Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Maynard's By-Laws: 1872

Maynard, MA By-Laws, 1872
Not quite a year shy from the creation of the Town of Maynard, the residents adopted the first set of By-Laws on March 11, 1872, approved by state of Massachusetts on March 20, 1849. By way of comparison, current-day by-laws for Maynard is 95 pages. An original of the By-Laws is in the collection of the Maynard Historical Society. ARTICLE II is a more entertaining read than ARTICLE I. A transcript, in its entirety:   

ARTICLE I: TOWN MEETINGS AND TOWN AFFAIRS

Section 1. Town -Meetings shall be notified by posting attested copies of the warrant, calling the same, in the Post Office and five other public places in the town, seven days, at least, before the day appointed for said meeting; and if any emergency arises rendering it necessary in the opinion of the Selectmen to call a meeting upon shorter notice, such meeting may be notified by posting attested copies of the warrant in ten additional places in the town, three days, at least, before the day appointed for said meeting.
Section 2. The annual town meeting shall be held on the second Monday of March in each year, and a town meeting may be help on the first Monday in April for the purpose of completing any unfinished business of the annual meeting, and to act upon any new business.
Section 3. The financial year of the town shall begin with the first day of March in each year and end on the last day of the following February.
Section 4. No action shall be had at any town meeting on the report of any Committee previously chosen, unless the same shall be specifically notified in the warrant, calling said meeting.
Section 5. All notes given by the Two shall be signed by the Town Treasurer and countersigned by the Selectmen, or a majority of the Selectmen.
Section 6. It shall be the duty of the Constables of the town to see that the laws of the Commonwealth relating to truancy are enforced.
Section 7. The doings and expenditures of each board of Town Officers shall be reported in detail and printed and distributed each year.

ARTICLE II: STREETS, POLICE, ETC.

Section 1. Coasting [sledding] in any of the public streets is prohibited.
Section 2. Playing ball or throwing stones, or snow-balls, or any other missiles, in any of the public streets, is prohibited.
Section 3. No person shall throw or place the carcass, or any part thereof, of any dead animal into any pond, stream or water within the limits of said town, or leave the same or any part thereof, in any public street, or near any building or public street.
Section 4. No person shall place or cause to be placed any filth or rubbish in any pubic street.
Section 5. Bathing in any public or exposed place is prohibited.
Section 6. All profane, or immoral, or indecent, or gross or insulting language, or conversation in any public place or street, is prohibited.
Section 7. Every violation of the foregoing sections of article second or any part thereof shall be punished by a fine of no less than one dollar nor more than twenty dollars, to be recovered by complaint before any Trial Justice in the County of Middlesex.
Section 8. The foregoing By-Laws shall take effect from and after their passage, and their approval by the Superior Court.

At the annual town Meeting of said Maynard, holden on the 11th day of March in the year 1872, the foregoing By-Laws were adopted. [Approved by the Superior Court March 20, 1872.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 3)

Kaleva Co-operative Association certificate. Note share
number 508 and dated 1915. (Historic Society collection).
From an earlier column, we learned that the Kaleva Co-operative Association, started 1907, morphed into the United Co-operative Society of Maynard in 1921. It continued to exist to 1973. “Kaleva” refers to an ancient, mythological, Finnish ruler known from a nineteenth century work of epic poetry and story-telling compiled by folklorist researcher Elias Lonnrot. The work, “The Kalevala,” is regarded as the national epic of Finland, instrumental in fostering a sense of Finnish national identity that culminated in the Finnish declaration of independence from Russian rule in 1917. Locally, immigrants had formed the Finnish Workingmen’s Socialist Society in 1903, from whom the 187 founders of the Kaleva co-operative were drawn.

