November 29

The Weekly Register of Baltimore, published on this day in 1817, the first account to receive national publicity of the operation of the premier American papermaking machine, at a paper mill situated on Brandywine Creek, about two miles north of Wilmington, Delaware:

“We have lately visited the paper mills of Thomas Gilpin & Co. on the Brandywine, and witnessed the performance of their new machine for manufacturing paper on an extensive scale, which promises to be an important addition to the arts and manufactures of our country. This process of making paper delivers a sheet of greater breadth than any made in America, and of any length—in one continued unbroken succession, of fine or coarse materials, regulated at pleasure to a greater or lesser thickness. The paper, when made, is collected from the machine on reels, in succession as they are filled; and these are removed to the further progress of the manufacture. The paper in its texture is perfectly smooth and even, and is not excelled by any made by hand, in the usual manner of workmanship—as it possesses all the beauty, regularity and strength of what is called well closed and well shut sheets.

“It is with much pleasure that we announce the success of this machine; and we hope it will tend to secure our country against the importations from abroad, which have so much interfered with our own domestic arrangements; and we are also much gratified in believing, that its establishment on our own stream in the neighborhood of this place, will aid its improvement, and add to the valuable manufacturies on the Brandywine.”

The Gilpin machine, of the cylinder type, was undoubtedly adaptedfrom the English machine of John Dickinson, which had become operative in 1809. The Gilpin Mill, the first in the state of Delaware, had been established in 1787 by Joshua and Thomas Gilpin, sons of Thomas Gilpin, an associate of Benjamin Franklin and founder with him of the American Philosophical Society. At the time that they began to manufacture paper, Joshua was but twenty-two years of age, and Thomas just eleven. The efforts of the brothers met with success, however, as may be determined from the journal of the famous French traveler, Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, who visited the mill during its first year and described the paper as “equal to the finest made in France.”

The paper manufactured on the Gilpin machine was first used in the printing of the American Daily Advertiser, published in Philadelphia. The first book to be published in the United States on native American machine-made paper produced by the Gilpin Mill was A Complete Genealogical, Historical, Chronological, and Geographical Atlas by N. Lavoisne. This volume was printed by M. Carey & Son of Philadelphia in 1820.

The late Dard Hunter, historian of paper manufacturing, has stated that the Gilpin cylinder machine produced a thirty inch sheet at the rate of sixty feet per minute. The paper was notable for its uniformity of texture and color. An examination of books printed on its surface indicates that the sheet still retains its firmness and tone.

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