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Took a break from writing.

Actually started several columns and trashed them – they weren’t going to say anything you couldn’t get elsewhere.

And life is too short.

I wish I could time travel ahead and read what history books will say about these times. Perhaps there won’t be history books if all facts remain in dispute. Nah. They’ll exist, but like today, few will care.

Sometimes the best way forward is to study the past.

Yesterday we did just that.

We visited the American Precision Museum in Windsor, VT. Lisa and I have been meaning go for a while, so off we went with my sister Patty (schoolteacher), and son Andrew (stand up comic).

You see we live in Vermont. If you like hard work, traditions, history, great neighbors, beautiful rural countryside and 4 seasons, it’s the best place to retire.

But if you need to make a living… better bring your own job.

You saw that goofy viral news story a few weeks back that the Green Mountain State would pay you 10 grand to relocate here? Dumb idea, the story came and went.

It’s a little-known fact that some of the most beautiful and affordable parts of Vermont have been fully wired with Gigabit Fiber. Like Springfield, VT. Tech companies should absolutely telecommute from here.

There’s no traffic. As in none. Ever.

Why not lead with that and offer a tax incentive to the first 50 high tech companies that move here? Lots of brick and mortar buildings ready to renovate within 1/2 hour of the big ski resorts. And FYI, we just legalized weed too. There’s that. I’m just saying why don’t more young entrepreneurs bring their snowboards and snap up those abandoned mills?

It wasn’t always like this.

There was a time when these mill towns thrived. In fact, the Connecticut River Valley was to the Industrial Age what Silicon Valley is to the Information Age.

Robbins & Lawrence (Home of the American Precision Museum) was where it all began. It is said to house a better than the Smithsonian exhibit of precision manufacturing.

And it started with guns.

You see, Richard S. Lawrence, a brilliant mechanic, had moved to Windsor in 1838 at age 21 and started making guns in the Windsor Prison.

Soon he and his partners had procured a government contract to produce 10,000 guns. Competitors cried foul, saying they (the low bidders), could never deliver. Gun making was a painstakingly difficult process.

But instead of making them one at a time with skilled craftsmen, Robbins & Lawrence built precision machine tools that turned out parts precise enough to be interchangeable. They literally invented and built the machines and tools that would change the world. The products were high quality, and the order was delivered ahead of schedule.

And a booming business was born.

It was called the “American System” of manufacturing and it ushered in a new age.
This was as big a game changer in its day as the Internet is today.

With the development of interchangeable parts, products of all sorts could be made in large numbers and sold more cheaply. The manufacture of sewing machines, typewriters, bicycles, engines and cars soon followed.

The short video describing the museum actually talks about this ingenuity Making America Great. I shit you not.

I got goosebumps.

Let’s review. America did something better faster and cheaper than the rest of the world, and we kicked ass.

I have to admit, I’m not very handy with tools. But I got the idea. We created a whole new way of making products. Watching the videos and reading the placards, I could start to grasp the importance of single and multiple spindle lathes, shapers, planers, milling machines, single and multi-spindle drills and grinding machines.

I just hope there won’t be a quiz.

As we were getting ready to leave my son Andrew was chuckling at an ad in an antique Sears and Roebuck catalog. It looked like some kind of adult product for men. I’ll let you decide…

In the late 1800’s, Sears began as a mail order seller of clocks and watches. Sears would go on to become “Where America Shops”, adding just about every product you could think of. Sears was the biggest retailer of its days. And yes the Sears catalog put local stores out of business by using its buying power to sell everything cheaper than you could get it locally.

Andrew and I laughed. It was the AMAZON.COM of the Industrial Age.

As I always say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Bob Rivers

Bob Rivers

Radio Host from age 14 to Present. Currently blogging, planning to launch a new radio show later this year.

Listen to 30 years worth of Twisted Tunes at

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