Rumford Watertower Finial
In 1854 J. B. Duggan, Eben Horsford and George F. Wilson formed a chemical merchandising business in Providence. Duggan dropped out a year later. Wilson, a successful business man from Chicago, and Horsford, a Harvard chemistry professor who discovered a method of incorporating calcium and phosphates in baking powder, continued on and named the company the George F. Wilson Company.
In 1856 The Wilson Company moved to West Seekonk, MA (now Rumford, RI) and changed its name to the Rumford Chemical Works. Horsford occupied “The Rumford Chair of the Application of Science to Useful Arts” at Harvard University. Hence the name.
At the beginning there were three locations which comprised the Works: Riverside on the banks of the Seekonk in the Rumford area, the Rumford Factory in Rumford Center area and Providence on South Main and South Water Streets at the Providence docks. Providence had the printing department, warehouse and shipping departments and main offices. Riverside processed the bones being delivered by ships for the calcium supply and in Rumford Center were the factory, farmland and mill houses for the plant. Soon the Rumford Company owned 600 acres. This part of Seekonk became East Providence, RI in 1862.
To supply the factory and associated housing the company built a water tower next to the Rumford Center plant. It was painted to resemble a huge Baking Powder Can which loomed over the neighborhood for years. Many kids grew up looking at the lighted can at night through their bedroom windows. It was a source of comfort and stability. Although the tower was dismantled the finial is now on display at the Hunt house museum.
The company continued until 1948 and was sold to the Hayden Chemical Co. In 1950 Hulman and Company of Terre Haute, IN bought the company and closed it in 1966, moving the manufacture of Rumford Baking Powder to Terre Haute. The Essex Chemical Company Division continued until 1975.
Many of the original buildings still stand on Newman Avenue and Greenwood Avenue. The original small factory building still stands across from the Rumford Postoffice hidden by tall trees and a fence.