Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Maynard: Founders' Day 2018

I will present a talk “How Maynard Became Maynard” at the Maynard Public Library, 7:00-8:00, Thursday, April 19, 2018, the date being the 147th anniversary of the founding of the town. Learn how the original petition was for a ‘Greater Maynard’ that would have taken land from Acton and Concord in addition to Stow and Sudbury.

The inaugural celebrations marking the founding of Maynard, April 19, 1871, are described in great detail in the 1921 book "A Brief History of Maynard." Drawing on newspaper accounts of the time, the first town meeting, on April 27th, just eight days after the Commonwealth had granted the petition to create the town, met for the purpose of electing key officials, and then ended early, to turn to the celebrations.

The parade included the Eagle Cornet Band, International Order of Good Templars, the Amateur Brass Band, St. Bridget Temperance and Benevolent Society, and town officials. A Revolutionary War cannon was borrowed from Concord. The Treasurer's Report recorded $13.50 spent on gunpowder.   

Aerial view drawing of the center of Maynard, made eight years after the
creation of Maynard as a separate town. Mill complex smaller and pond
larger than present-day. Both parts of the image show the mansions of
Amory Maynard and Lorenzo Maynard on the hill south of the mill.
Prior to the date, Assabet Village, as the hamlet was known, was a fast-growing mill town straddling the Assabet River, which was also the border between Sudbury and Stow. These ‘parent’ towns had been against the idea, as the proposed new town would take roughly 50 percent of their populations. Stow residents circulated three petitions which garnered about 140 signatures. Sudbury held a vote at Town Meeting, 183 against and 88 for. In disregard of this opposition (and perhaps influenced by some undocumented lobbying), the request to form a new town was granted. Some solace was achieved by Maynard making payments to the towns seceded from. 

A note here on the 'founders' of Maynard. Histories of the town list as founder the 71 men who signed a petition dated January 26, 1871. There is more history behind this history. Months earlier there had been a petition with 68 signees to create a town, name not yet selected, to encompass small parts of Acton and Concord in addition to larger portions of Sudbury and Stow. This was never submitted to the state legislature. The second petition gave up annexing the gunpowder mill land from the first two towns.

Subsequent to this official petition there were three additional supporting petitions with 76 more names. All tallied, minus six who signed more than once. the count came to 209 men who favored the creation of a new town. (Women not achieving a right to vote until 1920.)

Maynard Centennial medal shows Amory Maynard. He and
William Knight started the woolen mill in 1846.
Amory Maynard was not among the signees although he was perhaps the largest landowner and also part owner and manager of the woolen mill. His sons Lorenzo and William signed, and Lorenzo became the town's first Treasurer and Tax Collector. An account of the day, in the Hudson newspaper, had this comment on how the town came to be named: "Mr. Maynard is the chief founder of the community now incorporated in his name. He is a taking man withal, and his personal christening of the new town is a popular acknowledgement of his agency in its birth and breeding."

Milestone anniversaries have been celebrated in various ways. The 50th anniversary was a huge event. According to the program, church observances on Sunday, April 17th, school observances on Monday, and on Tuesday morning a 50-gun salute and a parade of an estimated 1,000 people down Main, Nason and Summer Streets. Speeches by Governor Cox and Senator Gibbs followed. Local veterans of the Civil War (!), Spanish-American War and the Great War participated. Afternoon activities included Glee Club and choir singing, a band concert and ball game - Maynard versus Concord - at Crowe Park.

Centennial Time Capsule
Click on photos to enlarge.
Likewise, the 100th anniversary was a huge event. Huge. Celebration was pushed to June (perhaps in hope of better weather). Ten days of celebrations included picnics, concerts and performances, capped by a parade and fireworks on July 4th.  

The 125th anniversary celebration, in 1996, appears to have been a subdued affair. The Maynard Historical Committee published a collection of essays on town history. One puzzle: there are photos of the Olympic Torch being carried through Maynard by a young runner. It turns out that the torch was in Massachusetts on June 15th to be relayed along the entire route of the Boston Marathon, and while in the state, visited many other towns, including Maynard and Stow.

Looking futureward, hold this date, as the Town of Maynard is planning several events to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary celebration. Events will start with the opening of a 1971 Time Capsule (actually, a box) currently on display in Town Hall.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Things Change (Retail Businesses)


According to one definition from the Oxford English Dictionary, history is “A continuous, typically chronological, record of important or public events or of a particular trend or institution.” In a less formal tone, “You’re history” conveys the sense that a person no longer factors into current or future events. Back in high school, I remember the history we were taught as not getting past World War II. It was as if any subsequent events had not been sorted, sifted, interpreted into what was the ‘right’ history worthy of teaching.

Personally, I think history is everything up to this morning’s cup of coffee. This column is about retail businesses that have come and gone since I moved here in 2000. Because every business launched and sunk was someone’s vision of being part of Maynard’s history. And part of recording that history has become my effort to take a photograph of every business sign.

This is not about long-lived establishments that chose to close since 2000. Not about the Episcopalian, Methodist or Congregational churches, which closed their doors in 2006, 2014 and 2017 respectively, after 111, 119 and 164 years (respectively) of providing places of worship. Not about Gruber Bros. Furniture, which was with us for almost 100 years. Not about the older drinking and eating establishments that folder their doors: Amory’s, Paul’s Bakery, Sit ‘N Bull, Stretch’s Tavern and Oriental Delight – all of which made it to this century only to depart soon thereafter. Not retailers Aubuchon’s Hardware, Bikeworx, Gramps’ Garage, Masciarelli’s Jewelers and Samuel’s Studio. Not organizations such as American Legion, Knights of Columbus and the Masons having given up their buildings. All predating 2000. All gone now.

No, this is about businesses that started and ended between 2000 and 2018, some with us for a handful of years, some less. If this litany learns us anything, it is that being a retail business is hard. Fraught with failure. Naming just food and drink establishments: 51 Main Street, Café La Mattina, Cast Iron Kitchen, Christopher’s, Fast and Little, Halfway Café (reimagined as The Brook), Johnny Ray’s Ultimate, JoJo’s West, Malcolm’s Steakhouse, Morey’s Tavern, Neighborhood Brick Oven Pizza, Peyton’s RiversEdge, On A Roll (the hot dog joint), River Rock Grill, Quarterdeck Restaurant and Savoring Indian Cuisine. (And yes, this list is missing a few names – the Brazilian restaurant, the Brazilian bakery, the ice cream shop.) Restauranting is tough. Nationally, research shows that 45 percent of restaurants fail within the first three years.

