Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bankruptcy at the Mill, Twice

Amory Maynard (date unknown) Courtesy Maynard
Historical Society. Click on photos to enlarge.
In the early 1840s, two men show up in the small hamlet of Assabet Village, at that time basically a collection of farm holdings by the Smith and Brooks families plus a grain mill and a small paper mill, all strung out along Great Road [Route 117], and start buying up land. Amory Maynard buying this. William Knight buying that. Locally, no one knows them, but they have plenty of money. A cardinal rule of real estate is that if a fool wants to buy land at above market, sell it. It was not clear here who the fools were, but the end result was that by the time the ink had dried, it had become obvious that Maynard and Knight were partners in an endeavor, and they were the new owners of more than 300 acres of land, plus water rights extending miles up the Assabet River.

In the summer of 1846, Amory Maynard moved his family from Marlborough to a house on Summer Hill Road, hired Artemas Whitney to build a dam, and had a canal dug from the dam to a location downstream on the river where he then built a 100x50 foot woolen mill, complete with a water wheel. The key benefit of moving the dam upstream and the mill downstream was greater vertical drop for the water, meaning more power from the water wheel. Meanwhile, Knight was reaffirming his Boston business connections in the raw wool, wool yarn and carpet industries, in which his experience dated back twenty years.

William Knight (date unknown).
Courtesy Framingham
Historical Society.
Together, they were making and selling carpets by 1847. The business was officially incorporated as the Assabet Manufacturing Company in May of 1849. In December of that same year, Knight withdrew from day-to-day operations. He sold the business and some of his land holdings to Maynard for $50,000, of which 80 percent was on mortgage. The mill was on hard times in the Panic of 1857, and again in 1861. In the latter instance it went into foreclosure. Maynard was bought out for cash and assumption of his mortgage to Knight, while at the same time another investor bought Knight’s remaining in-town holdings. Later in 1861, the Assabet Manufacturing Company was incorporated again, this time with Boston investors owning a majority and Knight out of the picture. Amory Maynard became the on-site Agent, equivalent to a chief operating officer, owning only 20 percent. Knight, in retirement, built an imposing five-story brownstone mansion on Beacon Hill and lived the widower’s life there until his death, in 1870.
Going forward in time, Amory managed the mill, plus a construction company on the side. His son Lorenzo took over mill operations in 1885 and was then Agent until December 1898, when the mill went bankrupt a second time. Not his fault. In 1894 the federal government has ended protective tariffs on wool cloth entering the country as part of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act. Dozens of U.S. wool mills went under. The Dingley Act of 1897 restored the protective tariff – too late for Maynard. The foreclosure assignees managed the mill until a sale to the American Woolen Company was completed in May 1899. In time, AWC more than doubled the size of the mill and built more worker housing.
The mill at 50 years, a few years before the 1898 forclosure. The three large
buildings closest to the millpond were all built after 1900, by the
American Woolen Company. Courtesy Maynard Historical Society.
 At the time of the 1898 foreclosure, assets at the mill included deposits of $137,587.31 from employees of the mill and business owners in town. This was due to the inconvenience of the nearest bank being in Hudson. The mill acted as a bank, and actually issued bank books and paid interest. After the mill failure depositors initially got back only 55 percent of their savings. There was an additional partial payment after AWC completed the purchase, but nobody got back all of their money, nor any of the interest earned. Lorenzo Maynard was known to have sold most of his shares in the mill before it went under. The animus toward Lorenzo culminated in an attempt to change the name of the town to Assabet a few years later.        

Does all this fiduciary minutia matter? Well, yes. Without Amory’s transformation from sole owner to Agent, he might not have put so much effort into A&L Maynard – his and Lorenzo’s construction company. And if the mill had not failed under Lorenzo in 1898, then he would still be managing it to his death in 1904, and the American Woolen Company might have no longer been in a position to buy in. No increased need for employees would have meant Maynard as less of an immigration magnet, with perhaps entire ethnic groups never getting here in significant numbers, nor building churches and meeting halls, nor creating need for a trolley, which in turn drew people from neighboring towns to Maynard businesses. A very different Town of Maynard.

Not in the article, but at the time of the 1898 bankruptcy, William Maynard was the largest shareholder of the Assabet Manufacturing Company. Lorenzo, his brother, had sold the majority of  his own stock before the bankruptcy.    

