Discovering new information in a hands-on manner can provide a fun outing that will help you occupy your youngsters during their winter and spring breaks, while their teachers take some time to regroup, and it will help keep the fires of their curiosity well stoked. Here are just a few places you can visit to learn about some of New England’s most prominent citizens from throughout the region’s history.
Industry formed the backbone of American growth and development in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was the innovations of men like Samuel Slater and Francis Cabot Lowell that helped to industrialize America. As the builder of the first operational water-powered textile mill in North America, Slater, and the factory method he developed, met enormous success, helping to shape the technology and the economy of the country for generations after his death. Lowell improved on this method and established one of the most successful textile firms in the country at the site of the city now named for him. Lowell, Massachusetts, is also the home of the American Textile History Museum, which houses many exhibits about the early textile industry, as well as modern textile innovations and applications. The specific innovations of both men and the major industries they built up from scratch can be explored here in a totally hands-on manner. Visit www.athm.org for more information.
Pittsford, Vermont, resident Samuel Hopkins was awarded the first-ever United States patent in 1790. A potash maker, Hopkins developed a new process for the manufacturing of his product, and it was innovative enough to earn him a patent signed by then-President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. You can still visit picturesque Pittsford
,in the center of the state, and even join them for their Winter Celebration on February 25, though the potash is in short supply these days. Learn more about Pittsford by visiting www.pittsfordvermont.com.
Earl Silas Tupper was born on a New Hampshire farm in 1907. As a child, he was constantly building devices to make everyday life easier. His creative tendencies stuck with him through adulthood, and he founded a plastics company in 1938. At the time, plastic was generally brittle and smelly, and not at all consumer-friendly. Tupper invented a method to transform polyethylene slag into the plastic we recognize today – clear, solid and clean. The innovator also developed an air- and watertight seal, making his plastic containers perfect for short- and long-term food storage. Today, Tupperware® is an international company offering products that revolutionize the way we enjoy food. Stock up on Tupperware and other useful kitchen supplies at the Kitchen Collection in either Tilton or North Conway; you can also shop online at www.kitchencollection.com.
Westerly, Rhode Island, is also no stranger to inventors and inventions. Stephen Wilcox, who along with his partner, George Babcock, developed a revolutionary new boiler and founded a company that today provides power generating systems and other solutions to a variety of industrial consumers, was born and raised in Westerly. The town was also the lucky recipient of a historic carousel, now a National Historic Landmark, abandoned many decades ago by a traveling carnival passing through the town. With the horses suspended from the center frame instead of fixed to a floor, the Flying Horse Merry-Go-Round is a real testament to American inventiveness, and is also the oldest carousel in the country. For more information visit www.visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-do/amusements/458/flying-horse-merry-go-round/.
New Englanders know how to work and how to have fun, and they’ve been inventing new ways to accomplish both for centuries. A visit to any of these spots is sure to bring out the inner inventor in you, and will give you a well-earned chance to play.