Other short-timers: BitSlinger Systems, Bon Marche, Dunia, India Palace, The Meeting Place, Ochre Blue Gallery, Paint ‘n Pour,  Porfino’s Barbarshop, The Smart Room, This & That Consignment and Whole Health dietary supplements. (And yes, this list is missing names of businesses I neglected to photograph and fail to remember.)

In Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner wrote “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” The book itself is convoluted Southern Gothic, emblematic of Faulkner although not at his best, but the line lives an independent life. During the primaries leading up to the 2008 presidential election, then-Senator Barack Obama gave a speech “A More Perfect Union.” His theme was how the long tail of racial injustice in the United States colors present thinking and behavior. His not-quite-Faulkner version, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” captured the complexity of 2008, present now more than ever. See #BlackLivesMatter. See #MeToo.

This one set a record, for having
a sign, but never actually opening
as a business. 
Locally, the retail start-up/fail process will continue. Only the future will determine whether that is the usual churn or part of a morphing (gentrifying?) Maynard that will simultaneously remember and forget its past. Restaurants will open in the same spaces as past restaurants, mostly because the buildings are already zoned to be restaurants. Storefronts will open every time a person thinks 1,000 square feet and an idea equals a business plan. Selling stuff or selling services, the comparatively low rents of Maynard compared to, say, Concord, made it an attractive place to attempt to start a business. Some of these will make no sense for Maynard. Some of these will make no sense at all.

Mark’s daughter has just launched a I-don’t-need-a-store business in Los Angeles. She is making miniatures of the climbing holds used in rock climbing gyms, as refrigerator magnets. See www.tinyclimbers.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

William Maynard (1833-1906)

Past columns have portrayed Lorenzo - the ambitious oldest son of Amory and Mary Maynard, and also featured the diary of Harlan – the youngest son, who died as a teenager. What of William, the middle son? William was born in Marlborough, MA, sixth generation born in America. The family relocated to Assabet Village when he was 12. His great-grandfather had served briefly in the Continental Army, in 1775, qualifying William and descendants as Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution (organizations created 1889 and 1890, respectively). 

William married Mary Adams, literally the girl next door, in 1853. They had seven children and were married for 53 years before William died. Mary outlived him by 14 years. The two of them, three of their children and one grandchild are buried in a family plot in Hope Cemetery, Worcester.

Mary (Adams) Maynard (age unknown)
Maynard Historical Society
The seven children: Mary Susan, Amory (oft referred to as Amory II, which was confusing given that he was Amory’s grandson, not son), Jeanette, Lessie, Harlan, Grace and George (twins, born when their mother was 42). Jeanette, Grace and George are the three who are buried at the family plot in Worcester, along with Jenette’s son.

William Maynard (age unknown)
Maynard Historical Society
William did not follow in his father’s footsteps as closely as Lorenzo. Throughout much of the 1860s, family letters to and from William find him living in Boston and working for at least some of that time for the Fitchburg Railroad. A letter from Charles L. Heywood, Superintendent, stated that his salary for 1868 would be $1500. This when a laborer's average daily wage was $2. Back in Assabet Village (not Town of Maynard until 1871), Amory built a house and Lorenzo did the same next door. The buildings still exist as 145 and 147 Main Street. In 1873 Amory built a mansion on the hill south of the mill, ditto Lorenzo, soon after. By then, William was back in Maynard, married and with seven children, living in a house owned by his parents.   

An important part of William’s life – a mystery on the face of it – is that in either in 1884 or 1885, age ~52, he and most of his family moved across the country from Maynard to Pasadena, California. At the time his oldest two children were married and stayed in Maynard, but the younger five went. Why Pasadena?!? One historical account mentions that William’s poor health forced his to resign in 1883 from his position as Assistant Supervisor, under his brother and father at the woolen mill. A good guess is William had tuberculosis. In that pre-antibiotics era, people with tuberculosis (“consumption”), were advised to move to places that had warm, dry climates. Pasadena back then a fast-growing town (1880 population 391; 1890 population 4,882) as it became nationally renowned for sanatoriums for sufferers from tuberculosis and lesser respiratory ailments. By the time William decided to travel west it was possible to make the 9-10 day transcontinental trip entirely by railroad.

William Maynard (age unknown)
Maynard Historical Society
Within a couple of years William was healthy enough to leave Pasadena, first for Los Angeles (a phone directory lists his profession as “capitalist”), and then returning eastward, but to Worcester. There is a sense that he was supported by his father. That status soon changed. Amory Maynard died in 1890 without leaving a will. The estate most likely ended up being divided equally between Lorenzo and William. There is no record of the valuation of Amory’s estate, but upon William’ death in 1906 his will, filed for probate, describes a valuation of about $220,000. In inflation-adjusted dollars, a touch under $6,000,000. Interestingly, his will names his wife and six of their seven children as heirs, excluding Amory, his oldest son.  

William and Mary have living descendants. Daughter Lessie Louise married Paul Beagary Morgan, of Worcester, in 1893 and they had five children. Son Harlan married Florence Smith in 1899 and they had six children. The generations alive today are the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of Lessie or Harlan. On occasion, a Maynard family descendant visits the town to have a family member’s cremation remains interred in the family crypt at Glenwood Cemetery. 

NOT IN NEWSPAPER COLUMN

December 1906: “The will of William Maynard, late of Worcester, Mass, filed for probate disposes of an estate of several hundred thousand dollars. To his wife are given the furnishings in the Elm Street homestead and $50,000 to be her own absolute property.  To the executors is given $150,000 in trust to pay the income during Mrs. Maynard’s life during her life and at her death to pay the principal in equal shares to six of his children. After this bequest, the residue goes to the children of the testator, Mary S. Peters, Jeanette Van Etten, Lessie L. Morgan, Harlan J. Maynard, Grace E. Maynard and George E. Maynard, to share alike.” Excludes oldest son, Amory Maynard. Assuming a total net worth of approximately $220,000 in 1906 dollars, inflation adjusted to ~ $5.7 million in 2018 dollars.

