Ansonia Copper & Brass

Here’s a little backstory. I was out tooling around “the Valley”. It was a beautiful day, I felt like busting out of the shop for a bit so i grabbed my camera and beat feet. I really didn’t have a specific agenda and didn’t pack for an expedition – just had the camera, no tripod, no nothing..

I headed North to the  Valley…I  am enthralled with the Valley – it is so damn rich in industrial history and lore – if you can get to it and get near it. I found myself following train tracks and rivers and happened upon as sketchy a scene as i’ve ever run into – that was between me and my mark. Ansonia Copper & Brass – as ancient and huge an Industrial Complex as ever was built.

Well, by sheer willpower and balls of steel I found myself in a machining and metalwork shop that was up until April – a running, viable business. It was freaky folks, it was sad and it was an eye opener. I am rarely at the scene of the crime before the body  has been laid bare – and here i was looking at a cold corpse – but still intact. Gloves left on machine tools, end mills, carefully sorted and oiled, custom tools with makers marks. This is where people worked folks, no offices, no Aeron ergonomically correct chairs. How about a Bridgeport Mill to call your partner for 25 years?

These folks went to lunch one day – and never came back, this was the Twilight Zone.

The scene took my breath away. This is the effect of our Political and Financial policy’s. This is the effect of Mergers & Acquisitions. These once mighty machine tools and machining centers and the proud, skilled and viable men and women who operated then will no doubt find themselves out of work or sent to Asia by years end. Sad and sickening. I captured what I was able to and left, a sadder and more educated man.

But I still think to myself… Where are the men that worked the monster machines?  Where will they go, what will they do?

The story of the development of the brass mills in the Naugatuck Valley is the story of 19th century entrepreneurs who would found one firm, merge with another, then reorganize again to form new ventures. The American Brass Company was no exception; it was founded from many segments of the industry including the Aaron Benedict Company (est. 1812) and the various Coe companies.

Officially, the American Brass Company began 7 June 1893, when a group of men from five of the six brass mills in the Waterbury, Connecticut, met to consolidate their interests. The new company was intended to be a holding company for the following operations: Plume & Atwood Manufacturing Company, Benedict & Burnham Manufacturing Company, Waterbury Brass Company, Scoville Manufacturing Company, Holmes, Booth and Haydens, and Coe Brass Manufacturing Company.

However, it was to be another six years (1 March 1899) before the charter was accepted and the company finally organized. Even so, the principal companies could not agree upon remanufacturing activities. All of the companies, with the exception of the Waterbury Brass Company and the Coe Brass Manufacturing Company, withdrew from the newly formed consolidation. The Ansonia Brass & Copper Company (of the Phelps Dodge family) joined the remaining two, and on 14 December 1899 the three companies–Ansonia Brass & Copper, Waterbury Brass and Coe Brass Manufacturing–formed the American Brass Company. By 1901, Benedict & Burnham and Holmes, Booth and Haydens had rejoined the venture and the American Brass Company was on its way.

The next two decades would bring major reorganizations to the company. On 1 January 1912, the holding company became an operating company and the associated companies were now divisions of the parent, American Brass Company. In 1922, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (of Montana) acquired American Brass, although the company retained its own identity until 1960 when the name was changed to Anaconda American Brass.

The Anaconda Company merged with Atlantic Richfield in 1977. The American Brass files housed at the corporate archives were transferred to Los Angeles, CA, in 1981 when the headquarters of Anaconda American Brass Company were moved from Waterbury, Connecticut to Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The name of the division was subsequently changed to ARCO Metals. No administrative correspondence or records groups remained at Waterbury and the collection was divided into logical series at the corporate archives.

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