According to a book, “The Finnish Imprint,” a delegation of Finnish immigrants had initially approached the large and prospering Riverside Co-operative Association with the idea of becoming members. Because many of the recent immigrants did not speak English, they asked that the co-operative hire Finnish store clerks. This suggestion was rebuffed, with a reply that if they did not like the service they received, they should start their own store. They did. The business was initially capitalized at $1,600 from sale of 320 shares at $5/share (equivalent to approximately $125 in 2019 dollars). The initial location was a rented storefront at 56 Main Street. By 1912 the co-operative had bought the entire two-story building, soon after added a bakery operation, a dairy with home delivery, and a restaurant on the second floor, serving meals to hundreds of workers living in neighboring boarding houses.

United Co-operative Society of Maynard certificate. Note
share number 11837 and dated 1947. Click to enlarge.
Maynard was not the only home to a Finnish-organized co-operative. Fitchburg has the Into Co-operative and Quincy the Turva Co-operative. In 1919, Maynard and these and others merged to create the United Co-operative Society of New England. This was short-lived due to financial and political disagreements, the end result being that the Maynard group reorganized as the United Co-operative Society of Maynard, and Fitchburg becoming the United Co-operative Society of Fitchburg. The latter was the last of the Finnish co-operative to close its doors, in 1977.     

United’s by-laws had added an eighth principle to the previously describe Rochdale seven – continuous expansion. Over the initial 50 years membership grew from 184 to 2,960 members as coal and firewood (1924), fuel oil (1933) and ice (1934) delivery were added. In addition to the Main Street store, a branch store was opened on the northeast corner of Waltham and Powdermill Roads (1926), superseded by moving the branch store operations to a new building at the northwest corner of the same intersection (1936). This remained active until it was sold to Murphy and Snyder printers in 1957. Next door, now the Seven-Eleven/Dunkin Donuts store, was an automobile gas and service station (1934). A credit union was added in 1948.

United's Main Street store, 1957. Now Look Optical and other businesses.
A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor at that time stated that the United Co-operative Society of Maynard was one of the ten largest in the country, calculated either by number of members or annual sales, and was also one of the ten oldest. More than half the households in Maynard belonged to United. At its peak, the co-operative had more than 50 full-time employees, with medical benefits and life insurance – unusual for that era.  

United survived the competition from an A&P supermarket operating on Nason Street (in the building now housing The Outdoor Store), but the presence of Victory Supermarket on Powdermill Road, combined with the freedom to food shop elsewhere provided by increased car ownership, put pressure on the co-operative. In June 1973 that was a vote to dissolve. United's By-laws had an interesting clause: On the occasion of dissolution, which required a 3/4 majority of votes at a meeting, the assets would be used to pay the purchase value of the outstanding shares. As a disincentive to taking this action, any surplus would go to the Co-operative League of the United States rather than to members.

In 1981, a natural foods effort named the Carob Tree Co-op was started in Concord by Debra Stark. It later moved to Acton, then Maynard, where it occupied a small store on River Street, then back to Acton. In addition to paid staff, members took turns volunteering at the store. Several ex-members reminisced about being part of Carob Tree, but so far there is no paper trail to document its brief existence, or the date of its demise. Debra Stark went on to start Debra’s Natural Gourmet, in West Concord, in 1989. Perhaps the failure of Carob Tree was a catalyst for her marvelous success.

Assabet Village Co-op Market: "Join Today!" sign
And now, well into the 21st century, there is an effort underway to launch Assabet Village Co-op Market. See assabetvillagecoop.com for details. The beginnings date to February 2012, when a small group of people met to discuss forming a co-op. The cost of membership was set at $200. To date, 1,055 people have joined. The near-term goal is to find and commit to a retail space on the order of 7,500 square feet, with immediately adjacent parking. Once a site is identified there will be fund-raising effort to reach the capitalization goal of about $1.2 million, hopefully achieved via a combination of local and state grants, bank loans, and interesting-paying loans from members. This is expected to take 4-6 months. Once launched, Assabet Village intends to make a point of sourcing food from local farms. And if all goes as planned, Maynard will once again be a co-operative town, 145 years after the start of the first.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Maynard's Dance Ban

A tad over one hundred years ago the weekly local newspaper The Maynard News served the towns of Maynard, Hudson, South Acton, Stow and Concord Junction (West Concord). From the paper on November 14, 1913: “At the Selectmen’s meeting Wednesday evening, it was decided that the objectional dances which have been indulged in in the dance halls in this village must be stopped. All parties holding dances in the future will be notified that these objectionable and so-called animal dances are prohibited and must not be permitted in any dance hall in this municipality. This action is the opening of a vigorous campaign to suppress these objectionable forms of dance and Rev. Walter J. Browne, Father Sheehan, and other clergymen if the town, as well as a large percentage of the men and women are in sympathy with this movement and will sustain the Selectmen in this action for a cleaner and better Maynard.”

Sheet music for The Bunny Hug, circa 1911.
According to Wikipedia, the “Animal Dance” craze was directly related to the popularity of ragtime music, derived from African-American traditions, with a syncopated beat. To name but a few: Turkey Trot (and the more sedate Fox Trot), Chicken Scratch, Bunny Hug, Kangaroo Hop, Texas Tommy and the Grizzly Bear. Scott Joplin’s ragtime scores, especially his Maple Leaf Rag, were the archetype songs for these exuberant partner and solo dances. Silent movies (shown with live music accompaniment) spread the fad dances across the nation.

Maynard was not alone in prohibiting provocative dances. In 1912, New York City placed the Grizzly Bear under a "social ban", along with other "huggly-wiggly dances" like the Turkey Trot and the Boston Dip. Fears that partygoers might do the Bunny Hug or Turkey Trot may have even led to the cancellation of the official inaugural ball of newly elected President Woodrow Wilson in the spring of 1913. Catholic bishops in Nashville and Cincinnati told their flocks that dancers of the Turkey Trot would not be forgiven for their sins. Everywhere, people were ejected from dance halls, even arrested, for performing these lascivious dance moves.

A big problem with acceptance of these dances were that they called for close personal contact, a novelty at the time. There was belief that these were imitative of the lower animals in their sex life, sex desire, sex excitement and sex satisfaction; and these things are in the minds of the dancers who understand the meaning of the animal dances. Or as one critic put it “A wicked and scandalous, infamous and immoral, bawdy and obscene song and dance, or act, corrupting the morals of the public and youth, and too filthy, obscene and immoral to be in decency further described…”  Ragtime gave way to Roaring Twenties jazz and big band swing. People found other things to worry about (Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, Rock and Roll).

Footloose, the movie, addressed a ban on dancing of any type. In the rural Baptist town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, dancing has been strictly forbidden since 1898, on moral grounds. In 1980, students from Elmore City High School initiated a proposal to overturn the ban, for a prom. The community's religious leaders have major objections; one Reverend F.R. Johnson, from a church in a neighboring town, was quoted as saying "No good has ever come from a dance…. When boys and girls hold each other, they get sexually aroused. You can believe what you want, but one thing leads to another." At a town meeting to consider the question, a local citizen predicted that after the dance there would be a surge in pregnancies at the school “because when boys and girls breathe in each other’s ears, that’s the next step.” Despite these objections, the students won the case, and the prom took place. The events inspired the 1984 film, starring Kevin Bacon (and a 2011 remake).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 2)

Riverside Co-operative Association building, southwest corner of Summer
and Nason streets, Maynard, MA. Built 1882. Co-op was bottom floor. The
rest of the building was rented out to organizations and for events. Burned in
1936. Replaced be two-story brick building, long-time Knights of Columbus.
All images courtesy of Maynard Historical Society.
Riverside Co-operative Association was Maynard’s oldest. It was started by English and Scottish immigrants who worked at the woolen mill. Many of them may have been familiar with the co-operative movement in Great Britain, which by the 1870s numbered in the hundreds. Riverside began in 1875 as a chapter in an American movement, the “Order of the Sovereigns of Industry.” This was an urban workers organization modelled on the Grange – a farmers’ organization formally known as the “Order of Patrons of Husbandry.” ‘Sovereigns’ was in effect a buyers’ club with intention to secure high quality goods at lower prices. Locally, this meant buying wholesale in Boston, transported to Maynard by train, delivered in town by wheelbarrow. Nationally, the Sovereigns organization faltered under financial mismanagement, but in 1878 the local chapter reformed itself as the Riverside Co-Operative Association.

