Manufacturing in Vermont

Words to Know

- isolated

- "Yankee ingenuity"

- machine tools  

- platform scales

- textile

- gross state product

- light industries

 

The Upper Winooski River

 

            During its early settlement, Vermont was an isolated area.  The region did not have a seacoast and the Green Mountains made access difficult.  The settlers had to make their own tools or be dependent upon the local craftsmen to supply important items.  This "Yankee ingenuity" often gave rise to inventions.  Some of these inventions were the start of Vermont's early manufacturing firms.

 

            The Springfield and Windsor area was one of the early bases of manufacturing in the state.  Many of Vermont's inventors worked here.  (Click here to find out about other famous Vermont inventors.) One such person was Nicanor Kendall.  He invented a better rifle-firing mechanism and soon his firm was producing guns.  This company, like several others nearby, expanded into machine tools.  Machine tools are tools that are used to make the parts for other machines.  These tools might include lathes to shape metal or wood, planers to smooth out surfaces, and drill bits.  It was James Hartness, an engineer and later governor, who helped build the machine tool industry in southern Vermont.  This area of Vermont became known as "Precision Valley" because of the kinds of industries located there.  Many of these machine tools were exported from the state and helped the nation to gear up for the manufacturing of goods necessary to fight the First and Second World Wars.

  Carbine and Pistol: 1871 Rolling Block

Early Rifles
Photo Credit: 1998, International Antique Reproductions, Inc. (dba IAR, Inc.)

            Platform scales are used to weigh bulky items and were another early product manufactured in Vermont.  The scales were invented by Thaddeus Fairbanks of St. Johnsbury.  The Fairbanks family and their scale company made many important contributions to that area of the state.  As was the case in many large Vermont family industries, the Fairbanks family had two men who later became governor of the state.  In 1877 the Howe Scale Company moved to Rutland and helped in the growth of that community.

  SRP 300 Platform Scale

Modern Platform Scale

            Textile products (cloth and cloth goods) were another major industry in the 1800's.  Wool and cotton mills were scattered throughout the state.  The Winooski-Burlington area had hundreds of immigrants from Quebec move to the area to work in the mills.  Bennington and Johnson were also important mill towns.  The textile industry is no longer as important today as it once was, however.  The mills along the Winooski River were very important to the textile industry they produced mainly woolen products but the range of goods was amazing.  Many of the textile mills along the rivers and streams of Vermont have been abandoned or converted to other uses such as apartments, shopping malls, or other manufacturing firms.

The Winooski Grist Mill 
Courtesy of UVM Special Collections

 

            Today manufacturing makes up 17% of the gross state product.  (The gross state product is the dollar value of all the goods and services produced in the state.)  According to Vermont Life Online, "Manufacturing is major employer and the second largest sector of the state's economy (after services), producing $2.2 billion in goods ranging from computer chips to canoes, tombstones to teddy bears."  Much of the manufacturing in Vermont today is part of the growing high technology industry, mostly related to computers and electronics.  These are sometimes called "light industries", because the products are relatively light and therefore easy to ship in our out of the state.  Some of the largest employers are IBM in Essex Junction, General Electric in Rutland, and the Fellows Corporation in Springfield.  Vermont's products range from computer parts and electrical instruments to clothes, books, furniture, and batteries.  

 

Check Out These Tables on Manufacturing

Manufacturing In Vermont - 1997
Manufacturing In New Hampshire - 1997
Manufacturing In Vermont - Compared - 1992 to 1997
Manufacturing In The United States - 1997

 

 


Vermont is ranked number 39 in the country in the category of growth in value of shipments.  Vermont only grew 24.3% between 1997 and 1992.

What states do you think were the top 5 hot growth states?
Find Out Here

 

 

 Check out the U.S. Census Bureau's Economic Census for information on country-wide statistics on all sorts of industries.  Click Here

This site is very useful in finding data about manufacturing in Vermont, it is easy to use and chock full of information.
http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/cbp/

Click here to see a demo of what can be done with this site!