Brown & Sharpe and the Measure of American Industry

Making the Precision Machine Tools That Enabled Manufacturing, 1833–2001


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About the Book

Joseph Brown, founder of Brown & Sharpe, was a skilled clockmaker who invented new machines, and new ways to make things. Samuel Darling, an eccentric inventor from Maine, joined up and brought with him his engine for marking precise graduations on measuring instruments. Lucian Sharpe, with his son Henry and grandson Henry, Jr., guided the company for more than a century—and along with it the global machine tools industry.
The men and women of Brown & Sharpe produced and marketed a dazzling array of measuring devices, machine tools and precision machinery. They truly helped shape Rhode Island, the nation and the modern world. The history of Brown & Sharpe covers more than 150 years of technological development, labor history and public policy, culminating in history’s longest strike.

About the Author(s)

Gerald M. Carbone completed a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, and earned a master’s degree in public humanities at Brown University. This is his third book. He lives in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Bibliographic Details

Gerald M. Carbone with the Rhode Island Historical Society
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 288
Bibliographic Info: 53 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6921-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2919-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Foreword by Steven Lubar 1

Preface 5

Part One—Age of Invention

 1. A Burning Curiosity 9

 2. A Curiosity Shop 14

 3. “The Genius of Its Maker” 27

 4. “An Eye to Business” 34

 5. Prosperity 41

 6. Panic 51

 7. The Age of Steel 64

 8. Providence, Paris, Chicago 75

 9. Spoke Wheels, Turning 86

10. Death and Succession 97

Part Two—Centralization

11. “Clean the Damned Place Out!” 109

12. When Peppermint Creams Meet Steel 121

13. “If I Had Known This Was Coming” 136

14. “Don’t We Ever Play a Waltz?”: The 1930s 148

15. World War II: Defense Workers Wanted 158

16. One War Ends, Another Begins 172

Part Three—A People’s Capitalism

17. Flying into the Jet Age 183

18. Retooling 193

19. An Industrial Eden 203

Part Four—Managerial Capitalism and the Global Corporation

20. Fenced In 215

21. The Longest Strike 228

22. Locked Out 244

Chapter Notes 253

Bibliography 260

Index 263

Book Reviews & Awards

“solid, well-researched, detailed history”—Providence Journal; “the most important Rhode Island history book of the year. Despite the author’s background of writing from the labor point of view, Joseph Brown’s descendants nonetheless allowed [Carbone] unfettered access to write the complete, accurate, and unvarnished truth of their family company. The decision was an excellent one, as [he] has created a fine and balanced book…excellent book”—Online Review of Rhode Island History; “comprehensive history of one of Rhode Island’s leading manufacturers and employers. Carbone tells its story in an easy readable fashion, with photos from the archives adding to the account”—Cranston Herald.