The industrial revolution in America did not begin with billows of smoke and steam from city factories but in bucolic settings scattered about the rural landscape where textile manufacturing first took root. As Zachariah Allen writes in 1829, these textile operations were "carried on in little hamlets, which often appear to spring up in the bosom of some forest, around the water fall which serves to turn the mill wheel." When he wrote there were already thousands of company-owned mill villages in the northeast and by 1840 there were nearly 700 cotton mills alone in New England, most of them still in such villages close to rivers and streams.
This book documents the growth of industrial technology in these "little hamlets," covering the social, labor, economic, and technical aspects of this fascinating chapter in the development of American enterprise. The sources brought together here include company records; general histories of early cotton manufactures; accounts of particular companies; memoirs, autobiographies, letters, and diary entries of mill founders, managers, and workers; contemporary descriptions of factory villages; data found in ledgers, manufacturing censuses, and employee lists; company regulations; weaving instructions; help-wanted advertisements and recruiting letters for mill workers; workers' contracts; newspaper accounts of labor protests; and maps. Gary Kulik is curator of textile machinery at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Roger Parks is editor of the New England Bibliography, Boston University. And Theodore Penn is researcher in the history of technology at Old Sturbridge Village.