Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Emery Roth II

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In this ode to Connecticut’s Naugatuck River Valley, vibrant photos and moving poetry relate the region’s legendary industrial history and ponder its legacy. The story begins in 1802, when two metalworking families joined forces to manufacture brass. Business soared during the War of 1812 with the demand for buttons, and soon brass parts became essential in the age of steam and electricity. As large-scale brass manufacturing grew across what became known as Brass Valley, mill towns along the river, such as Torrington and Waterbury, developed into thriving cultural centers. This continued until 2014, when the last plant closed, and the tradition of soot-covered workers charging generations-old furnaces came to an end. This poignant elegy captures the glowing metal flying through the air at the Ansonia foundry in its final days, as well as abandoned opera houses and train tracks, the vestiges of a dying infrastructure and American way of life.

Recipient of the Preservation Award of Merit, awarded by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation

Size: 12" x 9" | 236 color photos | 240 pp
ISBN13: 9780764349300

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Emery Roth has been shooting photographs since childhood. He studied both design and language arts at Carnegie-Mellon University, simultaneously earning degrees in architecture and literature. His photographic passions lead him to careful compositions under natural light only, but no image is finished without slow development of the image’s full potential in the darkroom of his computer. His pictures and his experiences shooting them inspire his writing. After 40 years living and teaching in Connecticut's "Northwest Hills," he became fascinated with the old mill towns of the Naugatuck Valley and their history, and he began following the tracks through old ruins until he was led to the last functioning brass mill. For the past four years he has been photographing the men at their work, traveling back in time, and learning how it all came to be.

"In honor of your remarkable ode to American manufacturing and the legacy of the brass industry in the state of Connecticut in your book, Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry. Your dedication to celebrating the remarkable history of the Brass Valley and the men and women who worked in the mills, individuals who for a century and a half helped shape the manufacturing identity of our nation, demonstrates an abiding reverence for this iconic industry that allows the past to stand alongside the present. As you illustrate the decline of brass manufacturing in the Valley, we must remain conscious of the role manufacturing plays in our economy and national history. The Valley deserves to have its role in the American story documented in such elegant prose. It is my privilege to honor your work on this important book and to represent you, as well as the legacy of Valley manufacturing in the United States senate."
-U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut