Industrialized Vermont

The second half of the nineteenth century was an era of rapid change for all Vermonters. The evolution of the state’s economy, both in agriculture and manufacturing, posed challenges to the integrity of Vermont’s landscape, social unity, and egalitarian traditions. It became necessary for Vermonters to find new ways to maintain the balance between individual fulfillment and the good of the community.

Elgin Spring Creamery, Panton, late nineteenth century.Commercial agriculture remained a mainstay of the state’s economy, dominated
by butter and cheese manufacturing. Centralized creameries were organized to facilitate distribution and eventually manufacturing. The introduction of ice-cooled railroad cars in the 1850s allowed Vermont’s high-quality dairy products to reach an expanding market. By the 1920s Vermont was supplying most of the greater Boston area with its liquid milk. Original innovations that successfully solved the needs of Vermont’s farmers earned national recognition for some of the state’s manufacturers of agricultural machinery.

Hauling marble to the Rutland railroad yard in the late nineteenth century.The growth of Vermont’s industrial sector during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was closely tied to the extension of the railroad. Vermont’s natural resources— lumber, granite, marble, and slate—could now reach the booming northeastern cities. Older factories making textiles and machinery expanded because of new markets, but also to support the needs of these extractive industries and their increasing work forces. Vermont’s urban centers grew with new immigrant workers from French Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and Sweden. Many native-born Vermonters also took advantage of these new opportunities and moved from the farm to the city.

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