We all know the phrase “Trenton Makes, the World Takes,” but what were we making? As it turns out, a ton!
Trenton is known for its role in the American Revolution, its presence at the birthplace of our nation, and its impressive resume of industrial greatness. Over the generations, it was known for its exports, including rubber, textiles, pottery, steel, and more. Although various industries have come and gone over the years, what has remained the same is Trenton’s central role in making things happen. Today, let’s journey back through time as we explore many of the movers and shakers that have defined Trenton’s illustrious and industrious past.
- Steel and Wire: One of the city’s most iconic industries, the steel industry, undoubtedly played a pivotal role in wiring Trenton to the world around us. As industrialization made its mark in the mid-1800s, iron, steel, and other metals were a highly valued export. Although several steel and wireworks manufacturers were present in the city, the John A. Roebling Son’s Company was the most famous by far. The Roebling Company was profoundly impactful for Trenton, boosting the economy and employing several residents. Furthermore, the product produced by Roebling right here in Trenton was utilized for several iconic structures, including the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. From bridges to buildings and everything in between, Trenton’s role in the steel industry was a fundamental building block in many structures still proudly standing today.
- Porcelain and Pottery: The Capital City is also well-known throughout the globe for its critical role in the development of American pottery and porcelain—some of the most famous American manufacturers, including Lenox, Ott & Brewer, and more. In the 1850s and onward, manufacturers identified Trenton as an up-and-coming industrial center and rapidly moved their production to the city. By the turn of the 19th century, Trenton was home to over 50 manufacturers of ceramics! Although the ceramics industry did eventually dwindle in the latter half of the 20th century, the glasswares produced in our community are still highly sought after by collectors worldwide. If you’d like to read more about the fascinating history of the pottery industry in our community, you can visit the Potteries of Trenton Society’s website here: POTS – Home.
- Rubber: We hope you aren’t TIREd of hearing about Trenton’s historic industries because the rubber industry is up next! Like the other industries mentioned, the rubber industry began to make its mark in the mid-nineteenth century when Jonathan H. Green opened his plant in the community. Another famous manufacturer, the Whitehead Brother’s Rubber Company, is recognized as the oldest rubber mill in the United States. The rubber industry is unique because although goods like ceramics and steel are no longer manufactured in Trenton, the rubber industry is still alive and well in the Capital City today.
Trenton was also home to several other miscellaneous industries, including furniture, paper, textiles, jewelry, and more. Trenton’s landscape may look different today, but the impact of the industry’s early pioneers is still felt throughout the community. From the bridges we cross to the dishes we dine on, the Capital City’s legacy is interwoven throughout the fabric of our lives. The next time you see the “Trenton Makes, the World Takes” slogan shining over Delaware, you can take pride in knowing just how accurate that iconic phrase is.