March 1925: William H.K. Maynard, son of Lorenzo Maynard, and therefore nephew of William Maynard, died January 4, 1925, age 73 years. He had no close family, having no children, and his wife and four sisters having pre-deceased him. HK's estate was valued at between $700,000 and $1,000,000 ($10-14 million in 2018 dollars). HK's will left half to his sister-in-law and half to 23 charities. His cousins (William's children and grandchildren), who would have inherited in the absence of a will, sued to have the will overturned, arguing that HK was not of sound mind, and had been unduly influenced by his wife (who had died in 1919). The judge hearing the petition declined to allow the case to go to a jury trial. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Amory Maynard Ancestors

In addition to Amory Maynard, for whom the Town of Maynard was named for, in 1871, there were many other descendants of the John Maynard (1598-1672) who brought his son John Maynard (1630-1711) to the Massachusetts Bay Colony circa 1638.

0. John MAYNARD (1575-1603) born England, died England
Married Elizabeth Ashton (1579-1603)
    CHILDREN
John MAYNARD (1598-1672)  if years are correct, five years old when parents died

1. John MAYNARD (1598-1672) born England, died Sudbury         
Married Elizabeth _______ (1602-1633) m. 1627
Married Mary (Rice) Axtell (1619-1680) ~1646. Her first husband Thomas Axtell
    CHILDREN BY ELIZABETH
John MAYNARD (1630-1711)
    CHILDREN BY MARY (who also had three children from her first marriage)
Zachariah MAYNARD (1647-1723) m. (1) Hannah m. (2) Hannah
Elizabeth MAYNARD (1649-1676) m. Joseph Graves
Lydia MAYNARD (1651?-1717) m. Joseph Moore  poss Lydia was born 1644 to Mary
Mary MAYNARD (1656-1677) m. Daniel Hudson

2. John MAYNARD (1630-1711) born England, died Marlborough
Married Mary Gates (1636-1678) in 1658 in Sudbury
Married Sarah Blandford/Keyes (1643-1724) in 1679 in Sudbury. Her first husband Elias Keyes
    CHILDREN BY MARY
Mary MAYNARD (1659-1689) m. Isaac Woods 1683
John MAYNARD (1661-1731) m. Lydia Ward
Hannah MAYNARD (1662-1729) m. Jonathan Davenport – descendants include President Bush
Elizabeth MAYNARD (1664-1733) m. Nathan Brigham
Simon MAYNARD (1666-1748)
Zachariah MAYNARD (1668-1672)
David MAYNARD (1669-1757)
Zachariah MAYNARD (1672-1738)
    CHILDREN BY SARAH
Sarah MAYNARD (1680-1757) m. Joseph Johnson
Lydia MAYNARD (1682-????) m. Thomas Haggate
Joseph MAYNARD (1685-1721) m. Elizabeth Price

3. Simon MAYNARD (1666-1747) born Marlborough, died Marlborough
Married Hannah Newton
    CHILDREN
Hannah MAYNARD (1694-????) m. Joseph CROSBY
Sgt. Simon MAYNARD (1695-1786) m. Sarah CHURCH
Elizabeth MAYNARD (1698-1766) m. Robert HORN
Tabitha MAYNARD (1700-1724)
Elisha MAYNARD (1703-1760) m. Huldah BANNISTER
Eunice MAYNARD (1705-1730) m. Nathaniel FALKNER
Ephraim MAYNARD (1707-1797) m. (1) Sarah LIVERMORE; m. (2) Mary BALCUM
Benjamin MAYNARD (1709-1711)
Zerviah MAYNARD, (1710-????)
Catherine MAYNARD (1714-1729)

4. Ephraim MAYNARD (1707-1797) born Marlborough.
Married (1) Sarah LIVERMORE, (2) Mary BALCUM
    CHILDREN BY SARAH
Tabitha MAYNARD (1738-1742)
Ephraim MAYNARD (1740-1742)
    CHILDREN BY MARY
Sarah MAYNARD (1743-????)
Ephraim MAYNARD (1745-1826) m. Eunice JEWEL
Simon MAYNARD (1748-1818) m. Silence PRIEST
Joseph MAYNARD (1750-1785) m. Lovina BARNES
Benjamin MAYNARD (1753-1801) m. Silence WILLIS
Eunice MAYNARD, baptized. 13 Mar 1756 presumed died shortly after
Eunice MAYNARD (1757-1835) m. Abel WILLIS

5. Simon MAYNARD (1748-1818) born Marlborough
Married Silence PRIEST
Simon appears to have served in the colonial army April 19, 1775 to May 4, 1775, which qualifies his descendants as Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. His unit may have been active on April 19, 1775 (the Lexington/Concord battle).
    CHILDREN
Isaac MAYNARD (1779-????) m. Lydia HOWE
Hannah MAYNARD (1782-????) m. (1) Peace PETERS; m. (2) Stephen HOWE Jr.
John Priest MAYNARD (1791-1818) m. Betsey WEEKS

6. Isaac MAYNARD (1779-1820)
Married Lydia HOWE 1803
    CHILDREN
Amory MAYNARD (1804-1890) m. Mary PRIEST
Lydia MAYNARD (1805-????) m. Joel Wilkins in 1822

7. Amory MAYNARD (1804-1890) born Marlborough, died Maynard
Married Mary PRIEST (1805-1886)
   CHILDREN
      Lorenzo MAYNARD (1829-1904)
      William MAYNARD (1833-1906)
      Harlan MAYNARD (1843-1861)

Amory Maynard
Mary (Priest) Maynard
Amory was 16 when his father died. He took over operation of the family mill, and in time went into the construction business. He built a woolen mill in Framingham for William Knight. After the two men sold their water rights to the city of Boston, they formed a partnership and started a mill in Assabet Village, in 1846. The village became Town of Maynard April 19, 1871. Amory died 1890; at that time his oldest son, Lorenzo, was Agent of the mill (equivalent to today's Chief Operating Officer). The mill became bankrupt in 1898, purchased by American Woolen Company, and restarted 1899.




Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Winter 2017-18: Average/Not Average

Note: This was sent in before the 3/12-14 storm. Revised in italics to March 18th data. Will revise again after the 3/21-22 storm. 

How normal/abnormal was the winter of 2017-2018?

This winter’s precipitation had been in the normal range - until March. Unlike regions of the country that have wet and dry seasons, eastern Massachusetts averages approximately four inches of precipitation every month of the year. As of March 4, i.e., between the first and second nor’easters, precipitation had been one inch over average for the last 30 days and two inches above the average for the last 12 months. [As of March 18, 2.3" higher than average for last 30 days and 3.7" higher for 12 months.] Of course, the Assabet River fluctuates greatly in depth between winter and summer, but that is because in the green months, plants are taking up huge quantities of water and releasing that into the air, whereas in winter most it either sinks into the earth to replenish our town’s water supply or else runs off to the river. The Assabet has been well above average since New Year’s Day.   

