For several decades, if a New Londoner felt like having a boiler not only installed by a local company but built by one, they had an option in the Hopson & Chapin Manufacturing Company.
The company was one of several businesses in the city's bustling late 19th century industrial sector. This week's selected item, offered by user Don Ulrich, is an early Kodak photograph of a "Hopson Boiler." The sleek boiler takes up a corner of a room, with ornate writing identifying the type and the company. Ulrich's description estimates that the photo is from around 1890 to 1900, and is an example of the old practice of mailing in one's camera to Kodak so the company could develop and mount the photos, then send them back along with the camera and newly loaded film.
An informational packet on the boiler and the company appears in an online archive, with schematics for the Hopson Boiler and the recommendation that it be used for "medium to large plants." The photo was apparently taken before the recommended brick or portable surface was added to the sides of the boiler.
The Hopsin & Chapin company was established in 1885 on Hamilton Street. Its main focus was on the planning and installation of heating devices, including steam and hot water boilers. Hopson & Chapin later expanded into casting work, including engine cylinders. By 1906, they were advertising in the magazine Motor Boat, promoting the attention given to the iron as well as a pattern room that could be used for quick alterations to designs.
"The Hopson & Chapin Co. have a force of men specially fitted and trained for work and absolutely limit themselves to an amount of work that can receive thorough attention and supervision, hence there is no disappointment or delay in dealing with them," the advertisement reads.
In 1913, a brief article in the Boston Evening Transcript said the Hopson & Chapin plant would close at the end of June and that there were worries that the company would go out of business. The fears seemed to be unfounded. Three years later, the company's advertisements maintained that it was still in the heating business, with vacuum cleaning equipment for sale as well. In fact, the company would apparently have a presence in New London until the dissolution of the corporation in 1970.
The Hopson & Chapin factory building still survives today. It is the long building with the rounded roof at 69 Hamilton Street, located adjacent to the railroad tracks on property that most recently held the Miner & Alexander lumberyard. An effort to have the building placed on the State Register of Historic Places in order to save it from potential demolition was successful, but the site is still on the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's list of threatened buildings.
The photo is three and seven-eighths inches by three and a half inches on a five and a quarter inch by four and a quarter inch cardboard mount. There are some surface scuffs but overall it is in good condition. The starting bid is $6.95, and the auction ends at about 10:49 a.m. EST on Wednesday.