Charles Tillinghast James

Charles Tillinghast James
Charles Tillinghast James
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
In office
March 4, 1851 – March 4, 1857
Preceded by Albert C. Greene
Succeeded by James F. Simmons
Personal details
Born September 15, 1805(1805-09-15)
West Greenwich, Rhode Island, U.S.
Died October 17, 1862(1862-10-17) (aged 57)
Sag Harbor, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lucinda James
Profession Politician

Charles Tillinghast James (September 15, 1805 – October 17, 1862) famous consulting mechanical engineer, early proponent of the steam mill, and a United States Democratic Senator from the state of Rhode Island from 1851 to 1857.


Education and Early Experience

Charles T. James was born in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. He had a largely self taught knowledge of mathematics and mechanics. In the early 1830s he was working in small mills in the Quinebaug Valley of Connecticut and later he was supervising the startup of machinery in mills in the Providence area. His reputation had grown such that by 1834 Samuel Slater brought him to Providence to overhaul the first large American steam powered mill at the Steam Cotton Manufacturing Company which was built in 1828. This work made him realize the potential of steam mills and he became the leading advocate of steam mills and a pioneer engineer and promoter of coastal and Southern steam mills.

Mechanical Engineering Career

James, an avid coffee drinker, did a good business designing and promoting steam mills to small seaport towns which did not have any experience with mills and needed his expertise to advise on which equipment to buy and how to design the entire factory. James knew all the best equipment and their manufacturers and selected the pickers, breaker cards, drawing heads, Providence Machine fly frames, Mason finished cards, spinning equipment looms and steam engines from Providence's India Point Works run by Fairbanks, Bancroft and Company and later by Corliss, Nightengale and Company.

James promoted steam mills in seaports that has seen a great reduction in business because of the centralization of trade in bigger ports such as Boston due to the centralizing technology of the Middlesex Canal, the railroads, and bigger ships. These "decayed" smaller seaports such as Newburyport, Salem, and would be able to get coal and cotton supplies directly from the ships and export their steam mill products directly by ship again.

Between 1839-1846 Charle T. James owned the southern half of the Brewster-Coffin House (High St.) in Newburyport, Massachusetts.[1] During this time he worked on several steam mill projects in the area These included the Bartlett, James, and Globe(later called Peabody) Mills in Newburyport.

Steam Mills promoted by Charles T. James include the Barlett Mill, and later the James Steam Mill (built in 1843 with 17,000 spindles) and the Globe steam Mill (built in 1846 with 12,200 spindles) in Newburyport, Massachusetts; mills in Portsmouth NH 1845-6. Naumkeag Steam Cotton Mill built in 1845-46 in Salem, Massachusetts. Also the Essex steam mill; the Conestoga Steam Mill in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1844-45. Later he was closely involved with the Graniteville Mill in South Carolina with William Gregg.

Civil War and Death

James developed an early rifled projectile and rifling system for artillery. James rifles and projectiles were used in the American Civil War. The greatest triumph of his system was the breaching of Fort Pulaski.

During the demonstration of a projectile at Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York, a worker attempted to remove a cap from a shell. It exploded killing the man and mortally wounding James, who died the next day.[2]


  1. ^ Old Newburyport Houses By Albert Hale, published 1912, page 40.
  2. ^ Dickey, p. 147
  • Taunton and Mason: Cotton Machinery and Locomotive Manufacture in Taunton, Massachusetts, 1811–1861, by John William Lozier, Ph.d Dissertation Thesis at Ohio State University 1978. Charles T. James section pages 375-386. Copies also at Old Colony Historical Society in Taunton and at The Baker Business School Library at Harvard University.
  • Dickey, Thomas S. and George, Peter C., Field Artillery Projectiles of the American Civil War, Atlanta, GA: Arsenal Press, 1980.
  • Letters on the Culture and Manufacture on Cotton. By Charles Tillinghast James, published 1850. Originally published in:
  • Hunt's Merchants' Magazine and Commercial Review By Thomas Prentice Kettell, volume 22 January–June 1850 pages 290-311. Article IV by Charles T. James entitled Culture and Manufacture of Cotton which rebuts an article by Amos Adams Lawrence.

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
Albert C. Greene
United States Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
March 4, 1851 – March 4, 1857
Served alongside: John H. Clarke and Philip Allen
Succeeded by
James F. Simmons

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