Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Manufractured in the U.S.A.


PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY - One can't get much closer to the roots of the American manufacturing tradition than to spend some time in Collinsville, CT. The Collins Company was founded in 1826 to make axes to carve the future. That was the year Sam Collins purchased a sawmill where the Farmington River bends and passes through a narrow gorge. Soon he was not only manufacturing axes but financing homes for workers and running the bank which financed much else. In 1836 Collins Co. opened the first Congregational Church in town, and over the years Sam Collins bought out a drug store and two hotels to prevent alcohol from being sold in Collinville. The Collins Co. offered more than a job; it offered a way of life.

Collins axes were known for high quality and were exported around the world and are still sought today. Eventually the the Collins Company made a variety of other hardware products. It reached its peak in WWII but never transitioned for peacetime. When the great floods of 1955 washed through town there was considerable damage from which the company never recovered. It ceased operations in 1966. The factories as they existed after 1955 are still intact. However, after the floods of 1955 the town was sliced by a new state road that speeds traffic through town right where the bend in the river was prettiest and the old road had shyly hugged the cliff. The old rail line that once hustled hardware to the corners of the globe is now a bike trail.