Butler-McCook House and the Industrial Revolution Tour Outline

Copied from Original Document created in December 2015.

Butler-McCook and the Industrial Revolution: Interpretive Theme

Lindsey Steward

  1. Summary

The Industrial Revolution had an impact on the city of Hartford especially on its residents including the Butlers and the McCooks.

  1. Five Key Objects
  2. Sofa: This is located in the South Parlor of the house and it was made by Isaac Wright & Co. in 1837. Isaac Wright & Co. was a furniture factory that created furniture pieces within the Hartford area; the company continued to expand their clientele after Wright’s death in 1838 and his partners Robbins and Winship took over the company to continue as dealers and manufacturers of furniture during the Industrial Revolution.
  3. Rocking Chair and Stool: These objects are found in Mama and Papa’s Room on the second floor. They were also made by the Isaac Wright & Co. in 1837 and Eliza Royce Sheldon Butler purchased these pieces (and the sofa) after her marriage to John Butler.
  4. Card table: The card table found in the front hallway was also made by the Isaac Wright & Co. and it was purchased with the rest of the pieces by Eliza Royce Sheldon Butler in 1837.
  5. Tall Case Clock: It was made approximately 1750 by Benjamin Cheney, and this is an example of a locally made piece that was made before the Industrial Revolution to show the differences between craftsmanship and factory made items.
  6. Mill Ledger C, 1818-1826: John Butler’s ledger which recorded payments to men and women who labored in his paper mill; this revealed what the employees were paid for their labor in early industrial work.
  7. Five Key Documents or Photographs
  8. Account of Men’s Labour 1819-1820: This account book, which is located in the History Center, gives insight on how many employees John Butler had and how he operated the mills.
  9. John Butler’s portrait: John Butler’s portrait, which is located in the South Parlor, is used as a piece to describe who John Butler was and the mills he owned.
  10. Samuel Colt’s picture: Samuel Colt’s picture, found in the cabinet at the front desk of the History Center and can be moved to the North Parlor; these are visual examples of Samuel Colt’s factories, and are used to briefly discuss what the factories were and how they were operated.
  11. Coltsville factories pictures: These pictures can be found in the cabinet at the front desk of the History Center and can be moved to the North Parlor; these are visual examples of Samuel Colt’s factories, and are used to briefly discuss what the factories were and how they were operated.
  12. Elizabeth Colt picture: Elizabeth Colt’s picture, found in the cabinet at the front desk of the History Center, can be moved to the North Parlor to discuss her role in owning the factories after her husband’s death.


  1. Four Individuals/Groups
  2. John Butler; Frances McCook: While both of them were from different generations, they were both effected by the Industrial Revolution since John Butler witnessed changes to the operation of factories then therefore make adaptations for his mills; meanwhile, Frances was one of the last generation to benefit from the changes the Industrial Revolution inspired.
  3. Business owners: As more factories developed in Hartford, businesses were moved to be closer to manufacturing companies and to move clientele for their businesses.
  4. Urban Elite: While factories were developing in the city, the urban elite (who most of them owned factories) were moved from Main Street to a more fashionable neighborhood to build houses that reflect the changes in lifestyle.
  5. Lower Class/Immigrants: In order to have the labor needed for these factories, immigrants were hired to work in them and as a result provided jobs for the lower classes and immigrants.


  1. Conclusion

The visitor should walk away with the sense of how the Industrial Revolution had an impact on cities, especially Hartford, and how people were effected by the changes to their cities. Like the Butlers and the McCooks, visitors can make an impact on their own communities and support changes that benefit their communities for the future.














