By LISA CAPOBIANCO
When looking back on the history of Bristol, one word may come to mind for people who grew up in the city: manufacturing.
Whether talking about the products made by the E. Ingraham Company or New Departure, firms that employed thousands of people in the city, guests walking through the Bristol Public Library History Room can step back in time through the photographs, postcards, and books that show the community’s industrial past. Currently, the Bristol Room has added a new feature for local residents to learn even more about the manufacturing history of Bristol: a display case of over a dozen pieces of silverware made by the American Silver Company. Shared anonymously by a Bristol resident with an interest in Bristol-made products, the display provides the community an exclusive look at the type of silverware that the company manufactured from creamers to coffee pots to candelabras. The items date back to the Victorian era.
“It was an industrial center, and that has vanished in the past 20 to 25 years,” said Bristol Room volunteer Tom LaPorte, adding how the silverware in the display case was affordable. “People that are new to Bristol don’t realize this, and this gives an example to showcase some of the things that Bristol made.”
Jay Manewitz, historical research librarian at the library said the Bristol resident volunteered to share pieces of his collection a couple of months ago.
“He’s just interested in Bristol-manufactured goods and he has a very large private collection, and he was generous enough to share it with us.”
Once located along Main Street and Memorial Boulevard, the American Silver Company was formerly part of the Bristol Brass and Clock Company. Known as “the spoon shop,” American Silver became incorporated as a separate entity in 1901. The International Silver Company of Meriden bought the company in 1935, and the Bristol plant closed.
“People like myself remember Bristol when it was probably one of the most industrial-oriented cities in Connecticut, and within a generation, that has vanished,” said LaPorte, noting the major impact New Departure made on Bristol as it employed 4,000 people in the 20th century.
“Bristol has a fascinating industrial past,” said Manewitz. “Bristol was a huge manufacturing city.”
Both LaPorte and Manewitz said they encourage anyone from the community with Bristol-made items to bring their collections to the Bristol Room, where it can be displayed in the case. Items will be locked, and anyone can share anonymously. They hope to share more Bristol-made items
LaPorte said they would welcome more than one person to donate any collection at one time in the glass case, which has four shelves.
“I think it allows us to put objects in that are not photographs,” said Manewitz. “This allows us to really display any kind of Bristol object out there.”
“The room is the motherhood of a myriad amount of artifacts that tell the story of Bristol,” said LaPorte, calling the Bristol Room “a gem.”
Anyone interested in sharing Bristol-made items can contact Manewitz at the library located at 5 High St.. The Bristol History Room is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m., and then again on Wednesday from 6 to 7:45 p.m. This summer, the Bristol Room also will be open on Fridays, including Aug. 15, and Aug. 29 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. The room is expected to be open one Saturday per month—for additional details, call the library’s main desk at (860) 584-7787.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Bristol