The Birth of the American Chemical Enterprise at Jamestown
The Birth of the Chemical Enterprise founded in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia as chemical practitioners from Europe settled in early Virginia.
Recent archaeological evidence reveals early Virginia, which included both the Roanoke and Jamestown colonies, as the birthplace of the American chemical enterprise. Chemical processes first applied experimentally at Roanoke were re-introduced at Jamestown twenty years later. Many chemical processes connected with cleaning agents (potash), glass, pharmaceuticals, and metallurgy demonstrated their promise at Jamestown. Collectively, the chemical investigations which began in Virginia, which were impelled by the demands of trade, constituted the beginning of industrial production for domestic and foreign consumption.
The American chemical enterprise was characterized by the search for and application of native resources to European metallurgy, pharmacology, and perfumery. Following the closure of Jamestown as Virginia’s capital in 1699, these chemical activities moved to Williamsburg, the new capital, where they continued and proliferated. By then, several other English settlements from the modern Carolinas to Maine had been established. As these English colonies proliferated along the Atlantic seaboard during the 17th century following Jamestown, a similar pattern of application of European technologies to indigenous raw materials appeared. Based on local resources, these settlements established their own chemical works and traded with sister colonies for American-manufactured chemical products. The early Virginia settlement at Jamestown, however, represents the first appearance of European chemical processes (as applied to local resources) at a permanent colony.
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Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program