Butler-McCook Family and the Industrial Revolution: Outline

Lindsey Steward

  1. Introduction
  2. The Industrial Revolution had a huge impact on the United States between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This impact was especially felt in Hartford and on its residents including the Butlers and the McCooks. During the second half of the nineteenth century, new businesses were built along Main Street.
  3. In the 1850s, entrepreneurs moved businesses to Hartford with the belief busy people are attracted to larger stores with a variety of goods under one roof; department stores emerged and were located on busy locations in the city including Main Street.
  4. Instead of tearing down many existing buildings, eighteenth century homes were converted for commercial use.
  5. Example: A house that was originally built for Amos Bull in 1788 changed owners several times during the nineteenth century; one of the owners was John McManus who had the John C. McManus Furnaces and Stoves in the house in 1887. In 1966, the Connecticut Historical Commission and Frances McCook saved the house and was moved onto the Butler-McCook House property. It is now the current location of Connecticut Landmarks’ headquarters.
  6. Four generations of the same family witnessed many changes to Hartford, and the Industrial Revolution was no exception. As we tour the house, you will see that everything, with one exception, you see not only belonged to the family but also examples of how the Industrial Revolution had an impact on the Butler-McCook family.
  7. Industrial Revolution in Hartford
  8. First Phase, 1790s-1830s: mills were introduced, new organizational strategies to increase productivity became the key to a rapidly changing economy; factory system: increased production required two more elements for widespread impact 1. Expanded system of credit was necessary to help secure capital 2. Improved transportation system for raw materials.
  9. Isaac Wright & Co.: Isaac Wright (1798-1838), Philemon F. Robbins (1807-1890), and Joseph Winship (d. 1888) operated one of the leading furniture manufactories in Hartford during the 1830s. The company was an advocate of the emerging modern industrial mode of manufacturing that used mass production, specialization, and interchangeable parts to greater extent than anytime previously; also, it provided evidence that the company has a part in Hartford’s vital role in the economy of Connecticut and the Connecticut River Valley, and its continued prominence in the furniture making industry of New England.
  10. Second Phase, Industrial Age 1850-1900: Hartford developed into a leading manufacturing center with new industrial businesses, emerging immigrant population, and a bustling downtown.
  11. Urban landscape: converted to commercial uses and others were replaced with multi-family dwellings.
  12. Population increase, leads to new types of housing to meet needs of growing city larger scale apartment buildings with retail space on ground floor; houses moved on side streets i.e. Capitol Ave, Buckingham Street, and Linden Place.
  13. Factories/Companies:
  14. Tracey & Fales Railroad Car Works-1849
  15. Woodruff & Beach-founded in 1846, produced steam boilers, parent firm founded in 1821 by Truman Hanks and built Hartford’s first steam engine. The company built pumps and engines before 1840; by 1846, it employed 100 men. By 1863, it employed 400 in manufacturing of marine engines for commercial ships and gun boats, large double piston pumps, and custom iron castings.

iii.      George S. Lincoln Co.- Founded in 1834, and renamed the Phoenix Ironworks in 1850, this company produced architectural and “mortuary” iron and safes into manufacturing of machine tools.

  1. George Fairfield’s “Hartford Machine Screw Co.”- Founded in 1876, the company developed machines that automated screw manufacturing and later went into the mass production of bicycles.

III.                 First/Second Generation: The Butlers

  1. Daniel Butler: acquired mills from his wife Sarah, whose first husband owned the mills
  2. John Butler: son of Daniel Butler, took over the mills after his father’s death; maintained records of operations of mills with notebooks Mill Ledger C, 1818-1826 and Account of Men’s Labour 1819-1820.
  3. Third/Fourth Generation: The McCooks
  4. John James McCook: he and his wife, Eliza (Butler) McCook, decided to stay on Main Street after their neighbors moved out to make way for new businesses.
  5. Frances McCook: witnessed more innovative changes to Hartford during childhood and adult life; wrote an article about her home and the innovations developed in Hartford such as the Main Street Stone bridge built in the 1830s, which she said “was one of Hartford’s finest feats of engineering, being the largest single-arched stone bridge then in this country”, featured in The Connecticut Antiquarian.
  6. Frances also wrote about changes to Hartford that was featured in the December 1975 edition of The Connecticut Antiquarian by sharing her mother’s reaction to the changes in Hartford during the three years she and her half-sister Mary were away.
  7. Between 1850 and 1860, “she was away for three years during that decade and on her return, Hartford, the small town which she knew so well had become Harford, a big, strange place. Stages, which grandfather had constantly used on his business trips to New York or Boston, no longer travelled Main Street…” (16-17).
  8. Butler-McCook House: Examples of Industrial Revolution inside the house
  9. South Parlor/Front Hallway
  10. Informal Family parlor; private space for the family to entertain each other and learn to play musical instruments such as the piano, cello, viola, and the violin.
  11. Introduce John Butler, Eliza Royce Sheldon Butler, Mary Sheldon, and Eliza Sheldon Butler

iii.      Highboy was built in 1750, and was brought from Moses Butler’s tavern to his son, Daniel Butler’s, house in 1782. It is an example of a piece of furniture that was crafted by hand rather than furniture made in factories during later years in the Industrial Revolution.

