Greenwich and the Industrial Revolution


The Industrial Revolution was a period of time in history when machinery was introduced to improve agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and banking.  It speeded up manufacturing, improved efficiency and simplified work.  Prior to this, manufacturing was done in homes with basic hand tools.  It's generally thought to have originated in Europe - particularly England and Germany - and covered the years 1760 to 1870. Some see its roots in the ideas of such great thinkers as Galileo, Bacon, Descartes and Michaelangelo. It would eventually spread to the United States.  


Cigar Factory0001.jpg

A cigar factory off Cliffdale Road near a river.  It was the Old Sutton Grist Mill. 

Courtesy John Gotch

The development of iron and steel in this country contributed to the Industrial Revolution.  These raw materials were used to build factories and machinery.  Factories and mills were built near rivers and major waterways to take advantage of water power.  New England was an ideal location since it has a lot of rivers running south.  Greenwich was no exception!  The Mianus River, Strickland Stream, East and West Brother's Brooks and Byram River, as well as numerous tidal streams, provided adequate sources of water power for manufacturing.  Steam and coal eventually took over as sources of energy.   About 1885, electric power was introduced, and eventually the factories turned to electricity to run their machinery. 


You may recall that Greenwich started as an agricultural (agrarian) community with many farms.  The surplus was shipped to New York and other locations.  Many boats sailed Long Island Sound with agricultural products.  Shell fishing (especially oystering) also flourished.  This created a demand for marine-related products.  Then in the 1850s, Greenwich became a summer retreat.  This created more demand for goods and services, as well as marine recreation.  When the Industrial Revolution hit, the timing couldn't have been better!  New farm equipment was developed, and many factories sprang up to create products that residents could use. Manufacturing helped boost the local economy. Believe it or not, the Civil War was good for Greenwich, since some factories started manufacturing goods and supplies (clothing, wheels for wagons, accessories, etc.) for military units!



A sloop sailing off the coast of Greenwich.  Greenwich had several businesses, which manufactured boats and associated equipment. 

Courtesy John Gotch.

Now, if we step back and take an objective view, we see that these factories could be categorized based on the goods or services they provided.  There were factories that produced metal goods (wire, hardware, drills, etc.).  There were textile manufacturers (cloth, paper, etc.)  and factories related to the maritime trades (ship building, motors, sails, etc.)  Construction materials also came into demand as factory workers moved into the town. These people used many utilities (electricity, water, gas, etc.). 

This created a self-perpetuating system since the labor to produce goods in turn required goods and services.  The money the laborers made was used to buy more goods and services, thus creating more demand.  More demand meant more work, more jobs and more money.  It also led to a higher standard of living for everyone.  People had "discretionary" (extra, surplus) money to spend.  Factories eventually started producing items to make life easier. 

Today, much of the traditional manual labor has disappeared.   People still need food, clothing, homes, building materials, etc., but computers are playing a bigger role in the production of these products.  Emphasis seems to be shifting to health care and recreation.  Energy is getting a lot of attention.  "Green" industries are trying to get a foothold.  Some workers are "telecommuting" from home. Whatever the future brings, it's a safe bet that we won't see factories springing up all over America like they did during the Industrial Revolution. 

Here are a few of the factories and mills which were built in Greenwich during the late 1800s:



1.  The Greenwich Iron Works (Rolling Mills) on the Mianus River was started by Robert and William Cox in 1829.  They produced bar iron, tires, horseshoes, nails, rods, axe iron and spike iron.

2.   The Continental Mower and Reaper Company on the east side of the Mianus near the drawbridge manufactured farm equipment.  It started in 1865 and did not last long. In 1867 it was converted to a cottonseed oil factory, but moved to New Orleans in 1870.

3.  Mianus Motor Works was formed in 1890 by the Brooklyn Railway Supply Co.  BRS manufactured rail sweeps, appartus for trains and furniture.  It relocated to Cos Cob and began manufacturing engines, motors, machinery, wood and metal vessels, dams, grain grinders.  In 1910 it moved into a larger building in Stamford.

4.  Russell, Burdsall and Ward Nut and Bolt Company opened in 1845 in Pemberwick.  The factory manufactured nuts, bolts, screws, rivets, washers, and other hardware.  It merged with the Port Chester Bolt & Nut Company.

5.  The Abendroth Brothers Eagle Factory was founded in 1840 in East Port Chester (Byram).  Stoves, coal and gas ranges, furnaces, hot water and steam boilers, plumbers soil pipe and fittings were its main products.



1.  Palmer & Duff's Shipyard in 1848 overhauled, repaired and rebuilt sailing vessels in Cos Cob until 1907.

2.  Palmer Brothers on Dumpling Pond (Mianus River) started manufacturing telephones and electrical supplies in 1888.  It also manufactured gasoline engines and launches for the shipyard further down the river.

3.  George Mertz Sons started manufacturing building materials in 1872.

4.  The E.M. Merritt Shipyard started on Rocky Neck in 1858, but was abandoned in 1871.

5.  A Greenwich Yacht Yard on Rocky Neck in 1904 began building, outfitting and repairing yachts and boats.



1.  George M. Reynolds Co. in Glenville started processing fur for hatters in 1872.

2.  American Felt Mill founded in 1899 on the Byram River started producing woolen and cotton goods, felt and machinery clothes.

3.  Swan's Paper Mill on the Mianus River in Cos Cob started manufacturing fine quality linen paper (ledgers, writing paper) from 1800 to 1828, when fire destroyed the building.

4.  The Rippowam Woolen Manufacturing Company in North Mianus (1895-1899) produced plush carriage robes and horse blankets.

5.  The Mianus Manufacturing Company in 1899 took over the buildings of the Rippowam Company and produced auto robes, fur robes, velour gloves, cloaks and immitation fur.


1.  In 1907 The Greenwich Sash and Door Co. at Rocky Neck manufactured, bought and sold doors, sashes, blinds, and interior finish.

2.  Harrie Moorehouse made doors, sashes, blinds starting in 1894.

3.  In 1840 Quarries in Byram and Greenwich started cutting out building stones for churches and even bridges in New York City.


1.  The Greenwich Gas Light Co. was founded in 1875.

2.  In 1885 the Greenwich Gas and Electric Co. was founded.

3.  Greenwich Water C. was started in 1880.

4.  In East Port Chester (Byram) the Distilled Mineral Water Co. started manufacturing carbonated beverages, ginger ale, sarsaparilla, soda and soft drinks in 1901.




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Hello, I was looking on a satellite map for a water source near Cliffdale Road where that water fall shown in the Sutton Grist Mill photo might have been. The only fairly substantial water source I see presently is Wooley Pond, and there is a small waterfall that looks like the one in the photo. The "river" (actually it looks more like a stream than a river) crosses under Cliffdale Road. I assume this is where the grist mill was.

According to the Greenwich Place Name Map, this is Sutton's Brook which empties into Wooley Pond, a feeder to the Byram River.

Your caption misidentifies a gaff-rigged sloop (or possibly a cutter with only one of her two fore-sails flying) as a 'schooner'. Schooners, invariably, have two masts. For obscure reasons sometimes ships of more than one mast can be referred to as 'sloops' but never the other way around.

Thank you for your clarification. I'll correct the caption. Not being a true sailor (I own 2 kayaks), I have to go by the descriptions in the collection.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on October 1, 2011 5:02 PM.

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