The production of textiles in Connecticut first
began with individuals, women spinning thread and yarn, and creating
homemade garments. Some of the earliest textile factories in Connecticut
were no larger than a one-room shack, notably the Silk Mill in
Mansfield. Even on such a small scale, the government sought to
encourage production of raw silk in Mansfield by paying farmers
to raise silkworms. By the 1830s large factories began to
spring up along Connecticut rivers and mill towns developed around
them, creating the textile industry as we now know it.
Oldest Silk Mill in the U.S.
Hanks Hill, Mansfield, ca. 1920s
Photo CD: 0532
The history of
the silk industry in Connecticut, which was later developed and
made famous by the Cheney brothers in Manchester, had its humble
beginnings in this one-room building in Mansfield in 1810. In
an industry on such a small scale the process of silk manufacturing
was not automated. Instead the people of Mansfield grew their
own silkworms and reeled and spun their own silk.
West View of the Hartford Co.s Cotton
Photo CD: 2480
This drawing by John Warner Barber depicts a cotton
mill in Glastonbury. It is interesting to note that in the majority
of Barbers illustrations of towns the buildings he most
often notes are the churches, taverns and the factories. The importance
of the factory to a town often becomes visible when examining
the way the town is depicted in both writing and illustration.
View of Rockville from Fox Hill
Photo CD: 0521
drawing is a wonderful depiction of an early mill town, it is
the inscription next to the picture that shows the importance
of a mill to the success of the town. Even though this is a view
of the entire town, all of the statistics relate to the mills.
This is an example of how central Rockvilles mills were
to its identity.
Distant View of Dunham Mills,
Photo CD: 0539
As the textile
industry grew and new technologies and methods were developed,
factory production began on an even larger scale. Dunham Mill
was supposedly the first worsted mill in the U.S., manufacturing
wool and yarn. During the course of the 1800s and the early 1900s,
Connecticut became the home to a successful and diversified textile
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