Alco History

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Our Manufacturing History Churning Once Again

American Locomotive Works, originally developed between the 1880s and 1960s, has a storied history of ownership, use and change. The site encompasses two groups of buildings that were combined under the ownership of U.S. Rubber in 1918 - the U.S. Rubber Complex and Nicholson File.

The U.S. Rubber Complex

Dating back to 1885, the U.S. Rubber Complex Building was originally designed for the Rhode Island Locomotive Works (RILW). In 1901, American Locomotive Company, the second largest builder of steam locomotives in the U.S., purchased RILW and added several new buildings to manufacture trucks and cars. In 1896, the property was sold to the Joseph Banigan Rubber Company and new buildings were erected to create a plant for the manufacture of rubber footwear. In 1898, the project was sold to a division of U.S. Rubber and began production orders for rubber goods, most notably balloons for military use. U.S. Rubber continued to expand in the 1920s and 1930s with the additional manufacture of golf balls, dip goods and rubber thread. The plant remained part of the Rhode Island manufacturing industry until the mid 1970s.

Nicholson File

A major manufacturing firm in Providence, The Nicholson File Company was founded by William Thomas Nicholson in 1864. Upon incorporating, the company erected the plant and began making commercial files. Because of their superior quality, the Nicholson Increment Cut Files quickly became the "standard files of America." The business grew, and increased facilities resulted in the manufacture of fine files for jewelers and watchmakers. Despite Nicholson's unexpected death in 1893, the Nicholson File Company became the world's largest file factory by the turn of the century. By the 1960s, the Nicholson File Company was a major player in both the domestic and overseas markets. In October 1972, the company merged with Cooper Industries.