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Terry Water Wheel

By February 16, 2024February 27th, 2024No Comments

Terry Water Wheel, Plymouth, Connecticut:

Near 268 Main Street is a pitch-back configuration water wheel dating back to around 1830. The wheel’s origins began with famed inventor and clockmaker Eli Terry Sr. (1772-1852). In 1793, he established the Terry Clock Shop in Plymouth and pioneered the manufacturing of interchangeable parts. Terry Sr. received the first United States patent for clockworks in 1801. He introduced mass production to the art of clockmaking, making clocks affordable for the average American.

Recognizing a vast potential market for low-cost domestic clocks, Eli Terry and his associates Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley applied water-powered machinery to clockmaking. One of the proving grounds of the American Industrial Revolution, clockmaking changed from a craft to a factory process in which machines mass-produced uniform, interchangeable clock parts. This manufacturing technique appeared in other industries about this time and became known as “the American system” of manufacturing

National Museum of American History

Terry’s sons were also integral to the family business. Eli Terry Jr. (1799-1841) was credited for constructing the cast iron and wood water wheel. He started at his father’s factory producing locking mechanisms. Seeking to increase production, Terry Jr. relied on water power to operate a wood saw. Output increased dramatically, and by the 1840’s Terry Clock Shop produced more than 10,000 clocks per year.

Across the street from the Terry Water Wheel was once the Terry family home. The family business oversaw a bustling mill village known as Terryville. The Terry’s helped form the Eagle Lock Company employing as many as 1,800 workers. The lock factory was destroyed in 1940, but the wheel remains on its original site over the Pequabuck River. Eagle Lock Company ceased operations in 1975.

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