Brass Valley, the Fall of an American Industry

A Photo Essay on the Brass Valley, and the fall of an American Industry

Emery Roth II, of Washington, CT, gave a richly illustrated talk on the legendary history of the Naugatuck River Valley’s brass industry as part of the Kent Historical Society’s Sunday Series, on September 20, 2015 at the Kent Town Hall. The talk was drawn from Roth’s newly released book, Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry.

The Brass Valley began 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.

Emery Roth II earned degrees in architecture and literature from Carnegie-Mellon University. After 40 years living and working in Connecticut’s Northwest Hills, he became fascinated with the old mill towns of the Naugatuck Valley. 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. Roth’s photographs evoke an entire way of life that has vanished from the region.

This event was presented in collaboration with the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association

The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

The Kent Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage. For more information, see or call 860-927-4587.