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Mill by David Macaulay


post written by Emma Filbrun

Mill by David MacaulayTitle: Mill
Author: David Macaulay
Major Themes: Architecture, Engineering
Synopsis: A series of cotton mills were built along a New England river throughout the 1800s, and every step is shown with a beautiful pen-and-ink drawing.

My sisters and I discovered David Macaulay’s books when we started going to a different library when I was in my teens. These books are fascinating, even if you aren’t particularly interested in architecture or engineering. He has made the building of a structure into a story, and told the history of the area in which the structure is found at the same time, and illustrated the entire process with wonderfully detailed line drawings. Several years ago I got a couple of his books from the library and read them to my boys, and recently was able to get my hands on several more, which we are now working our way through. First, we read Mill, about the construction of a series of mills in Rhode Island.

By 1810, there were several small mills on the Swift River in northern Rhode Island, and several men formed a partnership to build a cotton mill. Over the next year, they built the Yellow Mill and began operating it. Very detailed illustrations help the story to tell all the details about preparing the site, building the water race and wheel, as well as building the mill building and spinning the cotton.

In 1830, two men who ran the Yellow Mill decided they needed to build another mill in which to weave cloth. They designed and built the Stone Mill, which was much more complicated. This was sufficient for a time—but by 1852 the owner decided he needed to upgrade his looms and enlarge his mill. The new one was called the Plimpton Mill, and once again, as with each of the others, the book details, in text and detailed drawings, how the mill was built and operated. In 1870, a large company built a huge new mill downstream, the Harwood Mill. This one both spun and wove under one roof.

As I said, this book is interesting to almost anyone. The pictures are beautifully done, and so well labeled that you can really understand how the mills were built and worked. This book is educational as well as entertaining.

No warnings!

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15


Links to buy Mill:

Amazon: Paperback | Hardcover

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback


Architecture, Engineering, US History 1783-1860, US History 1865-1900

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