NE History

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NE History

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Fev 26, 2008, 9:56 am

For all discussions of New England history. Tell us your obsessions, discoveries, or perhaps the related book you are reading now.

Fev 26, 2008, 11:01 am

I'm reading an interesting book now, The Bonds of Womanhood: "woman's sphere" in New England, 1780-1835 by Nancy Cott. It offers some interesting insights into women's lives just as the homespun industry was moving to mass production in the mills, for instance.

Fev 28, 2008, 11:17 am

I think Albion's Seed : four British folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer is a good read, one of the "folkways" settled New England, and gives insight as to how New England is different from other parts of the original colonies.

Many, many towns in New England have Town Histories -- I think there is more of a historical sense at the local level in New England than elsewhere. Note the Surname Guide the Touchstone brought up.

Fev 28, 2008, 11:22 am

The Fischer Touchstone I put in above leads one to David Fischer, and then you can get to the proper David Hackett Fischer from the disambiguation notice; it might be quicker to do this by going to the work and then punching on the author's name there.

I am going to try another Touchstone on Town History and behold, we have the history of Dedham, Mass.

Mar 1, 2008, 8:55 am

I have read town histories of: Scarborough, ME; Salisbury, MA; Paris, ME; and Worcester, MA. With the exception of Scarborough, the other three were read while doing genealogical research (these were town histories at least 100 years old).

Mar 1, 2008, 9:40 am

avaland, perhaps you could tell me the answer to a question that has bothered me for several years now: How did Worcester become a population center? As far as I know, there is no sizable river running through it - or is there? I believe there's a canal that goes to Worcester, but nobody would have dug a canal to Worcester if a goodly number of people hadn't already been there. Somebody suggested to me that Worcester was a day's journey west from Boston back in the early days, but I have trouble believing that a city could have grown up around that. What essential insight am I missing about Worcester?

Mar 1, 2008, 10:36 am

Wasn't Worcester pretty big once upon a time in the industrial revolution? Lots of factories and such....which could be resposible for attracting people to it.

Mar 1, 2008, 10:38 am

Here's what wikipedia has to say about Worcester

Mar 1, 2008, 10:41 am

Known for innovation in commerce, industry, education, and social thought, Worcester and the nearby Blackstone Valley claim their historic role as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. Ichabod Washburn, an early industrialist, developed a process for extruding steel wire. His company, Washburn & Moen, founded in 1831, was "the company that 'barbed-wire fenced the American West,'"4 and held the battle lines during the First World War. In 1840, Loring Coes invented the monkey wrench. In the 1850s, George Crompton and LJ & FB Knowles founded companies that manufactured the textile looms that fueled the Industrial Revolution. Another Worcester innovator, physician Russel Howes, invented the first envelope folding machine in 1856. His machine could produce 25,000 envelopes in ten hours, using three operators.

Women found economic opportunity in Worcester. An early female entrepreneur, Esther Howland designed and manufactured the first American valentine cards in 1847. Women also found opportunity in The Royal Worcester Corset Factory, a company that provided employment opportunity for 1200 women; it was the largest employer of women in the United States in 1908.5

An innovative form of affordable housing appeared in the nineteenth century: the three decker. Hundreds of these houses were built, affording spacious, comfortable apartments for a homeowner and two tenants. Many extended families settled in these houses, developing strong, safe, and stable neighborhoods for the city's factory workers.

Several entrepreneurs brought growth to Worcester's economy during this period. John Jeppson, a skilled potter, emigrated from Hoganas, Sweden to Worcester in search of a better life. In Worcester he founded Norton Company, now the world's largest manufacturer and supplier of performance engineered abrasives for technical manufacturing and commercial applications as well as general household and automotive refinishing. Jeppson created economic opportunity for the thousands of his countrymen who followed him to Worcester and for others, as well.

Another innovator was George Fuller, an inventor and philanthropist, who developed a heat-treating process crucial to developing steel strong enough to be used in train couplings and the first automobile crankshafts. His company, Wyman-Gordon, has been a leading manufacturer of machine parts.

Charles Palmer, another innovator, received the first patent (1891) for a lunch wagon, or diner. He built his "fancy night cafes" and "night lunch wagons" in the Worcester area until 1901. After building a lunch wagon for himself in 1888, Thomas Buckley decided to manufacture lunch wagons in Worcester. Buckley was very successful and became known for his "White House Cafe" wagons. In 1906 Philip Duprey and Irving Stoddard established The Worcester Lunch Car Company, which shipped 'diners' all over the Eastern Seaboard.

Many Irish immigrants settled in Worcester during this period. They helped build the railroad and the Blackstone Canal, further driving Worcester's economic engine

Mar 1, 2008, 10:06 pm

Unlike the other cities making a wide ring around Boston (New Bedford, Fall River, Lowell, and Lawrence), which were known for textiles, Worcester was known for sheet metal working and it did a Pullman manufacturing plant which made railway cars, including trolley cars (into the early 1950's I think). These cars ran in Boston, I think the last trolleys ran in Worcester in the Depression.

Mar 1, 2008, 10:22 pm

Worcester's trolleys ran to 1945 (New Bedford to 1947, the last city ouside of the Boston area in Massachusetts to retain trolleys, New Haven's (CT) trolleys maybe ran a couple of years later than this).

Mar 2, 2008, 12:33 pm

Thanks for the information, everybody. I still find Worcester perplexing, though. Maybe I should go there sometime, instead of zipping past it on the turnpike.

Mar 2, 2008, 12:54 pm

I have spent some time in the library there, LydiaHD. They have a good resource section useful for genealogy research and area history. I may also this spring take a class at the Worcester Art Museum, if I can find one which doesn't require me to drive in or out during rush hour. I'm about 30 minutes away.

Mar 2, 2008, 6:28 pm

There is a good Lebanese restaurant on the west side of Worcester.

The turnpike is a couple miles south of Worcester, if you take I-295, you get a mild overview of the city (but obviously, no real feel for the city).