The City That Built All Others: How the New Britain Industrial Museum is Putting the Hardware City on the Map

The New Britain Industrial Museum turns 25 this year. Our mission has not changed much since 1995; we collect, preserve, and share the stories of inventors, innovators, and objects — all made in New Britain.

The New Britain Industrial Museum’s collection primarily comes from folks who used to work in one of the city’s factories. Their donations come with their stories: shelves of coffee percolators from a former supervisor at Landers, Frary & Clark (better known by their brand name, “Universal”). Overflowing containers with strapping tools made by Stanley Works, brought in by a former Stanley employee. Fafnir ball bearings of all sizes from Museum founder and former Fafnir VP of Engineering, Horace B. Van Dorn III. Their memories inform the stories we tell visitors from around the world, and make objects relatable.

Why New Britain? It was not fated to be a manufacturers’ mecca. No rivers? No water power. No water power in the early 19th century? No industry. Innovation: new ideas, methods, and devices. Frederick T. Stanley purchased the village’s first steam engine, and the boom began. More people could work on more machines to produce more hardware.

One intriguing thing I have learned since I started talking to machinists (who come to tour the Museum and see New Britain’s wares) almost daily: machinists are critical observers and streamline their process at every possible moment. Their creative problem-solving leads them to innovate. This is important to conceptualize: every worker holds the potential to make significant change. With a workforce as robust as New Britain’s, you can imagine the impact every person in the city could have.

This has been our goal for all of the New Britain Industrial Museum’s 25 years: you see the impact generations of innovators had in shaping New Britain’s legacy as you walk through the exhibits. That makes it easier to put yourself in the inventor’s seat. What do you want to change, and how would you do it?

If they could make waves in 19th century New Britain, I bet you can today.

Sophie Huget
Director, New Britain Industrial Museum

Visit the New Britain Industrial Museum!
59 West Main Street, New Britain, CT 06051
Admission: $5/adults, $3/students & seniors
Open Wednesday 12-4, Thursday & Friday 2-4, and Saturday 10-4.
Free hours every Saturday morning from 10-12.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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