by Don Sessions
J.H. Sessions started his business, J.H. Sessions and Son, by producing wooden escutcheons, beautifully carved wood pieces used for decorative purposes on furniture and steamer trunks. Eventually, Sessions recognized the need for durable exterior hardware, such as latches and handles for heavy trunks. The company advanced from wood items to cast metal (malleable iron) parts for hardware on trunks. The “ball” corners Calzone and Anvil (and pretty much every case company in the world) use on their cases today were developed in that mid 1800s period using cast metal. The final plant was built in 1904 on Riverside Avenue in Bristol, Connecticut. My great grandfather, John Henry Sessions, was a civil engineer and designed the factory to be built in a, then, rural part of Bristol, Connecticut, on the south side of town. The plant was a 4-story building made of brick and stone with solid 24” square chestnut beams in the basement level and heart pine 12” x 12” beams in the upper stories.
The plant was located on its own private railroad spur where the shipment of the metal hardware in wooden crates and kegs could be serviced by the local railroads. As it was isolated from the main part of town, the plant burned coal and generated its own steam, gas and electricity.
Two water driven elevators were also installed and are still operating today. They have a 4-story tall piston fitted into a collared shaft that was sunk into the earth in a hand dug pit. Water was pumped into the shaft, which forced the elevator to rise up to the 4th down, that same water was pumped up to a holding tank on the roof, where it would be gravity fed to the areas in the building needing process water. Metal stamping machinery was installed and designs for all manner of footlocker and other container hardware were produced. The factory employed several hundred people at various points in the following decades as production was ramped up for both World Wars. JHS supplied vast amounts of the hardware used to close, lift and protect the dozens of different trunk and container designs used by our armed forces around the world.