Silk cloth and steam locomotives; textiles and continuous paper rolls; firearms and aircraft engines. What do these things have in common? All were manufactured in the same place – Paterson, NJ. It was here, in America’s first planned industrial city, that the Industrial Revolution got a foothold in the New World. Centered around the Great Falls of the Passaic River, Paterson pioneered methods for harnessing water power for industrial use. In Paterson, many of the manufactories that enabled the young United States to become an economic player on the world stage, were established and promoted. In the process, Paterson experienced all the economic highs and lows that can befall an industrial center.

This area was first inhabited by the Lenni Lenape, followed by Dutch settlers in the 17th century. Fourteen Dutch families established themselves here, later dividing up their 100-acre plots of land into smaller farm units. Almost 80 years later, in 1792, the area would be transformed due to the vision of one man.

After the Revolutionary War ended, Alexander Hamilton began promoting his views on the economic needs of the new nation. He was concerned over the lack of industry in the United States; during colonial times, it was prohibited by English law. Hamilton believed that a strong industrial system was the best way to help the United States gain financial independence and become a world presence.

After Hamilton was appointed the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury, he continued to advocate for the establishment of industry in America. Toward that end he co-founded the “Society for Establishing Usefull Manufactures” (S.U.M.), a manufacturing society that would be operated by private interests, but would have the support of government. The charter for S.U.M. called for the society to both manufacture goods and trade in them as well. This was the entity that, in 1792, purchased 700 acres of land above and below the Great Falls and established the city of Paterson, named for New Jersey Governor William Paterson; Paterson was an ardent supporter of Hamilton’s plans and he signed S.U.M.’s charter in November of 1791.

72 McBride Avenue Extension, Paterson NJ 07501