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Amory Maynard Descendants

Visitors gathered at the Maynard family crypt. From left to right:
Peter Morgan, Jr., Kim (Anderson) Donovan, Burrell and Pamela (Morgan) Jull,
Eric Fine, Barbara Fine, Dave Castle, Merry (Morgan) Hill and Anne Morgan.
Last week, seven people visited Maynard because they had Maynard in their blood. Literally. These were great-great-grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren of Amory and Mary Maynard, participating in a family reunion, and for some of them, an opportunity to meet each other and visit the Town of Maynard for the first time ever.

Because no descendants live in Maynard, there has been a bit of misconception that there were none. Not true. What did happen was a combination of dispora and untimely deaths that scattered and ended, respectively, early descendant branches. Lorenzo, the oldest son, had had five children, but none of them had children in turn. He had moved to Winchester in 1902, and all of his lineage are buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. The last to die was William H.K. Maynard, 1925. Harlan, the youngest son, had died of typhus while in his teens.

Photo portrait of Lessie Louise
and Harlan James Maynard
Tomb key. M.S. Peters was Amory
and Mary's grandchild, married
to Warren Peters. Her daughter, Mary
Sanderson (1874-1947), was last 
Maynard to live in Maynard.
The visitors were descendants of Amory and Mary through William, their second son. William married Mary Adams in 1853, when he was 20 years old. They were together 53 years, she surviving him by an additional 14 years. They had seven children.

Barbara (Maynard) Fine, the one great-great-granddaughter amongst our visitors, traces her lineage from William Maynard to his son Harlan James Maynard, to Harlan’s son John Maynard, who married Frances Edna de Haro and had three children: Joan, Diane and Barbara. Apparently, Barbara was the only descendant who had visited Maynard before, for the interment of cremation remains of her father, her mother, and her sister Diane. Barbara tells a story that her father (Amory’s great-grandson) had visited Maynard during the centennial anniversary year of 1971 and was given a tour of the mill complex by no other than Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation. For last week’s visit, Barbara was accompanied by her son, Eric Fine, a great-great-great-grandchild of Amory and Mary.   
Skylight at the crypt, looking up.

The five other great-great-great-grandchildren were Merrill “Merry” (Morgan) Hill, Peter Morgan, Jr., Anne Morgan, Kim (Anderson) Donovan and Pamela (Morgan) Jull. Their lineage traces from William to his daughter Lessie Louise Maynard, who married Paul Beagary Morgan, of the Worcester Morgans. Lessie and Paul had five children, who in turn had children, so there is a whole passel of Morgans out there.

Ironwork on top of the crypt,
protecting the skylight. Click on
any photograph to enlarge it.
The first stop in the tour of the town was the Maynard family crypt, in Glenwood Cemetery. The Department of Public Works, responsible for cemetery operations, had cleaned up around and in the crypt, and unlocked the door. Family members were able to step inside and read the inscriptions of the 23 family members who are interred there.

The tour went on to several town sites connected to the family history here: Ben Smith Dam and the Asa Smith house on Summer Hill Road, where the Maynard family first lived after they moved from Marlborough in 1846; the pair of houses that Amory and Lorenzo built on Main Street, just west of the Post Office, and then Lorenzo’s mansion on Dartmouth Street – Beechmont back then - overlooking the mill from the south side. Amory Maynard had also constructed a mansion on the hill, but it burned in the 1960s during a planned conversion to apartments. From there, the tour stopped in the parking lot by Battle Road, for a view of the mill from across the pond, and then a drive through the center of the mill, with a stop at the watergate that had controlled flow into the powerplant. [Originally a waterwheel to provide mechanical power, later replaced by a turbine to provide electric power.]

Window added to the Congregational Church rectory by
Lorenzo Maynard, circa 1890.
The tour finished at The Sanctuary, until recently the Congregational Church. William Doyle, now owner of the building, provided some history of how Amory and Mary had been instrumental in getting the original building built, and then how in 1890 Lorenzo had sponsored the stained glass windows in memory of his parents and daughters.

After the tour, the family retreated to continue their story sharing over a dinner of pizza from Roasted Peppers and ice cream from Erikson’s Ice Cream. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Why do We Sweat?