Creek near Assabet River, 1/1/18
Photo taken from footbridge
Same creek, 48 hours later
Click on photos to enlarge
Temperatures were all over the place. From December 26 to the morning of January 11 the temperature never got above freezing, and several nights got to -10F. Even the fast-running parts of the Assabet River were nearly frozen over. Then, two days of temperatures in the 60s combined with steady rain almost completely obliterated the snow cover. February temperatures were mostly in the normal range of below freezing at night, warming to above freezing by day, but on February 20 and 21, spiked to record setting highs above 70F. Whatever snow and ice cover that remained was again wiped out. Tough year on local ski slope businesses. The first nor’easter of March came in like a lion, the second one (March 7-8) was more of a snow leopard. The wet snow of the latter broke branches on trees that had survived the high winds of the former. And ANOTHER wet snow storm March 12-14! And 10F the morning of March 18!!.

Theoretically, there will be some benefits from those ultra-cold January nights. Adult deer ticks can survive a moderately cold winter, to plague us in early spring. But if the deep cold killed them all off, then woods walkers have little to fear until the over wintering eggs hatch and tick nymphs become active, in May. Likewise, the cold may have killed a majority of the wooly adelgids that plague hemlock trees, providing a year’s respite (but no permanent salvation from eventual tree death). For hemlock tree owners the only options are insecticide spraying – or a chain saw.    

Chart shows average monthly precipitation, in inches, using Boston data
(raindrops and snowflakes). The swooping line is river volume. Figure
created by Felice Katz for book: MAYNARD: History and Life Outdoors. 
Total snowfall had been a tad above average. Winters put about 45 inches of snow on Boston and 65 inches of snow on Worcester. It’s a fare guess that Stow and Maynard are in between. Counting the March 7-8 storm Boston’s winter total was 41 inches. [The March 12-14 storm brought the Boston winter total to 57.2 inches]. The last two big years for Boston were 2010-11 with 81 inches and 2014-15 with a record-setting 110 inches of snow. Between the two, 2011-12 was a low snow year, at 9.3 inches.

The long-term trend is that winters have been getting shorter, but snowier. Of the ten snowiest winters since record-keeping began in 1890, six have been in the last twenty-five years. The reason is that eastern Massachusetts has been getting wetter (up 10 percent) faster than warmer (up one degree F). But at some point in the future that upward snow trend will collapse, because once nor’easters are above freezing temperatures those storms will be heavy rain events rather than snow events. Portland, Maine has already experienced a crossover. Weather records dating back to 1870 show a bit warmer, much wetter, less snow.

March 8, 2018 "Nice hat"
Of course, winter is not over until it’s over. April 1, 1997 was the infamous April Fool’s nor’easter that put two feet of snow on Boston and nearly three feet on Worcester. Two days earlier had been sunny and in the 60’s, so people were unprepared for the idea of a pending storm. The storm started as rain, but as evening fell the air temperature dropped a couple of degrees more than expected and snow was suddenly coming down at 2-3 inches per hour. Across mid-Atlantic and New England states, more than one million people lost power. Twenty years earlier there was a snowstorm on May 9, 1977. Not as widespread as 1997 (Boston got less than an inch), but suburbs west and northwest of Route 128 got more than a foot of wet snow. Because trees had already leafed out, the damage was tremendous. 

Observe that we are looking at pretty much twenty year intervals. So maybe these March storms were pre-ordained.    

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Boston Post Cane (award winner)

Gatehouse Media, the parent company of The Beacon-Villager and many neighboring newspapers, had submitted two of my columns to the New England Newspaper and Press Association annual convention for consideration for an award in the category Serious Columnists (sub-category weekly newspapers). I received third prize. This is a reprint of one of the columns.   

The Boston Post was a popular and influential newspaper some 100+ years ago.  In 1909, Edwin Grozier, the publisher, decided to promote the newspaper by donating ebony, gold-capped canes to the Boards of Selectmen of 700 towns in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  Engraved on the top of the gold head of each cane were the words "Presented by The Boston Post to the OLDEST CITIZEN of __________ [name of town and state]..."

The idea was that the towns would award these BOSTON POST CANES to the oldest male citizen for the remainder of his life, to be returned to the town upon his death, to be awarded to the next oldest, and so on.

Town of Maynard, Boston Post Cane
Courtesy Maynard Historical Society
(click on photo to enlarge)
The canes were made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York City silversmith and cane maker. Joseph F. Fradley (1843-1914) began a silversmith business in 1866. His business had an excellent reputation. J.F. Fradley items appear for sale in fine arts and crafts auctions. The business was managed by his son, George F. Fradley, at the time the canes were made. Although many of the newspaper articles about recipients of Boston Post Canes describe the cane heads as 14 karat gold, some of the internet photos show wear to reveal non-gold metal underneath, confirming that the cane heads were gold-plated rather than all gold. This makes sense. Gold, rather than gold plated, would have made the canes prohibitively expensive, even back in 1909.  

Women achieved the right to vote in 1920, but it took ten more years before The Boston Post approved a changing of the rules to allow women to be awardees.  

The Boston Post went out of business in 1956, but the Boston Post Cane tradition continues in many towns. As years went by some of the canes were misplaced, stolen, sold, lost or destroyed. Some went missing for years, decades even, only to surface again. In time, most towns decided to keep the original cane in a town office or at the local historical society, and either discontinue the practice entirely or else award a plaque to the oldest resident in lieu of the cane. 

Maynard's Boston Post Cane is on permanent display at the town building. It had gone missing around 1928, not recovered until 1981. In 1999 the Maynard Historical Society decided to revive the tradition of honoring Maynard’s oldest citizen by presenting him or her with a plaque from the Maynard Board of Selectmen. The most recent five: Elizabeth Dodd, Dorothy Barlow, Arlene Cook, Mildred F. Duggan, and currently Ben Sofka. Ben, a life-long Maynard resident, received his plaque in February 2017, shortly after he reached the age of 100 years.

Ben Sofka died March 10, 2018. He was 101. The search is on for the next recipient of Maynard's Boston Post Cane.