Shares were $5 each (equivalent to about $125 in today’s dollars), members limited to 60 shares. The total capital investment was $1,500. Per the by-laws, regardless of how many shares owned, each shareholder had one vote. The operation started in the basement of the Darling Block building (northeast corner of Summer and Nason streets), moved to the Riverside Block (later Gruber Bros Furniture), and then in 1882 built its own building at the southwest corner of Summer and Nason. The building was a four-story wooden edifice, with the store on the first floor, entrance on Nason Street. The other floors were rented out.

Riverside employees in front of store, circa 1920.
Click on photos to enlarge.
By 1909, Riverside had more than 600 members. In addition to quality of goods and competitive prices, members were twice a year paid a cash refund ranging from 2 to 10 percent based on how much shopping they had done and how good a year the co-op was having. Additionally, shares earned five percent interest. Decline started with recession of 1920, compounded by cost of repair after a fire, same year. In 1929 the store business was sold to George Morse (the store manager), while the co-op continued to own the building. A large fire in January 1936 led to dissolution of the Association later that year and sale of the site to Knights of Columbus, which had been a long-time tenant. Proceeds were divided amongst the remaining shareholders.

A document from the United Co-operative Society criticized Riverside as having emphasis on dividends to stockholders, but without an education program for members and their children, lost coherence as a social institution. Contributing factors were that the children of the founders of Riverside were moving up the socio-economic ladder at same time as England and Scotland were less of a source of immigrant labor. A front-page newspaper article from 1913 had noted that prior to 1900 the town was mostly English-speaking, but the expansion of the mill had doubled the town’s population by bringing in large numbers of immigrants from Finland, Poland, Lithuania and Italy.

Sign on building at site of what was
Riverside Co-operative (KOC sold
bldg., currently Celia T's)
The rise and fall of the United Co-operative Society – the largest and longest enduring co-op in Maynard – will be covered in a subsequent article. There were smaller and shorter-lived efforts.  Suomalainen Osuuskauppa, which translates as ‘Finnish Co-operative Store’, started 1899. Capitalized at only $800, it lasted a few years before dissolving and selling its store to a private owner. Maynard had a chapter of the Grange, started 1913, but unlike in rural situations, the Grange never operated a co-operative store. Gutteridge’s 1921 history mentions “Keefe’s Co-operative” without any details. The Historical Society has a share certificate for the Russian Co-operative Association dated 1917, but there is no other evidence in the collection that this effort reached its capitalization goal of $5,000 or became operative.

Map showing First National Co-operative Association at
corner of Main and River Streets (site now Thai Chilli).
The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association was formed in 1914. Three years later it split, with some of the dairy farmers becoming the diary operations of the United Co-operative Society. The other members, who did not want to affiliate with the Socialist/Communist atheist United, formed the First National Association, which existed to 1941. It owned and operated out of a building on the corner of Main and River streets that had been the Somerset Hotel, site now occupied by Thai Chilli. The International Co-operative Association was started in 1911 by immigrants from Poland. It lasted 20 years. It began in a building near the Methodist Church, later moved to space in the Masonic Building. Membership numbered 200 to 400 over the years. First National and International failed in part because of extending credit to members during the Great Depression.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 1)

Share certificate for Kaleva Co-operative Association,
 dated 1915 (Click on photos to enlarge)
Maynard’s various histories name eight co-operative associations or societies; six of these co-existed in 1917. The oldest was Riverside Co-operative Association (1875-1936). The longest duration and largest was United Co-operative Society, initially named Kaleva Co-operative Association (1907-1973). A U.S. Department of Labor report for 1947 mentioned that United was one of the top ten co-ops in the country for oldest, membership and annual sales. More than half the households in Maynard were members. This column is the first of a three-part series on the history of co-operatives in general and specifically in Maynard.  

