Classic New England engineering

  Brown & Sharpe Shops, Providence, 1896.

Brown & Sharpe Shops, Providence, 1896.

Kudos to Gerald Carbone and the Rhode Island Historical Society for creating the book Brown & Sharpe and the Measure of American Industry, about the company’s historic role in American high technology. The company’s measuring devices, machine tools and precision machinery set world standards and indeed the company was a sort of early version of Silicon Valley high technology.

 

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

Brown & Sharpe, now part of Hexagon AB, of Sweden, is now gone from Rhode Island, as is the labor strife that characterized too many of its last years in the state. But Brown & Sharpe’s history provides a highly edifying study of the New England economy, and the “Yankee ingenuity’’ that continues to drive it.

The story of Brown & Sharpe reminds me of the long-gone but at one time huge United Shoe Machinery Corp., with its gold-topped Art Deco skyscraper headquarters in downtown Boston.

This Boston-based company made a wide range of industrial machinery, particularly for shoe manufacturing, but for many other sectors, too, including various land and aircraft armaments, as well as components for the military hardware made by other manufacturers.. It was also a major player in developing synthetic leather. 

It exemplified New England's engineering and industrial expertise.

  Vintage postcard of the biggest United Shoe Machinery plant, in Beverly, Mass.

Vintage postcard of the biggest United Shoe Machinery plant, in Beverly, Mass.