Torrington Historical Society holding program on the old guitar factory

TORRINGTON – Many people don’t know Torrington’s connection to guitar history, according to the Torrington Historical Society.

The first guitar factory in the United States was located in Torrington and will be the subject of a free virtual program hosted by the society at 6:30 p.m. on December 1 by the Torrington Historical Society.

“James Ashborn and America’s First Guitar Factory; How a waterwheel on the east branch of the Naugatuck River changed history ”will be presented by David Gansz, the top authority on James Ashborn, according to Mark McEachern, executive director.

Musician Guy Wolff, researcher of Ashborn and his guitars, is also the presenter of this show.


According to McEachern, Ashborn was a manufacturer of guitars, banjos and strings who established the first guitar factory in the United States at Torrington where, between 1842 and 1864, he produced around 12,000 instruments, three times his competitor. closest and half price.

The program will describe how Ashborn emigrated from England, worked for a New York retailer, and partnered with Asa Hopkin’s windmill on the Naugatuck River in Fluteville, near Litchfield, before opening its own waterwheel guitar production plant from which 7-10 skilled workers built and shipped their instruments to New York using the new Naugatuck Railroad.

Ashborn’s achievements will be presented against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, the romanticism of all that is Spanish in American culture, the advent of the guitar as a “living room” instrument for women, and the minstrel. as an emerging mode of popular music. The presentation will end with Guy Wolff playing a few songs on an Ashborn guitar, McEachern said.

The Ashborn factory is gone, but the Torrington Historical Society recently installed an interpretive sign at the site. It is located on Newfield Road, near the intersection with Winsted Road.

Gansz is a scholar whose specialty is the history of the guitar. He has written several articles including three chapters in the book “Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations of CF Martin and His Contemporaries”.

An authority on James Ashborn, the first American luthier, he wrote the Ashborn entry in The Grove Dictionary of American Music with Oxford University Pres). He also lectures extensively on the subject and is a part-time dealer of rare and vintage guitars. Gansz is the director of the National Transportation Library at the US Department of Transportation in Washington, DC.

Wolff is widely known as a potter in the field of traditional New England pottery, and said it was this work that led him to become interested in the music of the time and, ultimately, James Ashborn. He has since researched Ashborn and his musical instruments, and now owns an Ashborn guitar and a reproduction of the Ashborn banjo.

Registration is required for this program; go to torringtonhistoricalsociety.org or call 860-482-8260.

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