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The Charter for Hamilton’s “Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures”
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

[ALEXANDER HAMILTON]. Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, September 10, 1791. Philadelphia: John Fenno. 4 pp. 10 x 16 in. Including the Charter for the Society of Useful Manufactures in full, and a report on Joseph Brant, the famous Mohawk Indian Chief.

Inventory #30019      

“It is an almost self evident proposition that that community which can most completely supply its own wants is in a state of the highest political perfection. And both theory and experience conspire to prove that a nation (unless from a very peculiar coincidence of circumstances) cannot possess much active wealth but as the result of extensive manufactures.

While also it is manifest that the interest of the community is deeply concerned in the progress of this species of Industry, there is as little room to doubt that the interest of individuals may equally be promoted by the pursuit of it.”

Following their highly influential Report on Manufactures, Hamilton and Tench Coxe put their recommendations into practice with the nation’s first public-private partnership. The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures worked to develop a model manufacturing town, where ingenuity in American industry could be showcased. Utilizing the water power of the Great Falls, Hamilton envisioned a planned community that would promote his industrial vision for the nation.

Chartered by New Jersey Governor William Paterson in 1791, the site took his name to become Paterson, N.J., which was exempt from property taxes for a decade. The visionary architect Pierre L’Enfant created grand designs for races and sluiceways to harness the waterpower. The notoriously difficult L’Enfant was soon replaced by the more pragmatic Peter Colt, but over time virtually all that L’Enfant envisioned was built.

The financial crash of March 1792, caused in large part by William Duer, who happened to be the organization’s governor, led to the bankruptcy of a number of the Society’s directors and cast doubt on the viability of Hamilton’s program. After a shaky start, however, cotton manufacturing took off in the late 1790s, followed by steel manufacturing in the mid-nineteenth century. By the 1880s, Paterson was the center of American silk production. The Society’s eventual successes at Paterson encouraged additional public-private partnerships across the country.

Paterson’s was a preeminent manufacturing city for more than a century. In 1862, a locomotive that had been manufactured there gained fame after it was stolen and used in the Great Locomotive Chase, an attempt by Union spies to cripple the Confederate rail network. The city also played a role in the manufacture of the second American submarine. And during World War II, more than 1,000 aircraft engines were produced there, especially for the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, the most notable of which was the Enola Gay

Today, the site is being renewed, with a visitor’s center and museum planned to be added to the new Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. (A preview of the Alexander Hamilton Center can be seen on www.hamiltonpartnership.org.)


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