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American Screw Company

Photos:

  1. Detail of panarama
  2. Detail of the Bay State mill building
  3. Building 6 on left building 1 on right
  4. Addition to building 1 on the south west corner
  5. Building 1, tower of Bay State Mill in background
  6. the Bay State Mill
  7. Roofs of buildings 1, (right) 6 (left) and 2 (background)
  8. West sides of building 2 & boiler house
  9. Complex from southeast; building 2 to left, buildings 6 and 1 in center
  10. Curved wall on3rd floor of building 1 addition
  11. 2nd floor of Bay State building
  12. 3rd floor of building 6
  13. A remaining building (528 North Main Street), not actually part of the American Screw Co, but in the drawing used for the location aerial photo
  14. Parking lot where the Bay State Mill used to stand
  15. Parking structure where the office building and Bark Street used to be

Our History

I found this building while searching the HABS/HAER database. I had a hunch as to where this building used to be, and after laying a map of the property over an aerial satellite image, it lined up well. The American Screw Co. is now a parking lot for one of the Providence Center’s medical facility off of North Main Street, behind the (former) Girl Scouts of America building on Charles Street.

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.

Bonnie Corman PhD Mar 18 2016 My father and uncle had their Textile Business in part of the American Screw Co., 24 Stevens St. It was Podrat Bros Textile Co. I have many memories of the equipment used to put textiles into bales and the sorting of textiles into fibers which were then rewoven.

Dorothy Fitta Dec 14 2015 My husband worked at American Screw co, during WW11, He did defense work… He worked at the one in Providence R.I. North Main st. Interesting, that site is now a parking lot…

shannon veber Aug 27 2015 i recently found about 15 boxes of American screw company full of screws from providence, R.I... they are very old!!! the boxes are a dark brown with blue lettering in great condition according to how old they may be??? i also found machine taps, hand taps etc. along with the screws and gauges i found 14 packets of drill bits from National twist drill & tool company, Detroit, U.S.A.... does anyone know about this stuff??? please email me shannon.veber [at] yahoo [dot] com

Dave S. Mar 21 2015 I bought an American Screw Co. #3A Philips head screwdriver from an old gentleman several years ago at his "hoarding clear out" sale… never knew the company had roots in RI. I live in Narragansett, RI, and so did he! Pretty cool!

Robert Harrington Nov 26 2014 I have a few American screw that I got from my 92 year old uncle they are the best I have ever used. I will try to send a photo of one of the boxes.

Richard Lester Jul 25 2014 Back in the early 1950's, my mother -- Clare Lester -- worked night shifts at the Willimantic plant. I remember riding out with my Dad some nights to pick her up after her shift had ended. We sometimes stopped at Butler's Dairy for a milk shake on the way. I remember they even had a pinball machine there. My Mom introduced a friend and co-worker to her brother Bill Scofield, they fell in love, and eventually married -- a romance that had its roots at the American Screw Company.

Van Schuyler, Kathleen Jun 26 2014 My grandfather and father worked at the American Screw Co before and after WWII. Carl August Johnson drove the horses to Quonset Pt to deliver screws for the ship. Henry L. Johnson, my father, supervised women during the war, making screws. He would not go to Conn. when they moved. My grandfather is a Swedish/American, came to this country around 1900.

Jill Gilbert May 14 2014 My grandfather ran a small hardware store and I have a large display in the original boxes from the Continental Screw Company before the purchase by American. Such great history of this company start.

Carolyn Gillon May 7 2014 My grandfather Charles Gillon, lived on Taunton, Ma, and worked as machinist at the American Screw Co. I would like to see photo found by Randall McDaniel.

maryann ruffini Dec 2 2013 I have found a crate with the graphics American (in top) then a picture of a red eagle and around it says made in the united states of america. On each side of the eagle there are a screw in black and on one side is a flat head and the other a phillips screw. Below that one side it says Screws and the other it says Bolts. Under that on one side it says American Screw Co. and on the other side it says, Providence, RI. Could anyone tell me what circa this crate could be? Thank you.

Dorothy Lapre Jul 8 2011 My husband’s grandfather (Remi Lapre) worked at the American Screw Co in Providence, RI in the 1880s. He lived 6 Lock Street, Providence. All of his decendents still live in RI, NH, MA, & CT. We are the Lapre’s living in CT, formerly residing in Lincoln, RI (where the Oscar E. Lapre family) lived for over 65 yrs. in the Limerock section.

Bill Demarais April 14 2011 My father Ernest Demarais and his brother John worked at the Willimantic plant till it closed. John went south with them when they moved out. We had many friends work there Larry Kelly. I can't think of all of them now. My father got a job with the US Postoffice after they left..

Hakan Torstensson Mar 16 2009 I am curious about my grand-mothers’ father who worked as a working leader for the american screw, probably 1891-1903. The family emigrated from Sweden to Providence in 1891, his name was Sanfrid Westman. I remember a nice broshure of the company, smoking chimenys and so on.

William Kotrba July 26 2008 My late father in law Leonard F. Lee began as a header operator in Providence, worked himself up to inspector, and eventually became Plant Superintendent. At his funeral ceremony people came far and wide to pay their respects, many coming from as far away as New Bedford. Leonard was a great man and a wonderful Father, Grandfather, and Father in Law. I worked at the research and development laboratory in the late 1950s, while working my way through college. Many old timers worked there at that time, Herman Munchinger, metallurgist, Stan Berkley, Chemist, Wilbur Kilburn, chief technician etc. Those were certainly the good old days. I still have a large wooden Screwdriver trade sign, 4’ long of a screw driver marked “American Screw Co.” that was supposedly part of the industrial display at the 1939 Worlds Fair. It hangs proudly in my garage

Arlene Drew Guenther My father, Raymond Drew, worked for the American Screw Company in Providence before and after his 4 years of miltary duty (WW II). We moved with the company to Willimantic in 1949 and lived there until the company was bought out by Textron in 1962 and relocated to Wytheville, VA. We moved there and my father retired in 1979 with 37 years of service to the American Screw Co.

Briere Both of my parents worked at American Screw Company in Willimantic, CT from the late 1940’s / early 1950’s until it closed in 1962. My father obtained a job with Air Industries in Gardena, California and we moved west.

Randall McDaniel I recently purchased an old photo. The photo is labeled on the reverse “Charlie J. Gillon, machinist at The American Screw Co, Providence RI”. The photo was taken at the Rankin Photo Studio in Taunton Massachusetts.

marc bissonnette The first immigrants in my ancestry from Canada worked at American Screw, Henry Beauregard and his sons especially Albert were living in Providence and working there in 1880. They also kept their farm in Stukely, Canada. My grandfather (Joseph) George Bissonnette worked there his whole life even commuting from Central Falls to Willimantic till the early ’60s.

The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.

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