Excerpts from the Paterson Visitor Center's Historic Notes: The Ivanhoe Wheelhouse

One of the most extensive, as well as the most interesting, industries of Paterson was carried on by the Ivanhoe Manufacturing Company. The mill of the company, built of cut and dressed sandstone with turreted towers, presented a very imposing appearance.

The establishment was among the most complete in the world devoted to paper production. All the Ivanhoe mill buildings were fireproof and were thoroughly equipped with costly machinery of marvelous ingenuity.

The waterworks building for the Mill was built in 1850. It consists of two attached buildings built at different times. The wheelhouse was built in 1865 to house a Boyden water turbine capable of producing 265 horsepower. Water was taken into a seven-foot diameter pipe from the upper raceway and dropped through the wheel. The rotary motion of the turbine was the power source for driving the shafts, belts, pulleys, and gears of the rag paper mill. In 1910, the generator room was added to the wheelhouse. Generators were installed there to convert the water powered rotary motion to electricity.

Henry V.Butler, founder of this vast establishment, was born in Suffield, Connecticut in October 1811. He was a son of Asa Butler, owner of the Eagle Mill at Suffield, where paper was made by hand. In 1832, father and son purchased a steam mill on Cherry Street, New York. Their mill produced the paper on which the first number of the New York Sun was printed and also the first paper for the Philadelphia Ledger. At this mill, for the first time anywhere, paper shavings were utilized to be worked over into paper.

In 1837, the industry moved to Paterson into a firm, substantial stone mill built especially for their purpose, by Roswell L. Colt Called the Passaic Mill, it stood on the Upper Raceway on this site and furnished paper for the most foremost publishers in the country, including the American Bible Society, the Methodist Book concern, the Appletons, Carter Brothers and others.

The peculiar toughness and strength of the paper was said to be due to the use of old hemp rope, knots, and cutting from the cotton presses of the South and cotton waste from New England mills. This rough and apparently unpromising material was first used at the Passaic Mill and a peculiar picker or "devil" was used to tear in pieces and reduce to shreds the toughest knots with the same ease as other machinery shredded the plain rope.

The process of boiling stock under pressure in rotary boilers, a method which has since been universally adopted throughout this country and in Europe, was also introduced by Mr. Butler. Even the coarse sacking in which the cotton-waste and rags are baled, together with pieces of old rope and the like, are picked, cleansed, boiled and manipulated until they leave the mill at last in the form of the finest whitest writing paper. Here the first super-calendered book paper ever manufactured was made.

The business at the Passaic Mill proved a very profitable one, and from it was drawn a large part of the money required for the erection of the Ivanhoe Mill, which was completed and put in operation on the finer qualities of paper in 1850. In 1857, the lease of the Passaic Mill having expired, the capacity of the Ivanhoe Mill was increased and the Passaic abandoned. In 1859, a writer stated in Scientific Anerican that the Ivanhoe Mill, then nearly a decade old, had never stopped three days at a time, running night and day. The product at this date was given as 35,000 lbs. of the finest quality of paper every week: number of hands employed 135. About this date, the firm began making tub-sized writing paper, and soon the "Ivanhoe" brand became so widely known and so popular that the demand far exceeded the supply. In 1866 the firm was merged into the Ivanhoe Manufacturing Company, formed under a special charter.

The Invanhoe produced tissue and writing paper. Butler obtained several government contracts and it is possible that the mill produced paper for money; paper money has an unusual texture because it contains silk fibers.

In 1981, the Ivanhoe's wheelhouse was restored minus the waterwheel and turbine. The round brickwork on the side of the wheelhouse facing the spillway shows where the flume ran that brought water from the upper raceway into the water wheel.

All of the buildings are gone now, except for the wheelhouse, which was recently restored. It sits next to the spillway between the upper and middle raceway.