington, History of Stamford, 1641-1868 reprint. Harrison, NY: Harbor Hill Books, 1979), 442.
see excerpt on James Henry Hoyt on our website.
[6] For a description of the event see Huntington, 442-444.
[7] Little is known about the pottery operated by George Watson. These dates were obtained from Lois R. Dater, SHS Curator.
[8] Stamford's Industrial Growth Down the Years, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, p. 49, col. 2; Jeanne Majdalany, The History of The Cove in Stamford, Connecticut (Stamford: Stamford Historical Society, 1979). 41-86; Gillespie, Picturesque Stamford, 236
[9] Majdalany, 57.
[10] Gillespie, 242; John E. Keeler, Manufacturing Interests of Stamford, The New England States, vol. 2 (Boston: D.H. Hurd & CO., c. 1879), 986; The Oldest Stove Foundry in America, Stamford's Business, I, No. 2 (November 1931), 3-6. The latter two references have been photocopied from the originals located in the Ferguson Library and deposited in the SHS Vertical Files.
[11] Stamford City Directory, 1935, 457; Stamford City Directory, 1965, 281; Gillespie, Picturesque Stamford, 239-40.
[12] Estelle F. Feinstein, Stamford in the Gilded Age (Stamford: Stamford Historical Society, 1973), 14.
[13] Feinstein, Stamford in the Gilded Age, 15.
[14] Feinstein, Stamford in the Gilded Age, 24, 13-14; Yale and Towne, Long a Vital Part of Stamford Life, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 66.
[15] Feinstein, Stamford in the Gilded Age, 13-14.
[16] George O. Pershing, Old Stamford Town, Stamford Shopper & Weekly Mail, 27 July 1961. See bound copy of Pershing's columns in SHS Library, p. 193.
[17] Stamford City Directory, 1879-80, 19.
[18] Stamford City Directory, 1883-84, 20; see SHS Vertical Files for additional sources.
[19] Edward A. Connell, Stamford Industry Then and Now, Stamford Past & Present, 1641-1976 (Stamford: Stamford Bicentennial Committee, 1976), 76.
[20] Stamford Industry Down the Years, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 62; Keeler, Manufacturing Interests, 988-89; Stamford City Directory, 1889-90, 48; D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Fairfield County, Connecticut (Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1881), 718.
[21] Gillespie, 245; Stamford, City Directory, 1889-90, 46.
[22] Gillespie, Picturesque Stamford, 247, 249.
[23] Gillespie, Picturesque Stamford, 250; Stamford City Directory, 1889-90, 68.
[24] Gillespie, Picturesque Stamford, 242-58.
[25] Connell, Stamford Industry, 76; Stamford City Directory, 1889-90, 61.
[26] Baer Brothers' Plant Grew From Jobbing Business, Tercentenary Advocate, 177
[27] Stamford Industry Down the Years, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 62; The Daily Advocate Triennial Industrial Edition, 24 June 1909, 16; Stamford City Directory, 1922, 378.
[28] The Stamford Advocate, 26 September 1975.
[29] Marie Updegraff, Excelsior Hardware Company, in Estelle F. Feinstein and Joyce S. Pendery, Stamford: An Illustrated History (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1984), 153; Excelsior Type of Small Lock is in Wide Demand, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 121.
[30] Advocate Triennial Industrial Edition, 4, 15.
[31] Ibid., 16, 22, 23; Zapon Products Known the World Over, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 58.
[32] Louis H. Hertz, Complete Book, Model Aircraft Space Craft, and Rockets (New York: Grown Publishers, Inc., 1967), 261-64.
[33] 1914 Erskine-Danforth Catalogue No. 6, vol. III, SHS Vertical Files; Stamford City Directory, 1932, 207; Stamford City Directory, 1938, 256; Stamford City Directory, 1943, 282.
[34] Pitney Bowes Postage Meter Company, Tercentenary Advocate, 50.
[35] See Victor Page in SHS Vertical Files.
[36] Men Who Have Made History in Stamford, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 157; Rosemary H. Burns, Springdale Remembered: A History of a Section of Stamford, Connecticut, 1640-1949 (Stamford: Stamford Historical Society, 1982), 163; Stamford City Directory, 1906, iv, 249; Stamford City Directory, 1907, iv, 261; Stamford City Directory.,1914, 5, 324; Stamford City Directory, 1923, 425; Stamford City Directory, 1940, 639; Advocate Triennial Industrial Edition, 22.
[37] Norma-Hoffman Bearings in Demand, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 54, 60 Updegraff, FAG Bearings, Inc., Stamford: An Illustrated History, 170-71.
[38] Story of Schick Dry Shaver and That of Col. Schick, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 52, 61.
[39] Robert Keith Leavitt, Machlett Laboratories, Inc., Cathode Press (Published by Machlett Laboratories 1955), 14-15; Burns, 167-68; Machlett Tubes are Landmarks in X-ray History, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 119.
[40] Material for an Alger in Globe Slicing History, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 50.
[41] Northam Warren Co. Caters to Old Need, Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, 1941, 52.
[42] Updegraff, Clairol, Stamford: An Illustrated History, 178-79; Industry in Stamford, Stamford Advocate, 150th Anniversary Edition, 1829-1979, 7 April 1979, 61.
[43] Strike Voted by Yale & Towne Employees, Stamford Advocate, 6 November 1945, 1. (Copy in SHS Vertical Files, Yale & Towne.)
[44] Joyce S. Pendery, Stamford: An Illustrated History, 121.
[45] Stamford: An Illustrated History, 121.
[46] Stamford: An Illustrated History., 143.
[47] Stamford Economic Assistance Corporation, The Need for Industrial Retention in Stamford, Connecticut, May 1981, revised October 1981, 6; Betty Pyle, Stamford's Industrial Base is Still Solid, Stamford Weekly Mail, 2 June 1983, 1. (Copies in SHS Vertical Files.)
[48] Stamford Economic Assistance Corporation, Need for Industrial Retention, 1.


