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Monday, January 18, 2010

Bradford Celebrates Wilson Globe Bicentennial

Local actor Scott Johnson portrays James Wilson, creator of the first American-made globe. Johnson told the audience at the recent Bicentennial celebration about Wilson's fourteen-year quest to create a saleable globe for the American market. Details of this Yankee inventor's life may be read in the accompanying Journal-Opinion article. Photo and the one below by Bernie Marvin of the Bridge Weekly

BHS Directors Phyllis Lavelle and Diane Smarro paid tribute to over 120 donors who helped to raise $27,000 for the conservation of the Society's globe. Special recognition was given to Tim and Jenny Copeland and Copeland Furniture for their generous contribution of a custom-made display case.

On Sunday, January 17, 2010, the Bradford Historical Society sponsored a Wilson Globe Bicentennial Celebration. James Wilson of Bradford was America's first globe maker. The first recorded sale of his globes was on January 18, 1810. Over two hundred people attended the celebration.

Wilson Globes became the primary source of American-made globes after 1810.
His first workshop was in Bradford and was later moved to Albany, N.Y. to be closer to the markets.

BHS Curator Karen DeRosa gave the history of the BHS's first-year globe. It was purchased in 1960 from a Mrs. Mills of White River Jct. It was described as being in deplorable condition.

In 2007 the globe was delivered to the Williamstown (Mass.) Art Conservation Center for

conservation. Karen described the process the globe underwent to be conserved. Clicking on the WACC website one can access an article in the Art Conservator that giving details of the project.

Members of the Bradford Elementary School 4th graders under the direction of Heidi Torphy and with accompaniment from Bob Benjamin presented the "Wilson Globe Song." It was created with in 1993 by Vermont singer Margaret McArthur and BES students.

BHS President Larry Coffin joins Wilson's gggrandson Malcolm Spencer to view the
reconditioned globe in its new display case. Mr. and Mrs. Spencer drove from Maryland to attend the celebration.

Yankee Inventors

Orford-Fairlee's Samuel Morey had over 20 patents and worked on perhaps 4,000 inventions during his lifetime. He is described as an "inventor extraordinary."
This is a model of Morey's 1826 engine. Charles Duryea, producer of America's first automobile gave Morey credit for invention the internal combustion engine. Photo courtesy: Vern Marine & Associates.

(photo courtesy: National Life Insurance Co.)

In 1810 James Wilson of Bradford sold the first of his American-made globes. The Bradford Historical Society recently undertook the conservation of their first-year globe. It is pictured above in a new cabinet manufactured and donated by Copeland Furniture.

As published in the January 13, 2010 edition of the Journal-Opinion.

In 1790 George Washington signed into law a bill that laid the foundation for the American patent system, a system establishing the legal right of an inventor to profit from his invention. It encouraged Americans to become prolific inventors. The very first patent was granted to Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont for an improvement in the manufacture of potash. By 1836 the U.S. Patent Office had registered 10,000 new inventions and innovations. Others were unregistered.

Residents of our area were among those individuals who found new ways to solve old problems, to improve some aspect of life. They had in common the traits of inquisitiveness, ingenuity, patience and an aptitude for tinkering. Many inventions came only after years of unsuccessful attempts and often by accident. Some were the result of “making-do,” the byproduct of a thrifty lifestyle. The system sometimes gave the inventor financial rewards and public acclaim. Others went unheralded because they failed to have patents registered or they were too far ahead of their time for public acceptance.

The most extraordinary inventor from the area was Samuel Morey of Orford and Fairlee.
His story is well documented by Alice Hodgson who lived in the Morey house on the Ridge in Orford for many years. Lance Mills of Fairlee has written an informative unpublished manuscript entitled: “Samuel Morey: A Life of Invention.” It is designed to introduce young readers to this visionary.

Morey was born in Hebron Connecticut in 1762 and moved at the age of three with his family to Orford. His father Israel Morey became a leader of the new community. In 1793, Samuel received his first patent for a steam spit designed to relieve cooks of the tedium of turning roasts over an open fire. It was the first patent granted to a New Hampshire inventor.

At about the same time he ran his first experimental steam boat on the Connecticut River between Orford and Fairlee. It was a log dugout with a paddle wheel at the prow. In 1796 he wrote, “When my arrangements are sufficiently matured for exhibition, I went to New York and built a boat, and during three successive summers tried many experiments in modifying the engine and in propelling.” But his experiments were unsuccessful and in 1800 he returned to Orford defeated and burdened by both debt and illness in his family. He was able to recover financially by selling the rights to his steam spit and a new steam engine.

