William G. Angell (1811-1870) was a native of Providence and a descendant of Thomas Angell, one of Providence’s first settlers. Despite his lineage, William’s family was one of modest means. He acquired only a basic common school education and took up his father’s trade as a carpenter. However, Angell possessed what his associates described as “an intuitive perception of the capabilities of a machine.” As a young man, he experimented with machinery for making iron screws to be used in woodworking.
Angell made several improvements in the screw-making machinery of his era, and when the Eagle Screw Company was formed in 1838 to compete with the English market for these fasteners, Angell became its agent and manager. After more than twenty successful years in business, Eagle united with the New England Company in 1860 to form the American Screw Company, a firm that soon ranked as the world’s largest producer of wood and machine screws and was regarded as one of Providence’s five industrial wonders of the world..
Along with his inventive ability and business sagacity, Angell was an excellent draftsman and a skilled architect and builder. These talents were used in the construction of buildings that could stand the strain of the heavy machinery necessary in his manufacturing process. By century’s end American Screw operated three major mill complexes within the city: the Bay State Mill and the Eagle Mill, on the north and south sides of Stevens Street near Randall (now Moshassuck) Square, and the New England Mill, on Eddy Street near the junction of Allens Avenue. The company remained one of Providence’s leading employers until 1949, when it moved to Willimantic, Connecticut.
Angell concentrated on his business to the exclusion of most other pursuits, but he contributed liberally though inconspicuously towards the relief of the poor and unfortunate.
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