I. Primary Sources

Erskine Danforth Catalogue No. 6, III (1915). (SHS Vertical Files)
The Daily Advocate Triennial Industrial Edition, 24 June 1909.
Pershing, George Orr. Old Stamford Town. Stamford Shopper & Weekly Mail, 27 July, 1961
Stamford Advocate Tercentenary Edition, Town of Stamford, Connecticut, 1641-1941, issue of 7 June 1941.
Stamford Advocate, 6 November 1945.
Stamford Advocate 150th Anniversary Edition, 1829-1979, 7 April 1979.
Stamford City Directories, 1878-1982.
Stamford Economic Assistance Corporation. The Need for Industrial Retention in Stamford, Connecticut. May 1981, revised October 1981.
Stamford Weekly Mail, 2 June 1983.

II. Secondary Sources

Burns, Rosemary H. Springdale Remembered: A History of Stamford, Connecticut, 1640-1949. Stamford: The Stamford Historical Society, Inc., 1982.
Connell, Edward A. Stamford Industry Then and Now, Stamford Past & Present, 1641-1976. Stamford: Stamford Bicentennial Committee, 1976
Feinstein, Estelle F. Stamford in the Gilded Age: The Political Life of a Connecticut Town, 1868-1893., Stamford: The Stamford Historical Society, Inc., 1973.
Feinstein, Estelle F. and Joyce S. Pendery. Stamford: An Illustrated History. Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications Inc., 1984, Revised Edition July 2002.
Garraty, John A. The American Nation: A History of the United States to 1877. 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1971.
Gillespie, Edward T.W. Picturesque Stamford. Stamford, Connecticut: Gillespie Brothers, Inc., 1892.
Gertz, Louis H. Complete Book, Model Aircraft, Space Craft, and Rockets. New York: Crown Publisher Inc., 1967.
Huntington, E.B. History of Stamford, 1641-1868. 1979 reprint. Harrison, New York: Harbor Hill Books, 1979.
Hurd, D. Hamilton. History of Fairfield County, Connecticut. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Go., 1881.
Keeler, John E. Manufacturing Interests of Stamford, The New England States. vol. 2. Boston: H.H. Hurd & Co., c. 1879. (copy can be found in the SHS Vertical Files)
Leavitt, Robert Keith. Machlett Laboratories, Inc., Cathode Press. Stamford: 1955.
Majdalany, Jeanne. The History of the Cove in Stamford, Connecticut. Stamford: The Stamford Historical Society, Inc., 1979

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Business and Industry in Stamford