At this point Chancellor Robert Livingston of New York offered Morey $7,000 for the patent rights to his steamboat. No bargain was made. Morey continued to consult with Livingston about improvements he made in his steam boat. But Livingston backed Robert Fulton who was eventually credited with operating the first commercially successful steamboat. To the end of his life, Morey felt the injustice of Fulton’s actions, saying, “Blast his belly! He stole my patent!” It was not Morey’s steam engine Fulton had copied, but his unpatented steam powered side paddle wheels which Fulton “appropriated.”

Despite this failure Morey was not deterred. In 1817 he took out a patent for an invention he called the American Water Burner. This was the result of his experiments with the interaction of heated carbon and steam. “His fellow townsmen, hearing that he was attempting to burn water, believed he had finally taken leave of his senses.” His house on the Ridge had the distinction of being heated and lighted by water-gas half a century before it was successfully used around the nation for heating and illumination.

Morey’s workshop was the,”scene of innumerable extraordinary experiments,” perhaps as many as 4,000. He patented over twenty inventions including those dealing with steam and mixing combustible substances. His revolving steam engine was commercially successful.

While he is most widely known locally for his steam boat, it was the invention of the first internal combustion engine for which he is most well known. He received a patent for it in 1826. Mills writes, “in addition to a carburetor, this engine had pistons, valves and a crankshaft.” While it was decades ahead of its time, Morey correctly prophesied that it would “greatly change the commercial and personal intercourse of the Country…there will be little use of horses for that purpose.” Charles Duryea, producer of America’s first recognized automobile in 1891-92 gave Morey credit for inventing the internal combustion engine.

In 1832 he moved to Fairlee where he owned considerable land around Fairlee Pond, later renamed in his honor. He tried his internal combustion engine on the Aunt Sally, a boat he operated on the pond. A year later he received his last patent for a method of “decomposing and recomposing water, in combustion with spirits of turpentine.” As hydrogen is developed as a fuel of the future, some credit may go to Samuel Morey, the Thomas Edison of his times. He died in 1843.

Bradford’s James Wilson, America’s first globe maker was born in Londonderry, N. H. in 1763. His early interest in globes, all of which were made in Europe at the time, was heightened by a visit to Dartmouth College where he saw several globes.. He moved to Bradford in 1795 and earned his living as a farmer and blacksmith. Resolved to make a globe that was practical, portable and more importantly, saleable, he began a fourteen year quest.

He produced his first globe in 1796. It was just a paper covered wooden ball with hand drawn maps. Its crudeness did not deter him. He sold some cattle to buy a set of Encyclopedia Britannica from a seller in Ryegate and using it strengthened his primary school education in geography, astronomy and natural science. He possessed a quick mind, knew the importance of discovery and excellence and realized the need to learn from others.

He walked to both Massachusetts and Connecticut to consult with master engravers to gain the art of engraving on copper. To overcome the problems of printing maps on a spherical surface in true proportions he sought help from Jedediah Morse in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

After fourteen years of experimentation and creating the necessary presses, lathes and other tools, inks, glues and vanishes, he produced the first saleable globe. He handcrafted the wooden stand and brass engraved meridian ring to hold the globe in place. His thirteen-inch terrestrial globe consisted of two sewn-halves of papier-mache skim coated with plaster and covered with a paper map. The map contains twelve-wedge-shaped sections hand-tinted with watercolors. They were “in all respects fitted to rival in the market any imported from foreign countries.”

While there may have been earlier sales, the first recorded sale took place on January 18, 1810. The demand for his globes was considerable. His blacksmith shop became a globe factory as the market grew. Around 1815, Wilson and his three sons moved their globe manufacturing to Albany to be closer to the markets. As the years went by the selection of globes was expanded to include celestial and terrestrial globes of different sizes, often sold in pairs and improvements were made in the details. They were sold for about $18 in 1816 and offered for up to $55 per pair in 1827. In 1827 he brought his globes to Washington to display to Congress. Three of his globes are now on display at the Library of Congress.

Wilson considered Bradford his home and returned often to a new brick residence on the Upper Plain. The business remained under the control of the family until after 1835. During that time Wilson globes were widely used and eclipsed the foreign imports.
One time Wilson was traveling by stagecoach with one of his globes in his lap. A fellow passenger, an Englishman, was touting the advantages of English made items. “Look at that beautiful instrument” he said, pointing to the globe. “Of course, it is impossible to make such a thing in this country.” Wilson turned the globe to the printed name and read “Jas Wilson & Sons, Albany, N.Y.” The Englishman was shamed to silence.

