B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill Declared Engineering Landmark


| November/December 1995



Ames engine

P. O. Box 303 Old Mystic, Connecticut 06372

At B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill, our ''touch of steam' is not with one of those big traction engines, but with our own stationary 15 HP center crank Ames engine. On October 29, 1994 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers dedicated a bronze plaque, noting that B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill was declared a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

The lack of many traction engines in New England was mostly because there were not many huge tracts of land to till that would require a traction engine. Even the largest farms used mostly draft animals until the advent of the powered tractor. There were many portable engines, but these were used mostly in large remote wood lots where there was no water power. As water power was plentiful in most villages, there were usually two or three water-powered saw mills. Where there was no water power, steam was the thing.

Apple cider dates back to the earliest days of English settlement in the thirteen colonies. Colonists brought seed from England to plant apple trees. Later, seedlings and whole trees were transported to the colonies by wealthier colonists who established large apple orchards. Although apples were a staple in the meager diet of early settlers, the motivation for raising apple trees was equally for the purpose of making cider. Cider was easy to make, stored well, and provided a mildly alcoholic drink for all to enjoy. Until approximately seventy years ago, cider was what is now referred to as 'hard cider.'

While the processing of apple cider has changed over the centuries, B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill continues to produce cider as it was produced over a century ago. From the earliest crude stone crushed apples to the modern automated hydraulic presses, engineers have devised more efficient means to press apples. The screw press in use at the Mill represents the peak of screw press design used before the hydraulic press became prevalent.

Although cider continued to be produced on individual farms for private use, the centrally located mill became more popular. In 1881 Mr. Benjamin F. Clyde, my grandfather, decided to produce and sell cider in Mystic, now referred to as Old Mystic. For the first few years, he pressed his apples at local mills. Eventually, he bought a press and installed it in rented space in the corner of a local saw mill. He received power for his press from the saw mill's line shaft.