George J. Capewell (1843 – 1919)
George J. Capewell was born in Birmingham, England. He came to the United States in 1845 and eventually attended school in Woodbury, Connecticut. He went to work at the age of 15 at Scoville in Waterbury, Connecticut and then at the Cheshire Manufacturing Company. Capewell was quite the entreprenuer and in 1870 founded a business manufacturing metal devices of his own invention. In 1876, he began working on an invention to automatically produce horseshoe nails.
Up to this point, for about 3,000 years, blacksmiths had to form horseshoe nails by hand one nail at a time. Making horseshoe nails was a good business as the primary mode of transportation prior to cars was horses. While it took Capewell four years to perfect his machine, by the mid-1800s Daniel Dodge, Silas Putnam and George Capewell had all patented machines designed to mass produce horseshoe nails. Capewell presented his machine to investors in Hartford, Connecticut in 1880, and in 1881, he formed the Capewell Horsenail Company in Hartford.
Capewell had to rebuild his factory after a fire destroyed the building in 1902. This, however, led to the Golden Age of the Capewell Horsenail Company. Between 1903 and 1912, the factory was at its most productive and prosperous.
World War I led to a labor shortage in factories across the country as men were shipped off to war. As a result, women were called upon to fill open factory positions. Realizing that mothers could not leave their children home alone while they were at work all day, Capewell opened a free daycare at the factory where children were cared for while their mother’s worked. Capewell provided care, toys and meals for the children. He made headline news across the country for this move.
Capewell died shortly after the end of World War I in 1919. Capewell Horseshoe Nail Company still exists today although the factory has moved to Bloomfield, Connecticut. The site of the factory building in Hartford has become a blight to the community, and advocates are working to restore the building to preserve its historical significance.
Breningstall, F. Thomas. Horseshoe Nails. The Farrier Resource & Hoofcare Center. Accessed at http://www.horseshoes.com/advice/nails/horseshoenails.htm on August 20, 2010.
Capewell. Our Founders. Accessed at http://capewellhorsenails.com/p/29/history/ on August 20, 2010.
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Capewell Horse Nail Company, Hartford, CT. July 7, 1999.
Wikipedia. George Capewell. Accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Capewell on August 20, 2010.
Photo Credit: George J. Capewell’s Memorial, Cedar Hill Cemetery