Bristol was first incorporated in 1785 as the New Cambridge society of the Farmington Congressional Church. New Cambridge and the village of Forestville were incorporated and bought under the present name in 1893, and then chartered as a city in 1911. As with many other towns and cities across New England, Bristol earned its nickname as a distinction of its industrial prominence.
Throughout the early and middle 1800s, Bristol was the premiere clock-manufacturing center in the world. Clock manufacturing caused a host of other related industries to grow along with it. The most notable of these satellite industries was the spring industry. Albert and Edward Rockwell came to Bristol in 1888 to take advantage of the industrial climate and start their "new departure" in bell manufacturing. Their invention used a spring driven mechanism to ring a doorbell rather than the commonly used electrical battery.
The Rockwell brothers' invention was so successful that their New Departure Bell Co. grew into one of the largest bell factories in America, giving Bristol its distinction as the Bell City. Bristol is also considered the "Mum City" of the USA because of the many Chrysanthemums grown and sold to various states and Canada.
Bristol is also known as the home of the nationís first amusement park. On October 6, 1846, Samuel Botsford, an influential Bristol scientist, persuaded property owner Gad Norton, an original settler descendant, to let him conduct "a series of beautiful experiments in electricity." Well publicized, the event drew thousands of spectators to witness the demonstration amidst the beauty of the woods and water. Although the final experiment of "blowing up from shore, two huge jugs of gunpowder tied under a raft in the middle of the lake" failed, it did inspire Norton to action. He put a path around the lake, set up picnic tables, allowed public swimming and rowing on the lake and built a gazebo for lakeside band concerts. Lake Compounce had officially opened to the public as a picturesque "picnic" park.
In April, 1996 the Kennywood Entertainment Company, owners of two theme parks and an action park in western Pennsylvania, became the managing partner of Lake Compounce. Kennywood has made more than $40 million worth of new rides, attractions and physical improvements. The park's transformation tastefully integrates its natural beauty and rich heritage with a blend of classic and contemporary rides, live shows and unique attractions.
Today the city, with the ninth largest population in the state, continues to flourish as an industrial center for the production of brass, ball bearings, and related machinery and equipment. From the clockmaking, springmaking and ballbearing industries to the high-tech sportscasting and recycling businesses, Bristol has shown a steady, firm capability to grow and change with the world that surrounds it. With its diverse offerings, Bristol is sure to have something for everyone.
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