At the age of 88 Wilson built a planetarium that showed the movements of the sun, moon and planets. He died at the age of 92. On January 17, 2010, the Bradford Historical Society will celebrate the bicentennial of the invention of the first American-made globe by Bradford’s James Wilson. The ceremony will feature the presentation of a first-year globe that the Society has had repaired and preserved by the Williamstown (Massachusetts) Art Conservation Center.

In addition to Morey and Wilson there were many 19th century inventors who called our area home. The following list illustrates the variety of inventions and improvements credited to them: Bradford: Horace Strickland, 1840, cooking stove, B. Greenbough, 1862, flamethrower; Newbury: James Sawyer, 1832, piston paper-maker, Elijah M’Lenan, 1851, shoe polish; Piermont: Daniel Young, 1819,threshing machine, Elnathan Sampson, 1849, shingle sawing; Lyme: Rufus Conent, 1825, window shades, S.G and G.S Rogers, 1866, papermaking.

West Fairlee: William Marston, 1865, improved window blinds; Haverhill: James Cutting, 1854 locomotive spark extinguisher and ambrotype, George Morse: 1856, metallic cartridge case and gun with magazine lock; Peacham: Ira Blake, 1860’s watch spring; Ryegate: A. Leitch, 1865 improved sap spout; Corinth: Daniel Flagg, 1840s, cowcatcher; Further afield were Thaddeus Fairbanks of St. Johnsbury, platform scales,1830 and Thomas Davenport of Brandon, first electric motor, 1837.

Many of these innovations did not bring about revolutionary changes in established industries but rather incremental improvements. To quote Steward Holbrook: “For a century [after 1790] Yankees were to stand in the very front rank of American inventors, both in number and in the wide influence of their work.”

Since 1790, the U. S. Patent Office has granted over seven million patents of which 185,244 patents were granted in 2008. One half of the patents granted in 2008 were granted to Americans and the remainder to inventors from all other nations. The percentage of foreign inventors granted American patents has increased significantly over the past fifty years.

Are area inventors a thing of the past? Have they and America lost its edge in the world of inventions? I posed these questions to Norman Etkind of InventVermont, a non-profit organization that encourages inventors. He responded: “Yankee ingenuity is as much a part of Vermont as the Green Mountains. It is a feature of the collective personality of the state and is as alive today as it ever was. America is unique among the nations in the way we constantly strive to improve upon our current condition and the way that all people, not just big companies participate in this quest.”

Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the businesses that have grown up around them are the invention incubator for the Upper Valley. Many of the men and women employed there live in our area and their innovative influences reaches out to the world. According to Glennis Gold of Dartmouth’s Technology Transfer Office over the past 15 years scores of inventions and innovations have been created in fields such as word processing, engineering, biotechnology, medical devices and life science.

The term invention comes from the verb to find. We celebrate the ingenuity of area inventors, past and present. They continue to change and in most cases improve our lives. It is to our advantage to have Americans, including those in our area, continue to be inquisitive, to tinker, to experiment and to find.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Upper Valley Exodus

Vermont 19th century sheep craze was a major motivation for emigration from the region as small farmers were enclosed into neighboring farms. When the craze turned to bust, many other farmers sought greener pastures.

Conestoga wagons such as this one carried area residents to the West.
Other modes of transportation included sleds, canal boats, rail and foot.

In this 1872 image by John Gast entitled "American Progress" the spirit of the nation is shown leading migrants westward. Native peoples and animals flee before the onward rush of railroad, telegraph and other vestiges of civilization.
As published in the Journal-Opinion on December 30, 2009.

It has a pleasant variety of natural scenery, an abundance of pure water, a healthful climate, better markets and hard roads, plenty of timber and extensive sources of power as well as an equal distribution of property. What may appear to be a local development promotion is actually from the 1876 Vermont Agriculture Annual Report. It was extolling the virtues of Vermont in an unsuccessful attempt to stem the tide of emigrants leaving for better opportunities elsewhere.

In 2010, the United States will count its population. It has been doing so every ten years since 1790 as required by the Constitution. The count will show that towns in our area are growing. That was not always the case. Our area has a history of dramatic changes in population. Lewis Stilwell’s Migration From Vermont, Harold Wilson’s The Hill Country of Northern New England, Harold Meeks’ Time and Change in Vermont and Freedom and Unity by Michael Sherman et al along with town histories chronicle those changes.

The first wave of white settlers came to our valley from southern New England in the late 1760s. Population growth there had left little available land for new farmers. In the first twenty-five years there was spectacular growth, giving river towns such as Newbury, Thetford and Bradford a population of 873, 862 and 654 respectively.