To get back to the origins of the co-operative concept, in 1844 a group of 28 weavers in Rochdale, England, organized the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, “…and opened their first store, with a small stock of flour, oatmeal, butter and sugar.” Soon added tea, tobacco and candles. Their guidelines formed the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world continue to operate. The Rochdale Pioneers became highly successful, with 1,400 members by 1855 and 5,560 members by 1870, able to shop at many stores.

Share certificate for Russian Co-operative
Association (dated 1917)
There had been earlier attempts to establish co-operatives that were basically buyer’s clubs, which by pooling their purchases were able to buy at wholesale prices and sell to members at below retail prices. The Rochdale Pioneers were one the early co-operative efforts to add profit-sharing to members based on a percentage of the cost of the goods the members purchased, i.e., a patronage dividend. The seven Rochdale Principles:
   Open membership,
   Democratic control,
   Distribution of surplus,
   Limited interest on capital,
   Political and religious neutrality,
   Cash trading, and
   Promotion of education.
 
Open membership: Although co-operatives often started as groups of workers within one laborer profession (weavers, miners…) or group (Finns, Italians…) membership was not limited. Membership was also voluntary, meaning that members of a union could not be required to also join an affiliated co-operative. Non-members could shop at the stores at the same prices as members, but would not get the additional benefits. United’s start in Maynard was fomented by immigrants from Finland, working in the woolen mill, but non-Finns could join, and by 1947 outnumbered those of Finnish heritage.

Democratic control: All shareholders had one vote regardless of how many shares they owned. Typically, membership shares in the early twentieth century cost $5 (equivalent to $125 now), and members were limited to 20 or 40 shares. Shares could be sold back to the co-operative, but not to other people.

The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association merged into 
Kaleva,which in 1921 became the United Co-operative
Society (from collection of Maynard Historical Society)
Distribution of surplus: At the end of a fiscal year, profits were distributed to members based on the amounts of goods they had purchased during the year. In a pre-computer era, members saved their receipts, then brought all receipts to the co-operative. Staff checked their totals. For Maynard’s Riverside and United, depending on how well the year had gone, members got a cash payment equal to one percent to as high as ten percent of their year’s purchases. If the co-operative had operated at a loss for a year, no refund that year.

Interest on capital: In addition to reimbursements, shareholders got interest on their investment, typically five percent. Share value did not change. When a co-operative voted to dissolve, shareholders expected to get their original investment back.

Neutrality: Co-operatives were supposed to operate neutral to issues of religion, race or politics. The American reality was that co-ops were started by immigrant groups – in Maynard, English, Finnish, Polish, Russian – and often conducted business meetings in their native language.  

Cash only: Many early efforts at establishing co-operatives were under-capitalized, and foundered when members were allowed to purchase goods on credit. Two of Maynard’s co-ops failed in the Great Depression for this reason. Credit unions were separate entities, better capitalized, designed to serve as banks but return profits to members.

Kaleva (founded 1907) became the
United Co-operative Society in 1921
Education: Programs were conducted to educate members and non-members on co-operative principles. Maynard’s United Co-operative Association had adult classes, Young Co-operators’ Club, and Co-operative Day Camp.

United added an eighth principle, which was continuous expansion. Over the initial 50 years membership grew from 184 to 2,960 members as bakery and dairy delivery, coal, firewood and fuel oil, appliances and hardware, and a Gulf automobile gas/service station were added.

United's By-laws had an interesting clause: On the occasion of dissolution of the co-operative, which required a 3/4 majority of votes at a meeting, the assets would be used to pay the purchase value of the outstanding shares. Any surplus would go to the  Co-operative League of the United States rather than to members. 

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), founded in 1895, adapted the Rochdale Principles of Consumer Co-operation in 1937, then amended the list in 1966. A major addition was the concept of cooperation among cooperatives but without crossing lines into price-fixing or monopolizing markets. A subsequent revision in 1995 added autonomy from governments and concern for community. The ICA represents millions of co-operatives worldwide, and through that, more than one billion people who are co-operative members. Its purpose, in part, is to work with global and regional governments and organizations to create the legislative environments that allow cooperatives to form and grow.