KIDS' CORNER


Howell Cheney
Notes prepared for a Cheney Technical School Alumni Dinner in 2006
by Susan Barlow of the Manchester Historical Society

Whether you studied at the old building on School Street (pictured at left) or at the West Middle Turnpike location, welcome back to Cheney Tech!

The school was named for Howell Cheney (1870-1957), who took a great interest in education, particularly technical and vocational education for both boys and girls.

Howell Cheney graduated from Yale in 1892, and went into the family business – manufacturing silk at Cheney mills. The family started the industry in 1838, in a small wooden mill at Hop Brook at the site of the current I-384. After failure and challenge in the early years, the silk mills were a phenomenal success between 1890 and 1923, employing 25 percent of the town’s population. The Cheneys built schools, reservoirs, firehouses, and utility companies for the townspeople, and they were the town’s largest tax-payer.

Howell Cheney worked at the mills from 1893 to 1935, including several years at the Morgan Street, Hartford, mill, of which he was superintendent beginning at the youthful age of 28. He served as Director and Secretary from 1925 to 1935. He was a trustee of Manchester Savings Bank; a member of the Manchester Board of Education; and he served on the boards of many civic and educational organizations. He lived with his family on Forest Street, within walking distance of the mills.

In a 1910 speech, “The Vocational Needs of Our Schools,” he said that academic schools were “hidebound by tradition,” and believed that technical schools could be more innovative, and meet the needs of children who weren’t interested in what he called “culture studies,” presumably Latin and Greek, which would not help them much in the workplace.

1913 Hartford Courant articles announcing his election to head the Yale corporation said, “He is actively engaged in the great Cheney Brothers’ corporation, but has given much time to educational and social studies. He is a member of the Connecticut State Board of Education and is widely known as a man of high character and marked ability. ...He is a practical manufacturer and a first-class businessman…of broad views.”



    

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