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Ensign-Bickford Exhibition Building, 1966 - Simsbury


The Ensign-Bickford Company is responsible for the early manufacture and widespread use of the safety fuse in America.  Developed in 1831 by Cornishman William Bickford, the Miner’s Safety Fuse consisted of spun flax, hemp or cotton fibers filled with a combustible material.  The twisted fibers were then sealed and waterproofed.  The result was a slow-burning flexible fuse that was water-resistant and far more predictable than the currently used straw or quill fuses. 

The safety fuse was introduced to Farmington Valley mining operations in 1836; production in Simsbury began the following year.  By 1851, Joseph Toy had joined the company and set up his own manufactory, Toy, Bickford & Company, along Hop Brook in Simsbury.  After Toy’s death in 1887, the company added the name of his son-in-law and successor Ralph Hart Ensign.  

This exhibition building was constructed in 1966 with native stone from the former Belden Mansion ice house, once located on West Street, to house the Ensign-Bickford Collection of early safety fuse manufacturing equipment.




Simsbury Historical Society
800 Hopmeadow Street
Simsbury, CT 06070