| The Putnam Nail company began the manufacture of curtain fixtures, horseshoe nails and other types of hardware at Neponset in 1859. In 1860 thirty-three tons of horseshoe nails were manufactured during the entire year. In 1891 nearly ten tons were produced per day by over 400 employees.
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Silas S. Putnam was born in Hartford, NY. At an early age he apprenticed with a jeweler and watchmaker in Syracuse, NY. He learned quickly, but finding this employment too confining, he went to Boston where in 1843 he entered a dry goods store. He encountered an upholsterer having difficulty in securing a window shade to its roller. Mr. Putnam invented and patented a self-adjusting curtain fixture and a method of keeping the shade attached to its roller. He quit the dry-goods business to begin manufacture of his curtain fixtures, which had received a good deal of notice. In 1872 the annual production of curtain rollers by the Putnam Co., if stretched in a continuous line, would have reached halfway around the globe. His company also manufactured a popular kind of clothes hook made to swing on a bracket.
Mr. Putnam gave his attention also to the invention of a machine for the production of horseshoe nails. Machines had from time to time been made to cut or punch the nail from sheets or plates of iron rolled to a proper thickness, either hot or cold, but it had been found impossible to produce a nail as compact, firm, tough, and strong as could be made by hammering it out on the anvil, whereby the grain of the iron is compacted, refined, and made more ductile and tenacious; though many nails so cut or punched out have gotten into use, yet the best order of smiths refused to use them.
In the year 1850 Mr. Putnam conceived the plan of forging horse nails by machinery from the red-hot rod, in a manner similar to that of the blacksmith; and devoted much time, money, and severe thinking in projecting and perfecting a machine which would make nails equal, if not superior to those made by hand. After several unsuccessful attempts, each of which lacked some small item of perfection, he at last constructed a working machine capable of making a nearer perfect nail than is possible to be made by and, and possessing all the desirable qualities of the very best handmade nail, at a much less cost.
Putnam's Horse Nails were adopted for general use by the U.S. Army as the "Government Standard Horse Nail." In 1872, Mr. Putnam's factory in Neponset used a 200 hundred horsepower Corliss engine to drive his machinery, and it employed over 200 employees in making nails. The company used only machines of Mr. Putnam's invention, the first of which was put into operation in 1859.
The company lasted at least to the beginning of the 20th century, but the 1910 Bromley atlas shows the business at this site to be the Magnesia Co. of Massachusetts. The 1918 Bromley atlas shows the Geo. Lawley shipyard.
The Great Industries of the United States: Being An Historical Summary of the Origin, Growth, and Perfection of the Chief Industrial Arts of This Country. Hartford: J.B. Burr & Hyde, 1872.
Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester: A Narrative History of the Town, 1630-1893. Second edition. Cambridge: The University Press, 1908.
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Created: August 17, 2003 Modified: December 7, 2003