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Rodney Hunt Company Records, 1862-1987
316 boxes, 150 loose bound volumes (158 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 105

Company in Orange, Massachusetts that competed in international markets with its textile machinery, water wheels, turbines, and other specialty industrial products. Includes company histories, correspondence, board minutes, blueprints, installation drawings, sketchbook drawings, patents, payroll ledgers, account books, price lists, sales books, brochures, catalogs, newsletters, subject files and photographs.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Historical Note

The Rodney Hunt Company, founded in Orange, Massachusetts in the 1840s, built textile machinery, water wheels, turbines, and other specialty industrial products. Although based in Orange, it competed in international markets in its specialties.

Historical Note
1810 Mr. Rodney Hunt born in Ashburnham (Town of Orange, Massachusetts incorporated) on July 10.
ca. 1840 Rodney Hunt begins working in a household furniture plant run by Reuben Harris.
1844-1858 Rodney Hunt moves permanently to a farm in Orange. He works as general millwright in different cotton-, woolen-, saw-, and grist-mills in the Orange area.
1846 David Flint begins working for Rodney Hunt.
1855 James Waite begins working for Rodney Hunt.
1859 Rodney Hunt builds his first textile machine, a fulling mill, and employs a few workmen. He also purchases a shop on Millers River.
1861-1865 During the Civil War the Rodney Hunt Company grows as the demand for textiles increases. Rodney Hunt begins to make finishing equipment for John Mills Wool Fulling Mills in Partridgeville and Athol, Massachusetts.
1865 Partnership is formed, "Hunt, Waite, & Flint."
1869 Rodney Hunt builds his first water turbine.
1873 Rodney Hunt Machine Company is incorporated.
1878 Work force of 34.
1879 Nelson Harris comes to Orange to work for Rodney Hunt.
1881 Roscoe White is hired by William Harris; he thereafter works for 18 years in the eastern part of the state setting up and installing water wheels for the many customers Rodney Hunt Company has in that area.
1882 A fire on January 24, 1882 destroys some company records (but not nearly as much as was expected, since most records were stored in an old iron safe which was salvaged after the fire) and nearly all of the company's buildings and equipment. A circular letter is sent March 1, 1882 to all customers stating the company's intention to remain in business. Focus of activity shifts to a new site (present day site) about one-half mile east of the former site. Nelson Harris designs a new foundry, machine shop, pattern shop and other buildings on this new site. Rodney Hunt Machine Company sells a small parcel of land, the remaining foundry shop and their interests in the water rights to the New Home Sewing Machine Company for 85,000.
1886 Nelson Harris receives patent on "Hunt Turbine."
1887 Nelson Harris becomes superintendent of the firm; the first of many floods which affect company operation occurs.
1888 Elbridge Harris moves to Malden, Massachusetts and establishes a "Boston office" at 70 Kirby Street.
1889 Rodney Hunt dies at the age of 78 on May 24, 1889; Elbridge Harris becomes president.
1891 The company employs about 125 men.
1892 Nelson Harris makes plans, for a new machine shop (east of old one) and additional machinery
1894 Nelson Harris arranges with the Jolly brothers, of Holyoke Machine Company, to purchase some of their turbine designs. By incorporating features they patent the Hunt-McCormick Turbine. William O. Harris follows his father, Elbridge Harris to Malden. William becomes the clerk of the company and works in the new Boston office.
1897 All boiler plate work for flumes, draft tubes and penstocks, which had been previously contracted to outside companies, is hereafter done at Rodney Hunt; another flood occurs.
1899 William "Billy" Baines starts working for the company as an apprentice, and by 1905 is the foreman of the assembly department, working on water wheel turbines, governors, rotary fire pumps, etc.
1900 A major flood causes some damage to the company.
ca. 1900 Miss Norcross is the first woman to work for the company, as a bookkeeper.
1903 Carl Harris begins working for company.
1906 Elbridge Harris dies, Nelson Harris becomes president.
1907 The company buys property with water rights at Partridgeville and renames the lake to Lake Rohunta.
1908 Lake Rohunta power station built.
1910-1913 Carl Harris commutes by train to work for the Simplex Time Recorder Company in Gardner, eventually patenting several designs for them.
1914 About 100 men work at the company.
1917 Carl Harris acquires controlling interest in the Rodney Hunt Company.
1919 Carl Harris makes floor plans and converts what is then a lumber shed to a roll manufacturing shop.
1924 Rebuilding and adding on to the office is carried out.
1929 Onset of depression and period of economic loss. Also Messrs. Riggs and Lombard, who had been engineers in the textile department, leave Rodney Hunt, taking with them various drawings and information. They establish a competitive company in Lowell, Massachusetts.
1930s The development of the use of stainless steel for textile machinery is a great "first" for Rodney Hunt. The company is the first ever to erect a building specifically designed for stainless steel fabrication.
1932 The use of a time clock record of employees' time begins, and rates of all salaried employees are readjusted to approximate a 15% cut from October 11, 1931 rates.
1935 The Water Control Apparatus Division is formed.
1936 Fire destroys the boiler plate building. A major flood results in several feet of water and ice accumulating in the office which destroys records, furniture and equipment. Damage is greatest to the shops and foundry, where machinery had to be replaced or repaired.
1938 As a result of the "great" hurricane and flood, Rodney Hunt suffers severe losses, not, only to the main plant but also to Lake Rohunta where the dam and power station are washed away.
1940s Economic stability resumes; company grows and prospers. During World War II the armed services once again call for a dramatic increase in uniform fabric. Rodney Hunt helps the war effort by keeping textile mills supplied with finishing machinery.
1947 Earl Harris starts working for company.
1950s The company has five divisions: Textile Machinery, Water Wheels, Water Control Equipment, Industrial Rolls, and Process Equipment.
1955 Water wheel division is sold due to decreased demand for turbines, a special provision is made not to sell the Brook Water Wheel Division.
1956 Carl Harris retires; Earl Harris becomes president, pension plan established.
1960 Carl Harris dies.
1966 Name is changed to the Rodney Hunt Company.
1968 Process equipment division is sold.
1969 Establishment of five year building improvement plan.
1975 Textile machinery division is sold.
1976 Channing C. Harris writes "The History of Rodney Hunt Company, Orange Massachusetts." At this time the company employs about 300 people and has one of the most, modern foundries in the East.
1989 Continues to operate a large modern Plant at Orange.
Scope and Contents of the Collection

Records document the administration, operation, production and labor of the Hunt Company from its early history as a machine shop to its eventual establishment, through economic depression, fire and floods, as an industrial manufacturer of textile machinery, water wheels, turbines, and water control equipment. Company histories, correspondence, board minutes, blueprints, installation drawings, sketchbook drawings, patents, payroll ledgers, account books, price lists, sales books, brochures, catalogs, newsletters, subject files and photographs comprise the collection.

All of the loose volumes have a separate corresponding inventory sheet summarizing physical characteristics, description, and content of each volume. These sheets are located in folders throughout the collection as dictated by the overall collection arrangement. The specific folder(s) should be consulted for a general overview of each volume. Each of the volumes has been assigned a control number which identifies its location in the 150 loose volumes physically grouped at the end of the collection.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Rodney Hunt Company Records (MS 105). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Acquired from President Earl Harris of the Rodney Hunt Company, 1987

Processing Information

Processed by Mike Milewski and Kenneth Fones-Wolf, 1987, 1989.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399