Category Archives: Industrial Revolution

Connecticut’s early role in the Industrial Revolution and much more on display at the Canton Historical Museum




The name on the side of the large brick building overlooking the Farmington River is faded after nearly 200 years, but in the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, it proclaimed to the world that the Collins Company Axe Factory was located here.

The sprawling industrial complex launched in 1826 by a pair of 20-somethings, Samuel Watkinson Collins, 24, his brother David, 21, and their wealthy cousin, William Wells, made edge tools into the 20th century.  At its peak, the company’s product line numbered 1,300 different types of such tools.

The items produced here were used almost exclusively, it is said, on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Such was their quality, that Collins machetes were widely used in Central and South America. Their axes and picks made their way to the California Gold Rush and later Collins-produced bayonets were used in the Civil War.

The memory of those heady days is displayed in the Canton Historical Museum, housed in a three-story wooden structure that once was used by the Collins Company to finish and assemble agricultural plows.

Its collection tells the story of the company that used hydropower to begin mass-producing axes and other tools in this rural enclave a 30-minute drive from Hartford, the state capital. But the museum collection ranges from early Native American artifacts to the Victorian Age and even some well preserved inventions made by Thomas Edison.

Reminders of 19th century life also include a reconstructed general store, post office and  barber shop, a parlor featuring life-size mannequins wearing period wedding gowns. A hand-pulled piece of fire apparatus and a metal Civil War casket are among the more unusual items on display.


The Canton Historical Museum

11 Front St, Collinsville, CT 06019
(860) 693-2793


New Haven Museum is about more than history


Eli Whitney and his cotton gin

The local history sections of libraries and museums don’t always carry an appeal beyond the confines of particular neighborhoods and a desire to see how ancestors may have lived. And the same could be said of museums that focus entirely on local history.

The New Haven Museum, however, transcends those  boundaries and chronicles the origins of this vibrant city that once served as the hub of a colony populated by English Puritans, starting in 1638.

There’s a focus on art, history and industry with inventors who stand among the most important in the United States. In short, the museum has an appeal broad enough to interest visitors who knew nothing of the city when they walked through the doors of the colonial revival building at 114 Whitney Avenue.

From the Amistad exhibit to an actual cotton gin made by Eli Whitney and maritime exhibits that chronicle this city’s ties to the sea, the museum has a little something for even the casual visitor. There’s also something on the families of both president Bushes.

For those looking for a more personal connection, the museum offers the Whitney Library that includes collections of 30,000 printed works, and its other collections. The library was founded in 1862.


New Haven Museum


114 Whitney Ave.

New Haven, CT 06510




Slater Memorial Museum at Norwich Free Academy


You would be hard pressed to find another museum in such a modest space that covers as much ground, touches on so much history and spans the globe in both history, art and, as it proclaims, wonder. It was founded in 1886 by William A. Slater in memory of his father, John, one of the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution in America.

Your voyage through time, space and art forms, begins with a dazzling display of plaster casts, some 150 important examples done by the masters and replicated from original works. These include examples of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Italian Renaissance sculptures.

Also, there are examples of Asian art, African art and sections featuring Connecticut artists of the 20th century, as well as an exhibition of art and industry in the 19th century.

Shifting gears and displays, visitors can walk through some pretty nifty collections that tell the story of life in the city and the region over three centuries.  There’s the small cannon from the Revolutionary War era that was dredged from the city’s harbor. The armaments industry made Norwich famous, especially during the Civil War, as did the grandfather clocks, fine cutlery and other products made here.  Displays of all those and more tell the story of a place where innovation and industriousness made Norwich a center of commerce and renown.

The Slater  is a gift that still dazzles. It is located on the campus of Norwich Free Academy, itself a unique institution in Connecticut history.