Till it’s Over, Over There: Rhode Island Industry and the First World War

Posted by NewportHistory

Is war good for business? It was 100 years ago. Join Morgan Grefe, Executive Director for the Rhode Island Historical Society at the Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House, 82 Touro Street, Newport, RI, 02840 on Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 5:30 for a lecture on Rhode Island’s booming industry during World War I.

Coming off the turn of the century, Rhode Island was the wealthiest state in the Union thanks to the concentration of industrial power in this tight geographic area. As the aughts wore on, a recession settled in and industrial powerhouses, like Brown & Sharpe got nervous. But on June 28, 1914, with one shot, Archduke Ferdinand was dead, and the world was thrust into war. What did that mean for Rhode Island? Suddenly stagnant business was booming, new industries were created, and increased labor was sought–at a time when able bodied men were needed overseas. In this talk we will look at how one company, Brown & Sharpe (once best known for clock and watch making, such as the magnificent tower clock in the Newport Colony House), was shaped by the war, and the role the company played in the conflict. We will also explore how the war influenced industry in one city, Woonsocket, RI, examining not only the companies, but also the changing face and language of the workforce.


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