The nation’s development in the nineteenth century played out on the smaller stage of Berkshire County. A young nation, eager to protect and expand its manufacturing, supported a cast of entrepreneurs and inventors coming to this region to take advantage of its natural resources to make a living for themselves, for their neighbors and for the county. The falling streams, the geological formation, the forests and hillsides ripe for grazing all made the county an ideal place to start woolen, paper, iron, glass and countless other mills.
Quick to adopt the new machinery to make their products, these mills were ideally situated between Boston and New York, capable of serving both markets. Access to the Hudson River and the ports of New York City meant that products made in Berkshire County found their way around the nation but also to places as far away as China.
Success breeds imitation, and mills sprung up throughout the county. More mills meant a demand for more workers, and owners and managers shifted their search for workers from rural farm families to immigrants from Canada, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Germany and even China, mirroring the immigration waves that poured into the country looking for work.
Pittsfield was the center of the industrial activity in the county, but just one of many towns in the Berkshires that were home to mills and factories. Neighboring towns, such as Dalton, Lee and North Adams were also home to large textile and paper operations that spring up as early as those in Pittsfield. Located in the geographical center of the county, Pittsfield also became the site of the largest rail depot where raw materials arrived and finished products left on their way to market.
Enjoy the virtual tours here. They are under development for each of the different centers of manufacturing in the county.