Between 1790 and 1810 Vermont had a growth rate of 150 percent. That rate of growth was mirrored by most towns and more than doubled by Topsham and Fairlee. This was the result of continued migration from the south and the large families common to the farming communities. Vermont was young, with a majority of its residents age sixteen or younger.

However, Vermont’s boom time was brief. By 1810 migration slowed and some Vermont towns began to lose inhabitants. While none of the area towns experienced this early decline, the rate of growth in our area slowed. Some area residents joined the migration to newly opened lands in northern New York and Pennsylvania. “York fever” was followed by a similar epidemic of “Ohio fever.” Others were drawn to newly open lands on both sides of the Vermont-Canadian border.

In the twelve years following 1808 emigration “rose to a flood.” The stimuli were the economic and social problems of the War of 1812, an epidemic of spotted fever and the terrible weather of 1816 and the lure of better land in the West. That attraction was enhanced by advertisements and letters as well as the growing shortage of good farm land in Vermont and New Hampshire. A man, often a young one, would go first, acquire land, erect a shelter and then return for his family. They traveled to their new home by canal boat, sled, wagon or foot.

A major motivation for the emigration was a tradition of migration. Migrants’ ancestors had crossed the Atlantic and their children had moved out across the region. For some this created a wanderlust that encouraged them to pick up and move from established areas to new. To the families were added single young men, missionaries and craftsmen drawn to the opportunities and needs of newer communities in places such as Illinois and Wisconsin.

At some point in the decades from 1820 to 1860, every area town reached a peak of population and began to decline. Following is a list of some area towns showing the year with the highest early count and where it stood in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War. Vershire (1810-1,311, 1860-1000), Lyme (1820-1,824, 1860-1,572); Fairlee (1820-1,143, 1860-549), Orford (1830-1,829, 1860-1,255), Thetford (1830-2,113, 1860-1,876), Piermont (1840-1,057, 1860-949), Topsham (1840-1.745, 1860-1,662), Newbury (1850-2,984, 1860-2,549). Bradford, with its mills, commercial center and railroad connection, peaked in 1860 with a population of 1,689.

That period of decline was the result of a great migration, described by Stilwell as, “great in numbers, great in enthusiasm, and great in results.” To some extent this was an organized group migration. Companies of settlers moved westward. There were newspaper reports of wagon trains moving through Bradford on the way to new territories west of the Mississippi. Some residents of the area joined the Mormons’ westward trek. In 1855, the Emigrant Aid Company of Boston persuaded George and Jacob Rowe of Lyme to join the free-soil movement to “sing upon the Kansas plains a song of Liberty!.”

Economic displacements caused by the Panic of 1837 and the rise and fall of the sheep craze contributed to the migration. Farmers could not compete with products shipped from the better farmlands to the west. Vermont had used up many of its resources. Many farmers tired of the annual crop of stones from the marginal soil. In 1848 the news of the discovery of gold in California only added to the number who sought riches in the West. My great-great grandfather left his family in Orange and sailed around the Horn to San Francisco, returning empty-handed. .
The out migration also included the young seeking better opportunities in the larger communities of the East. They were young professionals, craftsmen and mill workers. The lure was especially strong for young women who saw in their mothers’ lined faces the hardship of country life. Many agreed with Vermont-born Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas when he said “Vermont is a good state to be born in, provided you migrate early.” . Some other migrants from the two state area left the country altogether. A visitor to Tahiti in 1837 met migrants from Peacham and Bradford.

The upheaval of the Civil War as well as the post-war development of the West and cities continued to drain the area’s rural population. Only about 61 percent of native Vermonters made the state their permanent residence. Some rural districts became completely depopulated whereas thriving commercial villages and larger urban towns retained their population and even grew. Because of the impact of the Ely Copper Mine, Vershire’s population rose to 1,875 in 1880 only to be reduced to 754 ten years later when the mine closed. The population of nearby West Fairlee also grew dramatically and then fall. Fairlee reached its lowest population count in 1890 at 398 inhabitants. Haverhill had a slight dip in population but grew after 1840. Major factors in its growth were the railroad center at Woodsville and Pike Manufacturing Company in Pike. Its population reached 3,414 in 1900.