If we were any other species of mammal, including our closest relatives, the great apes, we would not perspire, and the deodorant industry would not exist. Humans perspire a lot; horses a bit. Dogs (and wolves, coyotes, fox, lions) pant. Prey species such as deer are fast in a sprint, but not equipped for long distance running without overheating. It’s us, the hairless ape, that is unique.

The major function of perspiration is to cool. When water on skin evaporates there is a transfer of huge amounts of heat away from the skin. Cooling of the skin’s surface cools blood circulating underneath, which cools the body as a whole. Panting, while not as effective, serves the same purpose. Kangaroos, which neither sweat or pant, lick their forelimbs, achieving evaporative cooling that way.

No evaporation, no cooling. Hence the truth behind “It’s hot, but it’s a dry heat.” In humid weather, we still attempt to cool by sweating, but the moisture soaks our clothing and drips off without the benefit of evaporation. (Standing in front of a fan helps.) In passing, worth a mention that a traditional sauna practice reverses the heat exchange process. Sauna is very dry heat, so a person can be comfortable in temperatures of 140-180 degrees Fahrenheit, versus 110 to 115 degrees tops for a steam bath. “Löyly,” the practice of throwing water on superheated stones during a sauna, converts the water to steam, which then condenses on cooler surfaces, such as skin. The condensation process transfers heat to the skin. The intense wave of heat experienced about 30 seconds after water hits hot stones is the opposite of evaporative cooling.

What is sweat? First, it is initially sterile, and hence not initially smelly. However, our skin is inhabited by billions of moisture-loving bacteria. The smells we associate with sweated up clothing are from the happily replicating bacteria that consumed our skin gland secretions for food and produced their own smelly waste products. Men and women have different mixtures of skin bacteria, and thus different smelling sweat. Interestingly, some studies show that homosexual women and men are more sexually attracted to the smell of same-sex sweat, versus heterosexual women and men who are more turned on by opposite sex sweat, but whether this is genetic or driven by one’s sexual orientation is not known. For some people, skin harbors Propionibacteria which product propionic acid, a compound that smells a lot like the chemically related acetic acid in vinegar. Time to wash those clothes and take a shower!       

Back to sweat. Sweat is 99.9 percent water and one-tenth of one percent minerals and organic compounds. Sodium makes up the majority of the minerals, then potassium and small amounts of calcium, zinc, copper and iron. Sports performance researchers have looked into heat adaptation. Results suggest that sweat at the end of a long, hot day has much the same composition as in the morning. However, over days in a hot environment, mineral content decreases by as much as a third. Thinking is that the body has adapted to conserve minerals while still managing evaporative cooling.

Other causes of sweating are emotional sweating, which can include sweaty hands, not seen during thermal-triggered sweating. A third cause is a reaction to eating very spicy foods.

Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade) are a multi-billion dollar industry based on the theory that modest amounts of minerals (primarily sodium, but some potassium and magnesium), plus calories will have a performance benefit over water during a prolonged period of exercise. There is a kernel of truth there. Given water to drink, actively exercising people will drink less than the water being lost to perspiration. And that’s generally okay, as athletic performance begins to suffer only after two percent weight loss. A salty-tasting, slightly sweet beverage will cause people to drink more compared to plain water. More is not necessarily better, just more. The sodium provides no performance benefit. The carbohydrates do provide usable energy, but that only really matters for hours of strenuous exercise.

People in the U.S. consume too much sodium. Our kidneys dump the excess in urine, but the effects of high sodium consumption include hypertension and higher risk of stroke and coronary heart disease deaths. National surveys estimate that average adult consumption is 3,400 milligrams per day, whereas recommendations are to consume less than 2,300 milligrams, and  1,500 milligrams per day is defined as an adequate amount. Only for people doing prolonged, vigorous exercise, say a hundred mile-bicycle ride, might there be a benefit for calorie-containing beverages or snacks during the event. That’s for energy. After the event, normal foods and beverages will replenish whatever minerals were lost.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Rise and Fall of Vitamin E

Vitamin E was the vitamin D of the 1990s – good for whatever ailed you. Claimed benefits led with cardiovascular disease and cancer, but piled on with macular degeneration, pregnancy, dementia and other significant diseases. With no apparent concerns about safety, there was a race up to mega-dose amounts being widely sold as non-prescription dietary supplements. Vitamin E even ended up in skin care products, with claims for helping hear scars and burns, in shampoos with claims for healthier hair. Things changed.

