Working in Paterson

Barber giving a haircut to a young child
Louis McDowell gives neighborhood girl a haircut as her mother looks on.
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Overview

The Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting collection has been migrated to an improved presentation and will no longer be updated in American Memory. Please visit the new presentation.

Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting presents 470 interview excerpts and 3882 photographs from the Working in Paterson Folklife Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The four-month study of occupational culture in Paterson, New Jersey, was conducted in 1994. Paterson is considered to be the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in America. It was founded in 1791 by the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), a group that had U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton as an advocate. The basis for Paterson's manufacturing potential was the Great Falls on the Passaic River. Paterson went on to become the largest silk manufacturing center in the nation as well as a leader in the manufacture of many other products, from railroad locomotives to firearms. The documentary materials presented in this online collection explore how this industrial heritage expresses itself in Paterson today: in its work sites, work processes, and memories of workers. The online presentation also includes interpretive essays exploring such topics as work in the African-American community, a distinctive food tradition (the Hot Texas Wiener), the ethnography of a single work place (Watson Machine International), business life along a single street in Paterson (21st Avenue), and narratives told by retired workers.

Essay

Twenty-First Avenue:
Place of Conjunction

Essay

African American Family Business