Note: Ivoryton was listed as a National Register Historic District in 2014. See: Ivoryton Historic District.
Samuel Merritt Comstock was responsible for making Ivoryton an ivory and piano parts center of the United States. He founded Comstock, Cheney & Co. with his partner George A. Cheney in 1862. This firm became the most important social and economic factor in the lower valley. As a result of the continuing business success of Comstock, Cheney & Co., more employees were required. The area towns could not meet this demand, so, as with many places in the eastern part of the United States, this need was filled by immigrants from southern Europe. Many Polish and Italian people came to Ivoryton between 1890 and World War I, and most became associated with this company. Ivoryton developed a culture where the factory and the village were intertwined. Comstock, Cheney & Co. built what is now the Ivoryton Playhouse as a factory meeting hall, built a beautiful grammar school for the community in 1900, helped build the Ivoryton Library, and erected a great number of housing units for its employees. The village of Ivoryton paid approximately 60% of the property taxes collected in Essex from the end of the 19th century up to World War II.
The advent of radio as a new form of home entertainment, and the start of the Great Depression in 1930, spelled trouble for the piano industry. Comstock, Cheney & Co. combined with its main competitor, Pratt, Read & Co. from the neighboring Town of Deep River, in order to survive. Although this new company was located in Ivoryton, it took the Pratt, Read & Co. name. During World War II, gliders were produced for the U. S. government at this factory, and for a few years after the war, the 15 year "pent-up" demand (the depression and the war) for piano keyboards and actions kept this factory busy. By the end of the 1950s however, Pratt, Read & Co. was forced to move a great deal of its production to a facility it opened in the town of Central, South Carolina.