The Attleboro Area Industrial Museum was incorporated on July 4, 1975 as the City of Attleboro's Bicentennial project. The idea of creating an industrial museum for the area had been in discussions for decades, but only became possible with the availability of the building housed at 42 Union Street, the Attleboro Refining Company. In 1899, Harold D. Baker and his brother George W. Baker, both of Providence, Rhode Island, formed a partnership to establish the Attleboro Refining Company in Attleboro, Massachusetts. It specialized in the refining of gold, silver and copper byproducts. The refinery followed established refining methods used at that time known as a stripping process. The process dated back to the late 18th Century. Base metals such as copper and zinc were eaten by a compound-acid solution. The precious metals underwent succeeding operations where they were reduced to a certain degree of fineness.
By 1907, however, the Bakers were convinced that better methods were available that would involve lower costs. They experimented with the then-existent electrochemical equipment available and finally succeeded in adapting the ELECTROLYTIC process to jewelers' scrap. Theirs was the first refinery in New England to do so. The process underwent continuous improvement and development where gold was finally purified to .9991/2 fine and every trace of silver or other precious metal was re-claimed in the chlorination and succeeding copperas processes.
Throughout the years four additions were added and on June 26, 1968, Handy & Harman Refining Group, Inc. purchased the Attleboro Refining Company. In November 1973, Handy & Harman left 42 Union Street for a new facility located on Townsend Road in the "new" Attleboro Industrial Park. On November 29, 1976, Handy & Harman turned the 42 Union Street building over to the Chamber of Commerce of the Attleboro Area who acted as caretaker of the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum, Inc. The building was in great disrepair when donated to the Museum so, for the first few years, the Board of Directors and Incorporators were concerned primarily with the rehabilitation of the building and grounds. The refinery building is considered to be the most important object in the Museum's collection.
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