Worldwide, government organizations are not quite in agreement on how much is recommended and what is the safe upper limit. The U.S. recommends 15 mg/day, and up to 1000 mg/day as safe. Japan recommends 7 mg/day and no more than 900 mg/day (for men, numbers a bit lower for women). The European Union recommends 11 mg/day for women, 13 mg/day for men, and no more than 300 mg/day for both sexes. Actual consumption is less. Worldwide, median dietary intake is 6.2 mg/day for alpha-tocopherol.

Alpha- and gamma-tocopherol are the two most common
forms in plants. Alpha- has three methyl (CH3) groups on
the leftmost ring of carbon atoms while gamma- has two.
The arrows point to the difference. (Internet download).
Click on image to make larger. 
Note that intake number is for alpha-tocopherol. “Vitamin E” is actually a collection of eight chemically related but distinct molecules: alpha-, beta-, delta- and gamma-tocopherol and the same four designations as tocotrienols. Leafy green vegetables are predominately alpha-tocopherol and seed oils gamma-tocopherol (with exceptions). Palm oil is higher in tocotrienols than tocopherols. Although gamma-tocopherol is the highest percentage dietary form, our bodies create a blood transportation protein that preferentially binds only to alpha-tocopherol, making it the majority molecule in blood and organs. It is also by far the most potent antioxidant of the eight. So, “vitamin E” is usually taken to mean alpha-tocopherol, with a minor contribution to alpha-tocopherol equivalents from the other forms.     

The popularity of naturally sourced or synthetic alpha-tocopherol as a dietary supplement began with a juxtaposition of theory and observation. Vitamin E is thought to function as an antioxidant. Oxidation is all about oxygen (duh!). Normal biological processes create oxidating compounds, also referred to as free radicals, that need to be neutralized, else cell damage takes place. One of the theories of aging is that oxidation causes cumulative damage over years and years, leading to what we identify as the diseases of aging. Our bodies create antioxidants and also use vitamin E (and vitamin C, and selenium) as antioxidants. These nutrients, alone and in combination, have been heavily researched for disease prevention. With mixed results.

Observational studies tracked the lifestyle habits and health histories of tens of thousands of nurses and doctors. Results showed that those who on their own either consumed more vitamin E because of food choices, or had chosen to take vitamin E dietary supplements, had a one-third lower risk of heart disease. Publicity from this let to roughly 50% of nurses and doctors to use vitamin E as a dietary supplement. Millions of Americans followed the examples of their health care professionals. Sadly, subsequent clinical trials that enrolled people to either vitamin E or a placebo and tracked them for years were not as consistently positive. Collectively, there appears to be a modest reduced risk for heart attack, no benefit for risk of stroke, and no change in all-cause mortality. With hindsight, in the initial research, health professionals who had decided to consume vitamin E supplements may have made other lifestyle decisions that promoted good health. It is an example of correlation not necessarily reflecting causality.

Research for other diseases has also had mixed results. An antioxidant combination appears to slow progression of age-related macular degeneration, but vitamin E alone has not been evaluated. There has not been enough research for any recommendation on effects on dementia, or on Parkinson’s disease. Vitamin E in combination with vitamin C was not seen as beneficial for pregnancy outcomes. Cancer results are mixed depending on type; also some evidence that while low amounts of a supplement are beneficial, higher amounts actually increase risk (a similar cross-over effect seen for higher amounts and cardiovascular disease).

Despite the widespread belief that topical vitamin E can help with burn and wound healing, rigorous clinical trials belie that conclusion. There is no useful evidence supporting the idea that a vitamin E containing shampoo or conditioner improves hair health.

Cumulatively, doubts about efficacy and concerns for subtle negative effects of higher doses led to a massive decline in the percent of people buying vitamin E.  What to do in the face of all this ambiguity? Eat more fruits and vegetables (always an easy recommendation). Most daily multi-vitamin/mineral products will include 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin E, which can be seen as do-no-harm. Beyond that, the merits for a vitamin E as a supplement are suspect, and this is definitely not a more-is-better situation.

The Wikipedia article on Vitamin E has references for most of this content.