Stow's Boston Post Cane is kept in the Town Vault in the Town Hall building, along with other historically important artifacts. Recipients are presented with a Boston Post Cane lapel pin. The cane had gone missing 1951 to 1971. Actually, it was in the Vault all the time, but misplaced. Since 1971 there have been 12 recipients. The most recent was Dr. Donald Freeman Brown - awarded the cane when he reached 99 years. He passed away in 2014, age 105. After his death the cane passed to Alma (Colson) Boyton. She died in 2016, age 103. The honor and lapel pin have not yet been awarded to a newest oldest resident.

Boston Post Cane, side view
The Boston Post Cane Information Center [http://web.maynard.ma.us/bostonpostcane/], maintained by the Maynard Historical Society has become a clearinghouse for all things BPC. The starting point was a 1985 article written by Maynard historian Ralph Sheridan. After his death in 1996, David Griffin took up the traces, and still gathers news of canes lost, found and awarded.

A few facts plucked from the website: As of last count, 517 towns continue or have resumed honoring their oldest citizens. Most have the original canes gifted them in 1909, but some are using brass-capped mahogany replicas purchased from the Town of Peterborough, NH. Some towns stipulate that to qualify, a person must be a current resident and living in the town the past 10 or 15 years. Watertown's cane went missing in 1910, and did not return until 99 years later. At the time Mary Josephine Ray of Westmorland, NH, passed away, age 114.8, she was not only the oldest ever holder of a Boston Post Cane, but also the oldest person in the United States.

Stow's and Maynard's neighbors do and do not continue the Boston Post Cane tradition. Hudson, Harvard and Sudbury awards plaques to their most senior citizens. Acton is considering restarting the same practice. Bolton and Boxborough apparently do not participate, either because these towns had too small a population to get a cane back in 1909, or because the original canes went astray. Starting in 1962, Concord decided to change to an annual Honored Citizen Celebration. The awardee is steward of the Boston Post Cane for a year and leads the Patriots' Day Parade.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wildlife Acoustics

Ninth in a series of articles about the history of the mill and its past and current tenants.

Employees of Wildlife Acoustics, Maynard, MA. Taken 2016.
Ian Arganat, founder and president, front row center, in sports jacket.
Images courtesy of Wildlife Acoustics, Inc.
“Seeing is believing.” Hearing is believing, too, if you know what you are hearing. Wildlife Acoustics, Inc., a company that was started in 2003, relocated from Concord to Maynard in 2013, and is an expert provider of devices that allow us to detect all sorts of animal noises and know exactly what we are listening to.

Wildlife has 16 employees working in Maynard. They are responsible for management, R&D, marketing, sales, etc. Basically, everything but manufacturing, which takes place in Westford. Aside from bits of the internal electronics, this is a 100% U.S. company. Occasionally there is even a bit of field testing in and around Maynard and Stow. Plus, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which includes the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, is a customer.

When asked how all this got started, Ian Agranat, founder and president, replied that by 2002 he had completed his sale of and responsibilities for Arganat Systems, a software company located in Maynard, and was at loose ends. He was out on a hike with his brother-in-law, an avid outdoorsman and birder, who casually wondered “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a device that could identify a bird by its song?” 

A million dollars or so later, Ian had a device that worked – sort of – but was far too expensive for bird-watching hobbyists. What he did have, however, was a device that was almost good enough to meet the professional research needs of environmental consulting firms, governments and academic researchers. A bit more R&D, and voila!      

Wildlife Acoustics Song Meter SM4BAT for recording sounds
made by bats. Click on photos to enlarge.
For professional bioacoustics research scientists, Wildlife Acoustics has a selection of devices to record and interpret animal noises in the air, on land and under water. Its products are used to study animals ranging from bats to whales. More than ten years of research has gone into the hardware (sound sensors and recorders) and software (pattern recognition and noise filtering) needed to detect and decipher animal noises. 

The product family includes Song Meter, which works for land animals and birds, a variation engineered for the much higher pitch needed for detecting bat sounds, and submersible versions for fresh and saltwater listening. The Song Meter could be used to determine if spring peeper frogs gather at Maynard and Stow vernal ponds. Recently, the company launched Echo Meter Touch – a device and accompanying software that can make smartphones and smartpads into bat sound detecting systems that in the recent past would have cost thousands of dollars.   

Echo Meter Touch mounted
on a smartphone makes the phone
a bat recording device.
One year ago, Wildlife Acoustics launched Song Sleuth, a $9.99 iPhone app that has become its most widely used software product. Think of it as the acoustic parallel to binoculars. The program was developed in a collaboration with David Sibley, a renowned bird expert. When birdsong is heard, the app records the song. Names and images of the three most likely bird species appear on the screen. Information and images from The David Sibley Bird Reference allows the user to identify the correct bird. The software then allows the user to geotag the location and share the recording with other birders via messaging or email. At present, the program can identify 200 of the most common vocalizing land birds in the U.S. Song Sleuth should be available on Android phones later this year.

Wildlife Acoustics logo
All this begs the question – what do animals hear that we don’t, and vice versa? Hearing is about pitch, in frequency measurement units called hertz (Hz). Humans can hear in the 20 to 20 Hz range, but hear best between 100 and 5,000 Hz. Dogs hear up to 40 kHz (kilohertz), which is why a dog whistle is inaudible to us. Cats up to around 75 kHz, which allows them to hear communications of small rodents such as mice. Bats cannot hear anything in our range, but can hear up to 100 kHz and higher. If bat calls are slowed down to 1/10th speed the sounds are in our range. Elephants can communicate with sounds at frequencies below what humans can consciously hear. However, these low-frequency sounds, felt more than heard, make us feel uneasy and “spooked.” Directors of horror movies have been known to incorporate these as sound effects.  

What humans hear listening to humans has some interesting quirks. Although people can consciously speak above or below their natural pitch, female voices naturally fall into a 165 to 255 Hz range and male voices 85 to 160 Hz. Research suggests that women are more sexually attracted by low pitch male voices (Barry White, anyone?), while men find women with higher pitched voices sexy (maybe not as far as the baby talk range). Male low pitch tends correlate with both larger body size and more testosterone. Women high pitch tends to correlate with younger age, and perhaps better fertility. Volume counts, too. Dialing down the decibels and getting a bit breathy causes the listener to lean in to hear, which works for both sides. Let’s talk about this.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lichen ('li-ken' or 'le-chen'?)

