of the industrial revolution in America: Paterson, New Jersey's Great
Falls, 77 feet tall and 280 feet wide.
Paterson was founded in
the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), a group
championed by statesman Alexander Hamilton.
The City of Paterson is
Northeastern New Jersey near waterfalls on the Passaic River. It was
incorporated as a town in 1831.
The settlement was named for governor of New Jersey and
signer of the United States Constitution, William Paterson
(1746-1806). Alexander Hamilton is sometimes called the "Founder of
Paterson" because of his vision in July of 1778. On route to Paramus,
General George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, his aide-de-camp
Colonel James McHenry, and Colonel Alexander Hamilton stopped at what
was then called the Totowa Falls. Picnicking
near the Falls, Hamilton noticed the natural beauty and power of the
Later when Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury of the
United States, he had but one place in mind for his "New National
"Report on Manufactures", delivered to congress in
1790, stressed the importance of a domestic manufacturing capability.
Soon after, the New Jersey legislature passed a law establishing the
charter of S.U.M., "The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures".
Hamilton was chief adviser and most active volunteer for the society.
Hamilton statue overlooking the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey
The project was off to a rocky start as it coincided
with the Panic of 1791-1792. The first mill built was idled in 1796 and
destroyed by fire in 1807.
The great power of the waterfalls eventually drove
Paterson to become one of the first industrial centers in the United
States. Engineers, entrepreneurs, artisans and inventors were drawn to
this new technology center.
French trained architect, engineer and city planner Pierre L'Enfant,
who drew the plans for Washington, D.C., was the first general
superintendent for the S.U.M. project. He proposed to harness power
from the falls by a channel through the rock and an aqueduct. The
society directors felt that L'Enfant was taking too long and was over
budget. He was replaced by Peter Colt, who got the water flowing for
the new factories in 1794. Colt used a less complicated plan than
L'Enfant based on a reservoir system. Eventually Colt's scheme
developed problems and a system nearer L'Enfant's original plan was
used after 1846.
Mill (left, 1816), the earliest existing textile mill in the Historic
District, Van Houten Street in Paterson New Jersey.
Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, was involved in building one of the
world's first hydroelectric plants in Paterson, New Jersey at the Great
In 1910, S.U.M. convinced the mill owers to switch to
electricity. Thomas Edison's Electric Company drew up plans for a 4849
kilowatt hydroelectric facility which operated from 1914 until 1969. In
1984, the plant was restored with the replacement of three of the four
turbines. In 1986 the plant was restarted and now generates 11,000
kilowatts per hour, enough electricity for 11,000 homes. Recently the
plant produced nearly $400,000 worth of electricity in four months
which it sold to Public Service Electric and Gas*. The Great Falls
again powers Paterson and the surrounding area today over 223 years
since Alexander Hamilton's "picnic".Industry got underway in the
Paterson area as a talented machinist named John Clark began operations
followed by John Parke. Thomas Rogers started competing against British
locomotive manufacturers in 1835. Rogers' firm grew into the leading locomotive
manufacturer in the United States by 1854.
Inventor John Philip Holland emigrated from Ireland to
Paterson in 1873. His idea of an underwater boat was originally
rejected by the United States Navy. Privately financed by the Irish
Republican Brotherhood, Holland built his submarine boat at an Albany
Street ironworks in New York City. The submarine was then moved to J.C.
Todd's machine shop in Paterson where it was fitted with the newly
patented petroleum engine. In June of 1878, the Holland I was launched
from Listers Boathouse above the Great Falls into the Passaic River.
By 1870, nearly fifty percent of the silk made in the
United States was produced in Paterson. In the early part of the
twentieth century, the silk mills of Paterson fell victim to labor strife and never recovered.
Lambert Castle (1893) in Clifton near the Paterson city border is
undergoing extensive restoration.
An example of the affluence created by Paterson's silk
industry can be found just over the city border in Garret Mountain
Reservation. Catholina Lambert migrated from England in 1834 and by
1890 was one of the largest mill owners in Paterson.
Lambert built his "castle" in 1892 to display his
collection of European and American art. Today, the Passaic County
Historical Society and the Parks Commission is housed there.
Paterson industries provided the sail cloth
for Yankee Clipper ships, the revolvers and firearms which tamed the
"wild west", locomotives that pulled the freight that built a nation,
and silk products which created a golden age for the "Silk City".
The history of Paterson and the industrial
revolution in America is preserved today as the Great Falls National Historic Landmark.
Paterson Art Walk 2013
A part of the Great Falls Historic District
is dedicated to art studios, performane areas and galleries. On My 25,
2013, an open house of sorts was held inviting visitors into the
studios in a historic mill where jute was made into rigging for sailing
ships. We took this opportunity to not only view the artworks, but to
photograph the 19th century buildings that were part of the Dolphin
| Dolphin Mill Complex in
Great Falls historic District. More
"Creative Space for Professional Artists"
Falls brochure (PDF) - Mp and visitor
guide for the
Great Falls Historic District
Paterson:Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting
The documentary materials presented in this online collection explore
how this industrial heritage expresses itself in Paterson today: in its
work sites, work processes, and memories of workers. The online
presentation also includes interpretive essays exploring such topics as
work in the African-American community, a distinctive food tradition
(the Hot Texas Wiener), the ethnography of a single work place (Watson
Machine International), business life along a single street in Paterson
(21st Avenue), and narratives told by retired workers.
Passaic Falls at Paterson, Edison
Film, July 1896 - 19 second film of the
Great Falls in
Paterson, New Jersey (RealMedia)
of Paterson and Passaic Falls areas - Views of Paterson
Passaic Falls, including general and street views, views of the falls,
bridges, waterhouse, mills, aqueduct, and ice. 1858?-1875?
1835 Map of
Paterson, New Jersey
Search the rt23.com Directory for
the Museums and Historical Sites
Paterson Friends of the Great Falls
- Dateline Journal, Paterson's
Legacy Borne by Industrial Vision, Vincent Waraske, April 8, 1992
- Great Falls Visitor Center
- Funk and Wagnalls New Encylcopedia,
Vol. 20, 1980
- * The Record, April 24, 2001, p L-1