The American System in Windsor

Image of Windsor prision in the early nineteenth century.The town of Windsor’s initial success as an industrial center was partly due to the use of prison labor. Asahel Hubbard, founder of the National Hydraulic Company, was appointed warden at Windsor Prison and used convicts to make his revolving hydraulic engine. Nicanor Kendall, Hubbard’s son-in-law, used prison labor in the mid-1830s to produce his famous underhammer rifles. Inmates were paid thirty-two cents a day by Kendall.

Image of the Robbins & Lawrence Company factory complex in the mid-nineteenth century.Nicanor Kendall, Richard Lawrence, and Samuel Robbins became partners in 1844 and won a government contract to make 10,000 rifles. These were not made at the prison, but in a new brick armory built by the Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence Company. In 1847 Kendall left the company. Lawrence and Robbins became famous for introducing at their factory the use of interchangeable parts in the manufacturing process. Before they went bankrupt in 1857, due to an unexpected cancellation of a major contract, they employed over 150 men. Their firm was also crucial in nurturing the careers of the men who started Vermont’s important machine tool industry in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Glass Houses

Image of the Vermont Glass Factory in the early nineteenth century.There were four glassworks in Vermont during the first half of the nineteenth century. The Vermont Glass Factory opened in 1813 and had operations in Salisbury on Lake Dunmore and in East Middlebury. Both operations primarily made window glass, though the East Middlebury works probably made bottles and other wares as well. Due to fire and financial problems, the initially successful company was out of business by 1817.
The Lake Dunmore Glass Company opened on the site of the older glassworks in 1832. Like its predecessor it manufactured window glass, though several examples of bowls and bottles made by its workers survive. It was in operation until 1839.
The largest of the four houses was the Champlain Glass Works, which opened in Burlington in 1827. The large flourishing company employed 100 people in making window glass and bottles. During the 1840s it successfully marketed its wares in the west, using the Champlain and Erie canals. It closed in 1850, reportedly because it could not obtain enough wood to fuel its furnaces.

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