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History of Gilbert & Bennett in Pictures  

A special thank you to Lynne M. Barrelle, Grove Foote, Jack Sanders, John Sturges, John Robie and many others from around the World that have forwarded these images to me. A complete history of the Gilbert & Bennett Manufacturing Co. in pictures is a wonderful addition to the site.

Note dial-up users: should the images take too long to load and some pictures come up with an "X" hit refresh in the your browser. I'm breaking up these pictures to keep downloads to a minimum- 181 years of history is a bit too much for one page.

Have pictures you'd like to include? Email them to bcolley@snet.net or call me at 860-364-7475, I can scan the images if you'd like and get them right back to you in less than a week.

New Online Presentation- History of Gilbert & Bennett (part one)
New Online Presentation- History of Gilbert & Bennett (part two)

Benjamin Gilbert with his wife and daughter around 1818. Gilbert was a leather craftsman that perceived a market in horsehair sieves and decided to go into business for himself manufacturing these sieves that families of the time period used to strain liquids as well as make their own flour with. This oil painting shows him weaving the horsehair on a hand loom while his wife and daughter "bind the sieves" with waxed thread.

The market for horsehair not being as large as he had imagined, Gilbert added the manufacture of horse, cattle and hog hair filler for cushions, mattresses and furniture. The move expanded the business and he was able to rent space in an old saw mill that would later be purchased in 1830 and become know as the Old Red Shop(Location: approximately where Connery's store (now "Curves") is at the intersection of Rt. 57 and Old Mill Road (formerly South Main Street.) Above the building is a picture of the horse hair picker he invented in 1826. The picker made working with tangled and matted hair much easier.

On the left is Sturges Bennett, he joined Gilbert in 1828 to form Gilbert & Bennett. He would go on to become President of the company from 1847 to 1876. In the middle is the horsehair sieve, on the right is William J. Gilbert, Benjamin's eldest son. William joined the company in 1832 to form Gilbert & Bennett & Company, he was the salesman traveling great distances with large wagons filled with goods. The sales were person to person(there was no railroad or telegraphs in Georgetown at this time) and on the return trip he'd stop at Tanneries and Slaughter houses to collect the hair used in the manufacture of their products.

The expanding young company quickly outgrew the Red Shop and in 1834 purchased the mill site of Winslow and Booth on the Norwalk River. They built a mill there that would become known as the Red Mill. It is here they would experiment with wire and produce the first woven wire cloth to replace the horsehair they had been using since 1818.

Interior view of the Red Mill in 1888. The invention of the woven wire cloth led to additional products which included: cheese and meat safes to protect these food items from rodents, coal/ash sifters to separate partially burned coal from the ashes, ox muzzles to obviously muzzle oxen. If you look closely you can see the leather straps that harnessed the waterwheel power.

Edwin Gilbert was admitted to the firm in 1844. Edwin joined his brother and Edmond Hurlbutt as a salesman. Edwin had been working at the company since he was 16 years old but was not officially admitted until this time. He served as President from 1884 to 1906 and had he been credited for the time since he was 16 would have served the company an amazing 78 years!

Rare view of the upper factory building lost to fire in 1874. Benjamin Gilbert passed away in 1847, a year later the company purchased the mill site and millpond of Timothy Wakeman (location of the current factory) and Great Pond 5.25 northwest of the factory in Ridgefield. The Wakeman property would form the nucleus of the upper factories and the purchase of Great Pond would give them control of waterflow on the Norwalk River.

Glue Building- upper factory. In 1850, the manufacture of glue was added to further expand the company. The existing glue manufacturing process was studied by the company and found to have several disadvantages. They found that because glue was being dried on cotton netting some of it adhered to the fabric, this was a waste and led to higher costs. Another disadvantage was that the glue itself would contain bits of cotton, which interfered with its adhesive quality. They resolved these problems by manufacturing wire netting upon which the glue would be dried. When the glue dried, it could be separated from the wire netting with little difficulty, and as a result revolutionized the glue-drying process across America.

Lower factory wire drawing mill. The lower factory wire drawing mill was built in 1863. Prior to this G&B had been purchasing wire from a company in Worchester, Mass. The new mill gave them the ability to draw not only iron wire but brass, bronze, and copper as well. The completion of the Danbury & Norwalk Railroad in 1852 opened up transportation lines and the introduction of the telegraph shortened the distance between buyer and seller.

Waterwheel of the lower factory. The Civil War cut off G&B's Southern markets causing great concern as wire inventories were growing at the factory. An inventive employee changed all that by giving a section of wire cloth a coat of protective paint and offering it for sale as a window screen. The result was so successful that the company switched over its efforts to window screens- cheesecloth had been being used up to this time so wire screens were a big improvement.

Lower Factories view from the tracks looking toward Wilton. The first building is the Sieve building, the second building is the Rail Station/Post Office.

View of the Lower Factory Pond looking back toward Old Mill Road. Up on the top left is Bunker Hill, G&B tenement housing rented by the Polish factory workers.

View of the rebuilt upper factory buildings and William W. Beers, president from 1876-1879. A fire destroyed the upper plant on Sunday May 11, 1874. Just at the sun rising, the cry of "fire" startled the village, and the latest, most complete and most valuable of the factory buildings was found to be on fire. There was no fire apparatus with which to fight the flames, and the company's officials and the throngs of men, women and children that quickly gathered could do nothing but look on while building after building with its intricate and costly machinery was reduced to ashes. In an hour and twenty minutes the buildings were destroyed. Damage amounted to $200,000 for which the mill had $40,000 of insurance.

View of the new building from the opposite side. Gilbert and Bennett was reorganized as a joint stock company on May 30, 1874 and the machinery that adorned the new buildings was the newest and best available. The mill was opened and operating within the year. The officers of the corporation were: Sturges Bennett, President; William W. Beers Treasurer; David H. Miller, Secretary. The above officers, with Edwin Gilbert and William J. Gilbert, comprised the board of directors.

Continue on the Gilbert & Bennett History in Pictures Tour- 1874-1906


John Moore Collection; Tryde Photo's ; Redding Times Photo's ; Tour Present Day Georgetown ; Brent Colley Collection

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History of Redding is a not a business or an organization..It's one person working to promote the history of his hometown
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