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Hanford Mills: The Power

“Factories making uniform products increasingly used power- driven machinery in the production processes (“The Factory” 297)”.

   What were the producers of power for Hanford Mills , when were they implemented, and how did they evolve over time?

   Hanford Mills is an example of the combination of “ water power, entrepreneurial capitol, and artisanal skill,” referred to by Robert Gordon and Patrick Malone in “The Factory “. The primary power mechanisms before the twentieth century, for factories, were turbines, waterwheels, or steam engines coupled with gears, shafts, pulleys, belts, or ropes, extending the generated power to the production machines. The Hanfords, through the years, operated a sawmill, a gristmill, and a hardware store. The products produced at the sawmill include: lumber, milk crates, butter tub covers, broom and tool handles, shingles, molding, and saw dust. The gristmill produced grain and livestock feed: buckwheat flour, cornmeal, oats, and grain mixtures.


   Location, location, location…water is power!!!





Photo: Robert T. Kinsey

   In the 1846, after purchasing the property that would become the location of Hanford Mills, Jonathan B. Parris created the mill pond and built a seasonal up-and down sawmill. The proximity to The Kortright Creek allowed for the creation of a water-power system utilizing a headrace to feed water to the pond and a tailrace to return the water to the creek after it cycles around a turbine or over a waterwheel. The first machine installed by Parris was a simple wooden undershot waterwheel, which was replaced by a series of horizontal turbines. Horizontal Turbines replaced vertical wheels, as explained in the “The Factory”, because they were “smaller, faster, more efficient (75 to 85 percent was common), and more durable…(312)”.
   The implementation of a new method of power generation did not render the previous method obsolete. During the demonstrations at Hanford Mills it is explained that quite often the machines of power were used in tandem. From the 1880’s to the 1930’s steam was the primary power source for Hanford Mill. David Josiah (D.J.) Hanford, in 1881 installed the mills first vertical steam engine and then a large horizontal engine with a boiler that reached 100 psi in 1895. However, the turbines were still in use. The large Fitz overshot waterwheel was added in 1926. Gordon and Malone explain how the overshot wheel rotates, “…because of the weight of water in its buckets,…it turned in the opposite direction, toward incoming water (309)”.

  Picture: Tiesha McNeal at Hanford Mills, The Millwright


   Gears, Shafts and Belts…OH MY!!!




Photo: Tiesha McNeal

   The evolution of gear, shaft and belt technology was essential to  the creation and diversion of power in early Mills and Factories. The transition from wood to cast iron for gears and shafts for toughness, the invention of power transmission for higher speed, and the use of multiple horizontal line shafts with large, sometimes twisting, leather belts for undisrupted flow are all evidence of the graduated process of the movement of power to production machines. All of which are visible in the Millwright at Hanford.
   The gas engine was the last stage of power added, under Hanford ownership, for production at the mill. Horace Hanford installed a gas-powered dynamo (generator) in the 1930’s before selling the mill to the Pizza brothers in 1945. The gas-powered dynamo not only powered the mill but also, in the early twentieth century, became the main source of power for the town of East Meredith.

A timeline of power for Hanford Mills:

Robert B. Gordon and Patrick M. Malone, The Texture of Industry: An Archaeological View of the Industrialization of North America (New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994): Ch. 8, “The Factory,” 297-346.