Lichen. In American English, pronounced “li-ken” (like “liken”). In British English, “le-chen” (like “kitchen”). Either way, the word refers to a symbiotic collective of either algae or cyanobacteria in conjunction with fungi, slowly growing on trees or rocks. Some may have leaf-like lobes while others are flat, thin, and so deeply embedded into the rock that they look more like two-dimensional circles of green/gray paint rather than any live thing. The alga or bacteria use sunlight to make nutrients for the fungus, primarily sugar, while the fungus provides minerals, shelter from the elements, and retains water captured from the environment. Even when growing on living matter, such as tree bark, lichen are not parasitically taking nutrients from the host.

Lichen growing on stones set in a stone wall.
Lichens are complex. The novel idea that what appears to be one living thing is actually a combined effort dates to microscope observations by a Swiss botanist named Simon Schwendener. He proposed this theory in 1867. Leading lichenologists (great word!) of the time were dismissive. In time, the idea became accepted science as did the name for what was going on – symbiosis. And yet there was a problem. Try as they might, scientists could separate the algae or cyanobacteria from the fungi and grow each separately, but when remixed, the result did not grow as lichen.

Only recently, and only with the help of DNA analysis, did Toby Spribille discover that two fungi species, not one, were needed to create the complex structure of lichen. Fungi of the division Ascomycetes were the known part of the partnership. What his research showed was that trace amounts of Basidiomycetes fungi were equally essential, integrated into the outer surface of the colonies. This begs the question of whether every lichen we see is the successful result of a three-way blind date, or is there a physical means of creating new colonies by all three being relocated together. Looks like the latter.

Lichens get around. Volcanic activity about 20 miles from Iceland’s south coast ended up creating an island – Surtsey – in 1967. Scientists observed biocolonization over the years. Moss and lichen were observed within a few years. Over time, birds nesting on the island transported seeds caught in their feathers and in their feces, which also added to create fertile soil (as did their carcasses when they died), but lichens and mosses still dominate much of the island to this day.   

Lichen growing on a headstone in Lower Village Cemetery, Stow, MA
Lichens are slow-growing. The crustose types (flat, on rocks) may grow less than one millimeter a year from the edges outward, so that a colony a few inches across can be decades old. Lichenometry is the science of dating when stones arrived at a location, either a landslide, or fast-moving flood, or a stone wall. Confirmation of this as a useful dating device stemmed from knowing exactly when stones presented a surface to the air, as in stone split or cut for tombstones. With that as a benchmark, dating could be determined for archeological items too recent for radio-carbon dating. For human-made structures of wood and stone, tree-ring dating for the wood and lichen growth for the stone help confirm each other as accurate yardsticks.

Glacial erratic (boulder left behind by last ice age) showing more
 than one type of lichen, some bumping into their neighbors.
While moss prefers the north side of trees (sort of), lichen is not as particular. Moss is all about moisture, so in regions with dry times of year, the north side, not subjected to direct sunlight, stays damp longer after rains or morning dew. Lichen, with its slower growing pace, is more likely to end up anywhere on a tree trunk or on rocks on the ground.

Locally, just about any walk in the woods, or for that matter, in one’s own backyard, will yield many sightings of various types of lichen. In retrospect, actions on these woodland boulders and stone walls are ferocious territorial wars, fought small, slow and in silence. Lichen versus moss. Lichen versus lichen. At times, deus et machina a gigantic snail or slug speeds over the battlefield, rasping away at everything in its path. Interestingly, these terrestrial gastropod mollusks have a somewhat inefficient digestive system, so as they move along, defecating as they go, they leave behind the beginnings of new lichen colonies, perhaps boldly growing where no lichen has grown before (cue Star Trek theme music).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Irving Burg: Mill Manager 1953-74

Eighth in a series of articles about the history of the mill and its past and current tenants.

The American Woolen Company had a last burst of busy-ness at the mill during the first years of the Korean War, but those contracts ended in late 1950, and that was the end of wool for Maynard. A group of local business people tried to arrange financing to buy the property in 1950, but that failed. Not until July 1953 did a group from Worcester calling itself Maynard Industries Incorporated (MII) close a deal.

What they bought was 1.2 million square feet of brick and wooden buildings, and more: the land included the mill pond, the Ben Smith Dam, Lake Boon and part of the Fort Meadow Reservoir. The purchase price of $200,000 equates to $1.9 million in today’s dollars. A few years later Lake Boon was relinquished to the Town of Stow in lieu of unpaid property taxes.

Irving Burg was hired to be the facilities manager six months after the purchase. His credentials were a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II, and several years managing a textile plant. Which was exactly the business Maynard’s mill would never be in again. Burg thrived. His job was to keep the place running and rent out all the space. By April 1954 the mill was 50% rented, by November, 70%, and so on. Despite desperately necessary facility improvements, the operation was profitable by the third year and every year thereafter until Digital Equipment Corporation, a tenant starting in 1957, bought the entire complex (including pond, canal and dam) in July 1974. Burg’s history of the mill complex, written in 1982, mentions that in his 21 years as manager the mill had 82 companies as tenants.  

Aerial view of Maynard's mill, circa 1930s. In spring, but the pond is still
partially covered by ice. Note twin chimneys, one light in color. Also note
no parking lot on the left, next to Main Street, or on the right, by Bldg. No. 5. 
Berg’s recollections returned again and again to parking problems. One has to realize that during the decades as a woolen mill, employees walked to work. A circa 1930s aerial view shows no parking lots whatsoever. Dennison Manufacturing – in the gift wrap paper business – finally insisted on a dedicated lot, so fill was added next to Main Street, making space for 100 cars. Years later, more parking needed, so one of the two chimneys was demolished and the bricks added to the fill. This widened the parking lot that now hosts the Farmers’ Market. Digital, needing parking for Building No. 5, accomplished this by filling in more of the pond on the south side.

Speaking of Digital, only because of a timely bankruptcy of a small company named Maynard Mill Outlet did space open up when Ken Olsen and Harland Andersen came calling. After a few visits they committed to a three year lease for 8,680 square feet at $300/month. They and Ken’s brother, Stan – 100% of Digital’s employees – spent weekends painting the space themselves, then filled it with furniture bought from Gruber Brothers on credit. Digital’s early operations stayed close to the bone. Heating buildings on weekends cost extra. Raytheon shared one building with Digital. If Raytheon wanted heat, Digital got heat. Raytheon would call noon on Friday to specify which buildings it wanted heated. Ken Olsen would call at 1:00 to see if he was going to get his part of the building heated for free.

