History & Culture

S.U.M. symbol
S.U.M. (Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures) symbol

Copyright Daniel C. Krebs



The history of the City of Paterson includes its beginnings as the ambitious project of Alexander Hamilton and the "Society for Establishing Usefull Manufacturers" (S.U.M.) in 1792 at the Great Falls, the early development of water power systems for industrial use, and the various types of manufacturing that occurred in the District's mills into the 20th Century. These included cotton fabrics, railroad locomotives, textile machinery, jute and silk spinning, weaving, and dyeing, among many others.


Paterson really came into fruition with the help of immigrants. The city's founder, Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant himself who made it his mission to live out his American dream. Paterson's culture and diversity comes from the many dedicated workers who helped build up the area.


When families had immigrated over to Paterson they brought with them their unique cultural identities from their countries of origin. People came from all walks of life, and with their diverse backgrounds it only helped to grow Paterson's distinct personality. Learn about the places these different cultures created in and around Paterson.


The Great Falls also represents compelling stories of the lives of immigrants who labored in the mills, those who owned and operated manufacturing concerns and became wealthy, and the quest of laborers and the labor movement for better working conditions and pay. Immigrants still settle today in Paterson to pursue their versions of Hamilton's vision, creating a diverse and vibrant culture.


Last updated: November 15, 2018

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