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Hardware and plating

The making of hardware and plating was a hugely successful industry in Winsted. In addition to the large manufacturers, several noteworthy smaller concerns included Markham & Strong, a brass works founded in 1866, and Puritan Manufacturing, which was purchased T.C. Richard’s Hardware. 

Winsted Hardware was located on the site of the old Beardsley Scythe factory, the town’s oldest manufacturing site. It had one of the town’s finest water privileges and manufactured high grade drapery and upholstery hardware, and bathroom fittings. The company was incorporated in 1910 by Thurlow Bronson and took over Ryko Manufacturing of Winsted, which was nationally known for its high-grade household appliances. The main building formerly housed Winsted Metalliform and Kellogg & Wakefield, and it had 40 employees. A brick addition was added in 1924. 

Winsted Hardware held the right to control the gate at the outlet of Highland Lake and drew sufficient water during its operational hours to maintain uniform power. The company was said to have been very conscientious about its use of water. According to the 1960 city directory, it became a division of Dynamics Corporation of America, and its address was listed as 114 Lake Street. 

Strong Manufacturing — David Strong moved his silver-plating and bell-making business to Winsted in 1866, with a capital of $100,000. It was located on the corner of 97 Main and Rowley Street and was originally housed in a three-story wooden building. This very successful business doubled its workforce by 1883 and built a brick addition in 1896, replacing the “Robe Shop.” Strong Manufacturing made an elaborate array of casket linings and burial robes fashioned from high quality fabrics. Their products reportedly adorned the coffins of Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, but varied widely in cost, in order to accommodate all budgets. 

The building was situated in the heart of the business district, on the east end of town, and was one of the most substantial of Winsted’s factories. Strong Manufacturing closed around 1935, and the building it had once occupied later housed the Dano Electric Company. The building is currently owned by the Nader family.

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T.C. Richards Hardware, also known as the Brass Shop, manufactured brass products, upholstery and a wide array of decorative and general hardware. The plant was conveniently located near the West Winsted depot. The main factory and business offices were situated on the east side of the track, and the property extended to the west side as well. It occupied 8-acres of land equipped with 2,500 feet of sidetracks and was an ideal location for shipping and receiving goods. The two-story main factory building was brick and measured 35x200 feet and two three-story ells, measuring 30x100 and 22x100 feet, and various other buildings held the engine and boilers, plating, buffing, lacquering, dipping, and storage rooms. 

On the opposite side of the railroad tracks was a box shop. The plant was run by water power furnished by a 100-horsepower turbine wheel, the steam being used primarily for heating solutions and lacquering. It was also equipped with a steam plant. T.C. Richards Hardware was organized in 1863, in New York City, and removed to Winsted in 1874, where the corporation was formed with a capital of $75,000. The business employed about 100 to 125 people,and its products were said to have found a ready market in every section of the country. They also exported goods to Canada, South America, the Sandwich Islands, England, and Europe. 

This hardware company was quite successful for many years. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1905 and 1910. T.C. Richards, the president and treasurer, was highly esteemed by the community and held the position of water commissioner for years. He was instrumental in helping to organize and fund the construction of the Rugg Brook tunnel. Upon his death, in 1911, the hardware company suspended its operation. After being vacant for several years, the building was purchased by the Fitzgerald Company and Strand & Sweet. 

Morgan Silver Plate manufactured casket hardware and was incorporated around 1888 with a capital of $25,000. The company purchased the former site of the Clifton Mill property, on Clifton and Willow Streets, and built a new factory that included modern equipment. They made substantial improvements to the property over time. The main, three-story building measured 35x102 feet and had separate buildings for the boiler and storage. Like Winsted’s other successful industries, it was equipped with the latest modern machinery.  About 30 to 35 skilled hands were employed at the plant. 

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Morgan Silver Plate dealt chiefly in high quality casket hardware that was sold directly to undertakers. In 1900, the company took over a concern from T.S. Carroll that made champagne taps, and in 1902 they added a section to their building to produce tin tubes. J.T. Morgan, the company’s founder, had previously been the superintendent of Strong Manufacturing, so he brought much experience to the concern. Salmon A. Granger, the secretary and treasurer, had formerly been employed as the superintendent at New England Pin Company.

Morgan Silver Plate ceased operations around 1943. The president at that time was Martha T. Hart, and Albert D. Hart was secretary and treasurer. It was said that the reputation of Morgan Silver Plate was gained through their manufacturing of high quality goods. They were highly regarded by the community for both their ability and integrity. 

Winsted Metalliform Company purchased the old Beardsley Scythe factory building, at 110 Lake Street, in 1893, and was incorporated the following year with a capital of $42,000. A portion of the building it occupied was also used by the B.J. Harrison Chair Company and later by Winsted Hardware, which tore the old buildings down. Winsted Metalliform manufactured brass drapery hardware and other specialty items made from sheet metal and wire. 

Henry Gay served as president of the company. Gay was born in Salisbury and from an early age found his calling in the banking business. He came to Winsted, in 1854, and served as president of Hurlbut National Bank, but he had a multitude of other business interests. Over the course of his life, Henry Gay was director of William L. Gilbert Clock Company, Winsted Hosiery Company, New England Knitting, George Dudley & Sons Company, Morgan Silver Plate, the Winsted Gas Company, the Connecticut Western Railroad Company, the T.C. Richards Hardware Company, the Winsted Silk Company, the Citizens’ Printing Company, and director and president of Winsted Edge Tool Company. 

Gay had also been a partner of the Winsted Yarn Company, was president of the Gilbert Home, trustee of The Gilbert School, president of the Winsted Soldiers Memorial Park Association, incorporator of the Litchfield County Hospital and a trustee at the Beardsley Library. Few men were more active in benevolent and charitable causes and enterprises that developed and benefited Winsted. Upon Gay’s death, in 1908, historian Frank H. DeMars said, “It is doubtful if the death of any citizen of Winsted ever caused more sincere sorrow.”

Taken from “Brains, Money & Pluck: Profiles of Early Industries” by Verna Gilson, genealogy and local history research assistant, Beardsley and  Memorial Library, Winsted.