Turning Rags to Riches
Garret D. Wall
The driving force behind the establishment of the Front Street Paper Mill was Garret D. Wall (1783-1850). Wall was a member of a prestigious 19th century New Jersey political and legal dynasty that began with Revolutionary War patriot Jonathan Rhea (1754-1815), who served as Clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court and Quartermaster General of the State of New Jersey. Wall, who married Rhea's daughter, held the same two positions, was appointed a U.S. District Attorney and went on to become a New Jersey Assemblyman and then a U.S. Senator.
Wall was elected Governor of New Jersey in 1829, but declined to take up the position. Instead, he supported the installation of Peter D. Vroom as Governor in his place. Vroom later married Wall's daughter. Rhea, Wall and Vroom all lived at various times in residences along West State Street in the vicinity of the State House, including a fine townhouse that stood just a few feet northwest of the paper mill.
Waterwheel to Turbine
Archaeological analysis of the wheel pit suggests that the waterpower system went through at least three phases of development. The earliest arrangement, likely put in place in the late 1820s, is thought to have involved a 20-fool-diameter overshot waterwheel, made of wood and iron, positioned within a wheel pit that was slightly wider (11 to 12 feet) than the one that is presently visible. Evidence of an earlier bearing slot and west wall are visible to the left of the present wheel pit.
In 1865-66, a cast-iron wheel was installed in a slightly narrower wheel pit, the side walls of which were constructed out of finely dressed brownstone. This wheel pit, with its two distinctive bearing slots, is what is visible today.
Finally, sometime just prior to 1870, the waterwheel was replaced with a water turbine. The massive timbers and planking found during excavation of the wheel pit in 2009 mostly relate to the water box that contained the turbine and an adjoining fore-chamber. The turbine was removed prior to the demolition of the mill and filling of the water pit.
Trenton has a long history of paper manufacturing. The city's first paper mill was built by John Reynolds and Stacy Potts at the mouth of the Assunpink Creek in 1778. it supplied the paper for the New Jersey Gazette, the state's first newspaper, printed in Trenton by Isaac Collins. Other paper mills were established in the mid-19th century, one on the spur of the Trenton Water Power near the William Trent House, another upstream on the Assunpink at the South Broad Street crossing.
The Front Street Paper Mill, the second mill of its kind in the city, was founded by Garret D. Wall around 1827. It was initially managed on Wall's behalf by local paper maker John Davisson, processing rags into pulp and producing chiefly news printing paper. After the Civil War, the mill switched to making mostly paper bags, wrapping paper and roofing paper. Ten years later, the business shut down and the building was demolished to make way for residential development.
In the early 19th century making paper entailed tow main operations, mostly carried out by hand; processing rags into pulp and then converting the pulp into paper. The Front Street Paper Mill, in its early days, would have sorted rags by color; washed, soaked and if necessary, bleached them; and then beaten them into pulp using water-powered stampers to separate the cellulose fibers.
Converting the pulp to paper first involved dipping a mesh-covered mold into the fibrous mixture to create layers of paper that were separated by sheets of felt, and then removing excess water from the stacks of paper using a screw press. The paper was separated from the felt, pressed again, sized (which required dipping in a gelatinous liquid formed from boiled animal hides), pressed yet again, dried, polished, cut to size, pressed one last time and packaged.
As the 19th century progressed, the production process became more mechanized and made greater use of chemical, greatly increasing the output. Key pieces of equipment, in widespread use by the mid-19th century and certainly in place at the Front Street mill by 1860, were water-or steam-powered machines that passed wire mesh through the pulp, either in the form of endless woven-wire cloth or on a revolving cylinder.
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Thursday, October 30th, 2014 at 9:00am PDT -07:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||18T E 519639 N 4452214|
|Decimal Degrees||40.22011667, -74.76918333|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 40° 13.207', W 74° 46.151'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||40° 13' 12.42" N, 74° 46' 9.06" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near 6912-7278 Wilson St, Trenton NJ 08608, US|
|Alternative Maps||Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap|
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