The Room, located in the Riverfront Mill in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, has been transformed from a productive working mill into an stunning space to host life’s remarkable events. It is rich in history, a space that has left its mark on the American story. There is a real story behind the bricks and original wood floor that embody the Room. Maintaining some of these original features was an important detail. New stories can be written here, but the old stories will always remain. Here is the Mill’s rich history, as can be read in the entrance of the Riverfront Mill.
In the Tilton Belt building in 1912, Arthur S. Brown commenced production of the first Seamless, continuous woven drive belt. This technological innovation powered American industry for the next century.
Arthur S. Brown was a young telegrapher for the Boston and Maine Railroad when he arrived in Tilton a few years before the turn of the century. He fell in love with a local woman, Belle Peabody, whom he married in 1898, and became associated with Tilton Woolen through his wife’s family connections. In 1912, Mr. Brown opened his own company and began the production of endless belts for use in automobiles. The fortunes of Mr. Brown and his company would be forever changed by his Yankee ingenuity and the ingenuity of his employees.
Ludovic Shiatte went to work for Mr. Brown in 1916 as a shop worker and eventually advanced to the position of overseer and plant superintendent. In 1922, Mr. Shiatte began work on the design of an endless belt that would have no stretch to it. He collaborated with Mr. Brown and the company’s bookkeeper, Gertrude Knapp, in connection with his design and the culmination of their work was the endless power transmission belt described in United States Patent No. 1,545,206, which issued on July 7, 1925.
The endless power transmission belt of Patent No. 1,545,206 was manufactured by forming a loop having a desired size from a strand of twine, string or yarn and then winding another strand of string or yarn around the loop until the body of the belt was built up to the desired size. The key to this winding operation was to maintain a constant tension on the strand being wrapped around the loop so that the entire body of the belt would be under uniform tension. Once fully wound, the body was wrapped with a tape covering and stitched together in a certain manner in order to obtain the desired shape. If a belt having a round cross section were desired, the belt would be stitched transversely at a number of locations around the belt. If a belt having a v-shaped cross section were desired, the belt would be stitched at only three locations so as to form a triangle.
The belts produced by the Arthur S. Brown Manufacturing Company came to be known as Tilton Endless Belts and were used extensively by Henry Ford, most notably in the Model T. In fact, it was rumored that Ford was so impressed with the belts that he wanted to buy the company. Mr. Ford visited Tilton in the 1920’s along with two similarly famous traveling companions; Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone, and toured Brown’s factory. It is ironic that Ford later ended his relationship with Mr. Brown when Firestone starting making rubber V-belts. However, the relationship did help to reverse the fortunes of the Arthur S. Brown Manufacturing Company.