As Vermont lagged behind the rapid growth of other states, towns in the area continued to lose population. It was said that the only things growing in the towns were the cemeteries. Although they migrated away, native-born Vermonters wanted to retain some connections. From the very beginning of the exodus, new communities throughout the West were named for Vermont towns. They also formed organizations such as the Sons of Vermont of Iowa. Migrants from our area contributed significantly to their new homes, a topic for a future column.
Rural interests campaigned to keep the lifeblood of their communities from flowing away. Many feared that the selective nature of the migration would leave behind a population reduced by ability and replaced by foreign immigrants of dubious value as citizens. “Stick to the Farm, Young Man” was a theme that reflected suspicion of both urban and western lifestyles. But the same newspapers that carried such articles also carried advertisements trumpeting the opportunities in the West. The decline built upon itself as the state’s shortage of labor and capital discouraged manufacturing.

The out-migration that Vermont and our local area experienced during the last half of the 19th century continued through the first half of the Twentieth. The causes were the same although the destinations and the mode of escape changed. In the period 1900-1910 two-thirds of all Vermont towns lost population. Whole sections of rural towns reverted to woods with only cellar holes and stonewalls remaining. A future article will deal with those abandoned districts in our area.

In the decades between 1910-1920 and 1930-1940, Vermont actually lost population, the only times in its history when that happened. During World War I and the Great Depression the emigration exceeded the natural increase of births. In the period between 1920 and1950, many area towns had the lowest population since the early 19th century. Representative of this count are Lyme (1930 census-830), Bradford (1930-1,235), Thetford (1940-1,043)), Topsham (1940-707) and Corinth (1950-786). Vershire’s population reached its low in 1960 at 236 residents and Newbury declined to 1,440 in 1970.

Between 1945 and 1960 there was a modest growth in the population of Vermont, although it “lagged behind the national and regional growth rate.” Our area reflected the same slow to modest growth. However, after 1960, Vermont truly became “the beckoning country.” The changes from the population trends of the previous one hundred and fifty years were abrupt. The building of the interstate highway system made Vermont more accessible to the huge population within a day’s drive. The natural growth from the baby boom was enhanced by the increased magnetism of the state for residents from other states. Each of the decades since has reflected double digit growth in population.

The population increases in our area reflect the impact of the interstate as well as the closeness to Dartmouth College, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Memorial Hospital and the other entities that drive the economy of the Upper Valley. Thetford, with its interstate access, matched its 1830 census count during the 1970’s and had an estimated population of 2,779 in 2007. That represents a 165 percent growth since 1960. Across the river, Lyme with a 2007 estimated population of 1,697 equals that growth rate.

Further up the river, Bradford’s growth during the 1970’s had it matching the level of population of a century earlier. Haverhill’s population increased dramatically from 3,090 in 1970 to 4,661 in 2007 easily exceeded earlier highs. Its rate of growth was equaled by its valley neighbor Newbury. Although they grew, Corinth, Piermont, Topsham and Fairlee have not achieved the population levels of the early nineteenth century.
Following is the most recent census estimates for area towns along with the percentage of growth since 1960: Newbury (2,158-49 %), Corinth (1,458-127%), Fairlee (1,008-77%), West Fairlee (726-118%), Topsham (1, 139-79%), Vershire (625-165%) Piermont (690-45%) and Orford (1061-59%). This influx of new residents has changed these communities socially, economically and politically. “Where are you from?” is a much more common question when meeting fellow residents than it was in the past.

The Council on the Future of Vermont describes population changes over the past fifty years. Their report indicates a steady decline in the number of native-born residents, dropping from 75 percent in 1960 to 53 percent in 2005. The population is more highly educated. The emigration of local college graduates is somewhat offset by an in-migration of young well-educated residents.

While the natural increase of population is still slightly higher than people relocating from other places, it was recently reported that Vermont has the lowest birth rate in the nation. As a result of that and the number of retirees moving to the state, Vermont tends toward an aging population with 13.6 percent of the population over 65. While the state is still one of the most ethnically homogeneous in the nation, the ethnic diversity of our area has changed since the 1950.

In March, 2010 each household in our area will receive a questionnaire from the Census Bureau. The nation-wide result of that tabulation will determine the number of members of the U. S. House of Representatives and Electoral College assigned to each state. It will affect the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds for such services as schools, hospitals, job training and emergency services. It is truly the time to “stand up and be counted.”
The 2010 census figures were released on February 10, 2011. Population changes for Vermont towns in our area were part of an article in the February 11th Valley News as follows: (2000 population, 2010 population and percentage change) Vershire: 629,730. 16.1%; Newbury: 1,965, 2216, 12.8%; Bradford: 2,619, 2797, 6.8%; Fairlee: 967, 977, 1.0%; Thetford: 2,617, 2, 588, -1.1%; Corinth: 1,461, 1,367, -6.4%; West Fairlee: 726, 652, -10.2%.