Similar view, one chimney, with parking lots. Courtesy Maynard
Historical Society. Click on photos to enlarge.
One more parking story. Into the 60s, space was so tight that people were allowed to park in the millyard, including on the railroad tracks. For the infrequent arrivals of a freight train on the spur that ran into the mill, all cars had to be moved. Burg had everyone’s phone number, and he and his secretary would hastily get on the phones. Whenever the call came, Ken Olsen would step out of his President’s office to move his car.
   
Burg retired in January 1989. His career, first at MMI, and then for Digital, spanned 35 years. Although at the time of his retirement he was working for Digital in Colorado, he was flown to Massachusetts for an exit interview with Ken Olsen. It’s a good guess that they reminisced about when back in 1957, Olsen had showed up to rent a smidgen of space in the mill. Burg passed away in October 2008. His collection of newspaper articles and his history of the in-between years (in the collection of the Maynard Historical Society) are essential to any understanding of the history of Maynard’s mill complex.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Powell Flutes (part of Buffet Crampon)

Seventh in a multi-part series AT THE MILL.

An inverted triangle logo and "Powell Flutes" grace the end of the Mill & Main building No. 1, adjacent to the parking lot next to Main Street. The triangle displays the stylized letters V Q P for Verne Q. Powell, the founder of the company.

Powell was a jeweler/engraver living in Fort Scott, Kansas. He came from a musical family and played piccolo and flute (wooden) in the town band. During a visit to Chicago he heard a European flutist performing on a silver flute. He was so impressed with the quality of the sound that he decided to craft a silver flute. As the story goes, he melted silver coins, watch cases and teaspoons to create the first silver flute made in America, in 1910. The keys were inlaid with gold from gold coins. The instrument became known as "The Spoon Flute," and is still in the family's possession to this day.

Verne Q. Powell (date unknown)
The flute impressed William S. Haynes, one of several wind instrument makers based in Boston. Haynes hired Powell as foreman, where he worked for over ten years before setting out on his own, in 1927. Powell's shop was on Huntington Avenue, near the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston Symphony Hall. From the beginning Powell flutes and piccolos were renowned as top-quality professional instruments. Still, the business grew slowly. It took 25 years to reach flute #1,000. Powell sold the company to a group of employees in 1961. The company moved to Arlington in 1970, to Waltham in 1989, and then to Maynard in 1999.

Buffet Crampon, a France-based winds and brass instruments company with roots dating back to 1825, bought Powell Flutes in 2016. Starting with a long history in clarinets and saxophones, the company now presents ten brand names, with showrooms in major cities in eastern Asia, Europe and North America. Prior to this acquisition, Buffet Crampon had student-level flutes, but with the acquisition gained top level expertise and reputation.

Locally, the company employs about 50 people and is adding staff, as Powell Flutes will continue as the high quality flute manufacturing division of the parent company. Mark Spuria, General Manager at Verne Q. Powell Flutes, mentioned that “Powell employs many flutists and other musicians who perform with many local groups,” although he was not aware of anyone playing in the Maynard Band. The company is considering outreach to the schools.

Engraved gold flute. Photo courtesy of Powell Flutes. Click photos to enlarge.
The William S. Haynes Company from which Verne Q. Powell had left to start his own company still exists, now located in Acton. The Brannen brothers left Powell in 1977 to make flutes on their own, and are currently in Woburn. Lillian Burkart and Jim Phelan met while working at Powell, married, and later launched Burkart Flutes & Piccolos, currently in Shirley. David Williams was at Powell, put in a stint at Brannen Brothers, and in 1990 launched as Williams Flutes, in Arlington. Lev Levit followed the same Powell-to-Brannen path before starting Levit Flute Company in Natick. Kanichi Nagahara started in flutes in Japan, then put in a few years at two Boston area flute companies before starting Nagahara Flutes, now in Chelmsford. Eastern Massachusetts is definitely a nexus of flute manufacturing!

Flutes can be expensive. Student quality flutes are available for several hundred dollars, but professional level flutes are made of silver, gold or platinum, and can range from several thousand dollars to as much as $50,000 for 18K gold. The most ever paid for a flute was at a 1986 auction at Christie’s, New York, where spirited bidding between two parties took the price to $187,000. The losing bidder was a banker who supposedly wanted the flute for his 12-year old daughter. The flute, a 1939 creation in platinum and silver from Powell Flutes was on loan to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art before it returned to Christie’s for auction again, in 2009. Anti-climactically, it was knocked down for only $37,500. The new owner was not mentioned by name, and it is unknown whether the flute has changed hands since. It is currently on loan to Brandon Patrick George, a well-known soloist and chamber music performer who also owns a custom-made, 14K rose gold, Powell flute.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Stratus Technologies, Inc., Maynard, MA

Sixth in a multi-part series AT THE MILL.

On June 23, 1999, Stratus Computer held a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” event to recognize its recent move into the old Digital/DEC headquarters at 111 Powdermill Road. “Welcome Neighbors” might have been more appropriate, as the invite was so local businesses (restaurants, auto shops, etc.) could introduce themselves to the newest large company to move into space vacated by DEC’s demise.

Status Tecnologies sign at entrance from Summer Street
From its inception, the business Stratus has been in is never crash computer systems, known more formally as fault tolerant computing. Robust systems are in strong demand by customers such as banks, emergency fire, police and medical responders, hospitals, phone companies, Internet providers and so on. Stratus began with its own server technology, back in 1980, but over the decades has added software systems that provide the same protection against loss of service while running on other companies’ servers. Looking to the future, Stratus is bringing the same robust, failsafe approach to data management in the cloud. From the Stratus website, “99.999% continuous application availability without loss of data” and “prevention of downtime secures reputation, lowers cost and guarantees data integrity and compliance.”

Stratus has had a complicated financial history, what with becoming a publicly held company in 1983, a buy-out, spin-off, acquisitions, de-acquisitions, the name change from Stratus Computer to Stratus Technologies, Inc., and in 2014, acquisition by Siris Capital Group. There were physical moves, too. Founded by William E. Foster in 1980, the corporate was founded in Natick, moved to Marlborough, and then to Maynard. After a long tenure on town’s eastern border, Stratus signed a lease in 2015 to more its headquarters into the mill complex, committing to a tad more than 100,000 square feet in Building 5.

