400 Years of Manufacturing

jtgold.jpgOn January 11 the U.S. Mint began selling gold and silver coins to commemorate the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Last week we blogged on this important event in U.S. history and today’s blog carries pictures of the two sides of the gold coin that is now available.

If you don’t live in Virgina, you may think all this hoopla is just something for residents of the Old Dominion. Well, you should think again. A few days ago, Vice President Cheney joined a throng in a small rustic building where the House of Burgesses met and established representative goverment on these shores for the first time. The Roanoke Times captured the importance of the day with its reporting; click here to read their summary of the day.

Opening America to democracy was not the only contribution of those hardy pioneers in 1607. They were not agents of the British government, but participants in a private enterprise investment of the joint stock company known as the Virginia Company. Democracy and free enterprise: not a bad start for a little band of fewer than 150 Englishmen.

And there is one more great contribution of this little band of explorers. Almost as soon as they landed, they realized there was lots of sand around Jamestown. And since there wasn’t the abundant gold they had hoped they’d find, they had to turn to their own inventiveness and so they established the first manufacturing facility in America when they opened a small furnace to make glass with all that sand. If they had landed today, they would have probably made semiconductors, because that’s made from sand too. In any case, we celebrate the birth of manufacturing with the landing of the Virginia Company in May 1607.

If you visit the Jamestown settlement during the 400th anniversary, be sure to ask about the glass furnace and you can see a recreation of it. Three cheers for the Jamestown settlers!