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View of Rockville from Fox Hill

Artwork by Joseph Ropes, lithograph printed by E.C. Kellogg, 1851   1977.101.6

Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Joseph Ropes studied art in New York before settling in Hartford, where he maintained a studio from 1851 to 1865. During that time he also taught and authored several artist manuals. The Connecticut Historical Society collection includes four of Ropes’ drawings, in addition to this lithograph.

At first glance, this image might just seem to show a quaint New England town, with churches, a town green, and houses. But in reality it is a tribute to industrial progress in Connecticut in the mid-1800s. The large buildings are textile mills, and text printed alongside the image touts the village’s economic success, including Rockville’s 11 factories, 350 employed men and 320 employed women (out of a population of 2,000), and 1,468,000 pounds of wool processed each year. Textile production was one of the most widespread and lucrative Connecticut industries in the mid-1800s and helped lead the way as industry replaced agriculture as the state’s economic base.

The Connecticut Historical Society has a large collection of town views from around the state, many of them from the mid- to late-1800s. They include views by John Warner Barber, landscapes, birds-eye views of towns and cities, and more. Many of the best are available at Connecticut History Online.