Stratus has more than 400 employees worldwide, with more than half in Maynard. More than 20% are female, including women at engineering and executive levels. Per the website www.stratus.com, the company is actively hiring. From David Laurello, President and Chief Executive Officer, “The more automated and connected applications become, the more critical it is for customers to have a highly reliable and continuously available edge infrastructure to drive true IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things] business value.”

In non-business speak, that includes that ATMs have to work 24/7/365 without crashing, because when you want cash at 2:00 a.m., you want it. And when you are in a hospital hooked up to a heart rate monitor, you want that working, too.

One term seen in context with Stratus is “edge computing.” Older network concepts were based on information at a data center and instructions sent to the network. Or one step up, information flowed in, processed centrally, instructions flowed out (those ATMs). Now and into the future, networks are becoming more fluid, and a lot more of very reliable computing capacity is needed at the edges of the network. More analytical power at the edges means less of a need to clog the network with data transfer. And keeping those distributed computers robustly fault tolerant means less of a need to put technical staff on the road to fix stuff.       

During the commercial real estate boom of the late 1990s, a very different mill (and town) would have been realized if instead of Wellesley Management, the mill space has gone to Franklin Lifecare Corporation. FLC had meetings with the Town of Maynard in 1995 to present a proposal to create Mill Pond Village as a mixed use elder residential community. It was to include up to 800 living units for independent living, assisted living and nursing home care, complemented by dining rooms, a library, coffee shop, conference center, gardens, craft rooms, a museum (?!) and a riverside café. “The mixed use approach will make the site feel more integrated into the town, and we’ll start by removing the fence.”

Funding never materialized, and the mill lay fallow until a tax break deal was struck for Wellesley Management’s Clock Tower Place. That kept Maynard as a hub for technology-driven companies such as Monster.com. Now, under Mill & Main, here we go again with Stratus Technologies and Acacia Communications (but with a brewery, too).  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

GMO Salmon Company Headquartered in Maynard

Fifth in a multi-part series AT THE MILL.

AquAdvantage salmon with unmodified salmon, both about 12 months
of age. Both types of fish reach the same size as adults, but it takes
 the non-GMO fish about twice as long. Photo courtesy of AquaBounty.
A new innovation in salmon aquaculture has started to reach market - genetically engineered Atlantic salmon that reach harvest size at 16-20 months instead of 28-32 months for aquaculture of unmodified salmon. The fish are brand named AquAdvantage®. The company is AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. The company’s headquarters is officially located at Mill & Main, Maynard, Massachusetts.   

This does not mean that there are tanks of giant fish lurking in the basements of the mill buildings, striving to escape into the Assabet River. Point of fact, there are no salmon in Maynard whatsoever. Never have been. Never will be. Most day-to-day operations, research and production take place in other locations. Only three staff are actually situated in Maynard.

AquaBounty management standing in front of Maynard’s mill pond. L to R:
Ronald L. Stotish, President/CEO, Dave Conley, Director of Communications,
Dawn Runighan, Facility Manager (Canada), Chantal March, Regulatory
Compliance, Alejandro Rojas, COO, Christopher Martin, General Counsel,
David A. Frank, Treasurer/CFO, and Henry Clifford - VP Marketing and Sales
Photo courtesy of AquaBounty. Click on photos to enlarge.
The life cycle of the Atlantic salmon varies, from one to four years as a small fish in a fresh water river, followed by two to four years in the ocean before returning to the same river to spawn. Unlike some Pacific salmon, the Atlantic species can return to the ocean after spawning and then back to the river in a year or two. Adult salmon are on the order of 30 inches long and weigh about twelve pounds, although potentially much larger if they delay returning to spawn for a first time or are repeaters. Trophy-size fish can top 50 pounds. Survival research suggests that it takes about 8,000 eggs to end up with two sexually mature fish.

Due to over-fishing and destruction of riverine habitat, there is no longer much in the way of a natural commercial catch. Instead, salmon fish farming - aquaculture -  uses fresh water tanks for the first year and then massive cages in the ocean to raise salmon to maturity – from egg to harvest – in 2.5 to 3.0 years. For Atlantic salmon (but not for various Pacific species), a point has been reached wherein less than 10 percent of the market is wild-caught.

What AquaBounty did was transfer a gene from Chinook salmon and a promoter sequence from another gene, from ocean pout, into Atlantic salmon in order to continually produce growth hormone rather than seasonally, as in wild fish. Several systems are in place to prevent accidental escape of GMO salmon to potentially breed with or out-compete wild salmon. First, the fish being raised for market are sterile females. The fertilized eggs from the breeding females have no male chromosome, and an egg treatment causes the hatched female fish to be sterile. The breeding facilities have physical and chemical barriers to prevent physical escape, and the locations for raising marketable fish (Panama, and soon, Indiana) have no connection to the ocean. In theory, a fish raising facility could be created in Maynard (big fish in the mill pond, anyone?), but that’s not going to happen.

Atlantic salmon can reach tremendous size (this one topping
60 pounds) just by staying in the ocean a few more years
before returning to the river to spawn. Internet photo.
Advantages for salmon aquaculture in land-based tanks versus ocean cages – true for GMO or unmodified fish - include better food-to-weight gain efficiency, lower risk of diseases, less predator loss and a lower transportation carbon footprint. 

The method of inserting these particular genes into Atlantic salmon was finalized more than 25 years ago. All the intervening time has been getting government approvals to produce and market the fish, which has taken far longer than any GMO plant approval. The very first batch actually brought to market was to Canada, in June 2017. Looking into the future, one might expect to see a fish store display with three trays: wild salmon, farmed salmon, GMO farmed salmon. Priced accordingly. Consumer’s choice, just as it now is with organic versus non-organic.

As to when sales might commence in the United States, Mr. Ronald L. Stotish, President and CEO of AquaBounty, replied “We intend to introduce AquAdvantage® salmon into the U.S. market as soon as the Import Alert is lifted.”

It’s complicated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the fish as safe for human consumption, and ruled in 2015 that labeling as GMO, or not GMO, or not bothering to label one way or the other, would be voluntary. Then, a bill signed into law by President Obama in July 2016 called for mandatory labeling on all genetically engineered foods, but the government granted itself two years to create the new regulations. Next, tucked into the 2016 federal budget was an Import Alert prohibiting any introduction of genetically engineered salmon until the FDA either publishes final labeling guidelines. This was continued in the 2017 budget. There is also a federally filed lawsuit pending. So, the definitive answer appears to be “You will see it when you see it.” 

Disclosing that I own shares in AquaBounty. And am willing to eat GMO fish.