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Hayden, Gere & Co's Brass works, from the East
TitleHayden, Gere & Co's Brass works, from the East
Full Size Image
SubjectDisasters--United States; Dam failures--Massachusetts; Disasters--Massachusetts--Haydenville; Brass Industry and trade--Massachusetts--Haydenville; Hayden, Gere & Co.
DescriptionStereographic view of Hayden, Gere & Co. brass works, looking upstream after the Mill River Disaster On the morning of May 16, 1874 the huge earthen dam holding back a 100-acre water power reservoir three miles above Williamsburg on the East Branch of the Mill River failed catastrophically, causing vast destruction and the loss of 139 lives in the factory villages of Williamsburg, Skinnerville, Haydenville and Leeds. It was the worst disaster of its kind in North American history up to that time, and it made national news. The event was such a sensation that many thousands of gawkers and souenir-hunters descended on the ruined villages by the trainload, turning the misery of bereaved and destitute families into a tourist attraction and helping themselves to anything they could carry away. Photographers from all over New England arrived in the stricken valley to record the destruction in stereographs, then the primary medium for disseminating photographs to a national audience hungry for images. An estimated 500 different stereo images of the disaster's aftermath were shot by at least 14 different photographers, and most were very widely reproduced and distributed. The Meekins Library collection includes at least 84 different views, all mounted on heavy cards for use in handheld stereo viewers. This stereograph shows the remnants of the 600-foot-long brassworks complex in Haydenville after it had been almost completely demolished by a 20-to-25-foot wall of water, wreckage and debris. Its low dam is seen at far left, and the chain of brick factory buildings had stretched nearly all the way across the field of view of this image before the flood. The company was by some accounts the largest producer of brass plumbing fixtures and other brass goods in the United States at the time. After the flood, owner Joel Hayden Jr. (1834-1918) kept his entire workforce of about 200 men employed for weeks scouring the factory site, the downstream bed and banks of the river and the adjacent neighborhoods (the little that was left of them) for brass products, finished and unfinished, for the costly patterns that were used to make them, and even for bricks that could be used in rebuilding. Some of those workmen are seen here, pausing in their labors for the photographer.
CreatorG. & H. A. Alden, Photographers, Springfield, Mass.
IdentifierMeekins Library-Local History-Historic Photographs Collection-Mill River Disaster 1874-Stereographs
RelationPart of the Meekins Library, Williamsburg, Mass., Local History Historic Photographs Collection.
RightsPermission to publish the image must be obtained from the Meekins Library by writing to or Meekins Library, Williamsburg, Mass., must be credited as the original source of the item for all use.
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