American Screw Company

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American Screw Company


Image of the American Screw Co. in Providence, Rhode Island.

The American Screw Company was organized in 1860, with a nominal capital of $1,000,000, and it immediately purchased the property of the Eagle Screw Company (1840) and New England Screw Company (1850). This is by far the largest manufactory of this kind in this country, if not in the world. It has a capacity for producing, each working day, about forty thousand gross of wood screws, several tons of rivets, large quantities of machine screws, and gives employment to some two thousand five hundred operatives. (History of the State of Rhode Island with Illustrations, 1878) In 1949, the American Screw Company moved their operations to Willimantic, Connecticut. The buildings survived intact until a July 1971 fire swept through the complex leaving just charred shells. Today none of the buildings remain. The American Screw Company was the largest screw manufacturer in the early 1900s, and had many notable figures involved with its existence: Marsden Jaseal Perry (November 2, 1850 – April 15, 1935) was a former director and chairman of the board Norfolk Southern Railroad, director of General Electric Company, Nicholson File Company and American Screw Company. Considered the "Utility King" and one of the most powerful men of the state. Nelson W. Aldrich, a prominent U.S. Senator (R.I.) and Mr Perry were closely associated. Aldrich, a big business ally, expert on tariff and banking laws, wrote and passed legislation directly benefiting Perry and himself. The corruption and manipulation was so blatant and severe, it formed the basis for Lincoln Steffens exposé of corruption in Rhode Island called “Rhode Island: A State for Sale” which appeared in McClure’s Magazine (1904). Aldrich, Perry and Charles Ray Brayton controlled state politics, patronage, and favors.

Hayward Augustus Harvey [1824-93] was the inventor of the Harvey Process of tempering sheet steel for armor plate. Also involved with his father developing improvements in wood screws and the machinery for their production. In 1865 he founded the Continental Screw Company in Jersey City, which became the owner of Mr. Harvey’s first patents on screw machinery, covering the entire process of wood-screw making. After a short existence these works were bought out by the American Screw Company. From 1870 to 1890 Mr. Harvey was constantly at work designing new machinery for making screws, bolts, wire nails, washers, spiral springs and many other articles of that kind. The most notable of his inventions during this period is what is known as the “rolled thread” screw. Instead of cutting the screw thread into the wire, Mr. Harvey rolled or cold-forged the thread partly into, partly upon the surface of the wire itself. He gave to these screws a sharp central point, which, with the large thread and small neck, with incidental saving in the weight of wire, necessarily gave to the Harvey rolled screw such an immense advantage over all other screws that the great screw manufacturers of the world, the American Screw Company, of Providence, and the Nettlefolds, of England, were practically obliged to purchase the Harvey patents, which they did in 1886.

From the Historic American Engineering Record; RI-6 This was a complex of factory buildings of brick, timber, and iron construction dating from 1840 to 1873. These buildings were erected on land at the north end of Providence on land sloping upwards from the Moshassuc River. The principal buildings were three or four stories in height, mostly rectangular in form with gable roofs and protruding stair towers.

The first building was erected by the Eagle Screw Company, a long three story rectangular structure with a clerestory gable roof that ran parallel to Stevens Street. It had a protruding entrance and stair tower on the north side and a lesser stair tower on the west end. A gabled south wing was added soon after the original building was completed. Within ten years a second building was constructed 150 yards southeast of the original building. It was a four story gable roofed structure without a clerestory. It also had a stair tower on its north side and a privy tower on its west end. It had a connecting 2 story gabled roofed boiler house to its south.

These buildings served until 1860 when the Eagle Screw Company merged with the American Screw Company. Between 1865 and 1870 the south wing of building 1 (the original factory) was extensively altered and a mansard roof added. North of this, a new 3 story triangular shaped mill was constructed also with a mansard roof. Expansion again occurred in 1873 with the construction of the Bay State building, noted for its Lombard Italianate style and steeply pitched, hip roofed central tower. All these buildings were believed to have been designed by Alpheus Morse.

Source: Art In Ruins: American Screw Company




Rhode Island State Archives


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celluloid negative


"American Screw Company," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #333, (accessed June 16, 2019).