Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Maynard News 1916

One hundred years ago the local weekly newspaper, The Maynard News, served the towns of Maynard, Hudson, South Acton, Stow and Concord Junction (West Concord). An annual subscription cost $1.50. Newsworthy items found via the Library microfilm collection:

January 21: Joseph Morello, age 30, a worker at the gunpowder mill on the Maynard/Acton border, was ambushed while walking toward Concord Junction, having left his workplace around 11:30 p.m. His body was found to the side of the road the next day. He had been stabbed about a dozen times and his throat cut from ear to ear. The motive appeared to have been a planned robbery, as shoe marks in the snow were evidence that a person had been waiting for some time. Morello was known to carry large amounts of cash on his person. No money was found on his body, but there was a loaded revolver in his coat pocket. The crime was not solved. 

February 18: The alcohol prohibition effort was still being voted on town-by-town prior to national prohibition enacted in 1920. Maynard voted itself "wet" by the slim margin of 474 to 462, after having been "dry" for 1915. In every issue of this weekly newspaper there was a 1/8 page advertisement space taken by William H. Standcumbe, of Winthrop Street, Medford, containing a different essay - always thoughtful, sometimes eloquent - against prohibition. Why, William, why?

As it turns out, Mr. Standcumbe was a member of the Cigar Makers' Union, Local 97. The cigar makers had learned through painful experience that when alehouses, bars, taverns, saloons, pool halls, pubs and public houses were banned from selling alcoholic beverages, cigar sales suffered. Standcumbe lived to see national prohibition enacted, and years later repealed.

Maynard's population at the time was 7,000 (Stow's was 1,100). Maynard's Annual Report recorded 90 deaths, 99 marriages and 209 births. There were 181 dogs, 158 horses and 180 cattle. The April 21st newspaper mentioned that the high school senior class of 26 students were making a trip to Washington, DC, the ninth class to do so.

August 4: A group of about 80 Gypsies were encamped at the north end of town. Shopkeepers complained of the women coming to town and combining shopping with shoplifting. Police pressured them to move on within 48 hours. The same group had been driven out of Fitchburg the week before. In that era visits by Gypsy caravans were not uncommon, some more welcome than others. Gypsy men were known for their skill as metalworkers, tinsmiths, woodworkers, carpenters, blacksmiths, horse traders and trainers, and in associated occupations.

August 11: About 200 non-union Polish immigrant mill workers walked out over work condition grievances and low pay. In response, the American Woolen Company stopped all work, putting 2,500 employees on the street. Representatives from the American Federation of Laborers and United Textile Workers quickly came to Maynard to explain to the Polish community the proper way to go on strike (first join a union and file a grievance). UTW already had local chapters for different types of work at the mill: English weavers, Finnish weavers, loom fixers, spinners, sewers, spoolers and burlers. Not unionized at the time were the wet finishers, dry finishers, fullers, dye house workers and unskilled day laborers.       

With the aid of local residents who could translate between Polish and English, the Polish-American workers unionized, filed their grievances through UTW, and everyone was back at work a week later. Fullers, by the way, were responsible for washing remnant grease out of woven material before it went to the dyers. Burlers were finished product inspectors who used special tools to remove loose threads and knots and other irregularities in wool cloth and carpet.

WWI: Although the 'Great War' (later renamed World War I), had started in July 1914, the United States would not enter until April 1917. Woodrow Wilson (Democrat) was campaigning for a second term as President under the slogan "He kept us out of the war." For all of 1916, the local paper had next to nothing about the war in Europe. In time, Stow and Maynard would have a combined total of 428 who served in the armed forces, with 13 fatalities.

Fifty of David Mark’s 2012-2014 columns were published in book "Hidden History of Maynard" available at The Paper Store, on-line, and as an e-book. 

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