  1. Sofa: Eliza Royce Sheldon Butler purchased this sofa in 1837, made by Isaac Wright & Co. (a factory-made piece of furniture), mahogany with mahogany veneer on tulipwood, a distinctive interpretation of the Empire style featuring paired Ionic columns supported by ogival plinths, John James McCook proposed to daughter Eliza Sheldon Butler on sofa.
  2. Card table: in the front hallway, made in 1837 by Isaac Wright & Co., mahogany, hexagonal column and scrolled feet, rarely listed in Wright’s accounts.
  3. North Parlor
  4. Received visitors in the formal parlor; created and collected art for enjoyment
  5. Mantel added in 1837

iii.      Samuel Colt (1814-1862)

  1. Owner of Colt’s Armory (the largest Armory in the world-500’ long and four stories tall), Colt’s Manufacturing-Colt’s first company was located on Commerce Street (Operated between 1849 and 1855).
  2. Coltsville (1855/1856): factory complex includes armory, workers’ housing, wharf and ferry facilities at the Connecticut River, and the gathering place “Charter Oak Hall” for the instruction and amusements of his employees.
  3. Workers: In 1854, 500 men worked at the factory, by the beginning of the Civil War 1,100 people worked at Colt’s factory
  4. Armsmear: Italian Villa Colt built for himself and his wife Elizabeth on the hilltop in northwest corner of complex. After his death, Elizabeth took over the factories.
  5. Interesting information learned: Philip McCook, as a child, managed to go to Colt holiday parties held for underprivileged children. What are other connections can be made between the McCooks and the Colts?
  6. Dining Room
  7. Tall Case Clock: Made approximately 1750 by Benjamin Cheney in Hartford, Connecticut. An example of craftsmanship made by an experienced tall case maker.
  8. Reverend McCook and his wife were responsible for setting an example of Victorian ideals including good manners (a highly valued quality in their society) especially for their children.  The higher quality of goods and furniture increased expectations in society.
  9. Library/Attics Treasure Room
  10. It was originally a family bedroom during the eighteenth century.
  11. Converted into a library between 1867 and 1868 for Reverend John James McCook’s use to study and conduct research.

iii.      Table in the library was factory made and used for Reverend McCook’s purposes as a professor of languages at Trinity College and a reverend at St. John Episcopal Church in East Hartford.

  1. Treasure Room: Pewter dishes were made by experienced craftsmen used during the eighteenth century.
  2. Mary Sheldon’s Room
  3. Discuss her relationship with the rest of the family and how she adjusted to changes in Hartford; what was her reaction to the changes in Hartford when she and Eliza returned from Grand Tour of Europe?
  4. Inspired to add a garden on the property, hired Jacob Weiderman to design the European-inspired garden, oasis in the middle of an increasingly industrial Hartford.
  5. Co-manager of the household
  6. Mama and Papa’s Room
  7. Rocking Chair and Stool: Made by the Isaac Wright & Co. in 1837 and Eliza Royce Sheldon Butler purchased these pieces (and the sofa) after her marriage to John Butler. Rocking Chair: Mahogany veneer on pine and represents a seating form, highly expressive form of Empire fashion of the 1830s.
  8. Toy Room
  9. Toys owned by Frances and her siblings John, Eliza, Philip, George (Shed), Anson, and Lucy which were factory-made and mass produced.
  10. Some of the toys belonged to their mother, Eliza Butler McCook, and they were made with early factory craftsmanship.
  11. Frances’ Room
  12. Share her memories she gathered for her oral history: Charter Oak School
  13. Talk about the speeches and articles she wrote about the history of her house, Hartford, and the industrialization of the city.

iii.      Discuss her involvement in preserving her family’s history, and reveal how she and her siblings John, Anson, and Lucy became involved in maintaining the house’s history.


  • Hosley, William, Jr. “Wright, Robbins, & Winship and the Industrialization of the Furniture Industry in Hartford, Connecticut”, The Connecticut Antiquarian: The Bulletin of the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, Inc., Vol. XXXV No. 2, December, 1983, 12-18.
  • McCook, Frances. “Our Old Homestead”, The Connecticut Antiquarian: The Bulletin of the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, Inc., Vol. XXIII No. 1, 6.
  • McCook, Frances. The Connecticut Antiquarian: The Bulletin of the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, Inc., Vol. XXVII No. 2, December, 1975,16-17.
  • Paths to Change
  • Coltsville Walking Tour
  • Architecture and Furnishings Tour
  • History Center panels: Industrial Age, 1850-1900, Butler-McCook House Museum & Garden, Connecticut Landmarks, Hartford, Connecticut.

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