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British Industrial History

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James Croft

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James Croft (28 January 1774 – 10 January 1837)

Born in Little Witley, Worcestershire

Croft spent his early working life in the brass industry in Birmingham.

1817 He emigrated to Philadelphia, where he was induced by Charles Kingsbury of Waterbury, Connecticut, to use his expertise to improve the fledgling brass industry. He helped to transform the industry and to improve the quality of work at a number of companies: Leavenworth, Hayden and Scovill (later Scovill Manufacturing Company), Benedict, Burnham Mfg. Co. (later American Brass Company) and Platt Brothers and Co. Samuel Crowther noted in 'A Basis for Stability', "In 1820, one James Croft, an English brass maker, came to Waterbury… and introduced English machinery and processes. Within ten years, Waterbury was beginning to hold its own against imported rolled brass." At Benedict, Burnham and Co, Croft introduced techniques and equipment that helped the company to become “for many years foremost in the (button) industry.” He taught Alfred Platt various manufacturing techniques including, “finish-rolling metal to a smooth service; making dies and machines to impart figured patterns to metal buttonfronts; the recipes for the mercury and gold mixture used in gilding, heating methods, etc., etc…." [1]

Croft was sent back to England to procure the latest machinery and to bring workers with relevant expertise to Waterbury. One of these was a Birmingham toolmaker named Samuel Frost who completely revamped the casting and rolling methods used in Waterbury. English buttons had a tint that the American makers could not imitate, and these commanded higher prices. The new machinery and improved techniques brought in by Croft and Frost gave the Waterbury button makers the advantage they needed.[2]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] 'People of Prominence Buried at Riverside Cemetery'
  2. [2] 'History Of The Brass Industry In Waterbury - Part I: Brass Beginnings' by Raechel Guest