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I hear that train a-coming…

For more about Old Colony Railroad, check out the Local History Room’s exhibit case.

The Engine <i>Mayflower</i>, no date
The Engine Mayflower, no date

At one of their earliest meetings, the Directors of the Old Colony Railroad  voted to give the engines historical names related to Plymouth. The “Mayflower” along with the “Miles Standish” pulled the very first trainload of dignitaries officials on the railroad’s inaugural excursion on November 8, 1845.

Train tickets

The purple trains that stop in Kingston along the Old Colony line to connect commuters to the larger regional rail system have a long and interesting history.

The Massachusetts Legislature chartered the Old Colony Railroad on March 16, 1844. John Sever of Kingston was elected the new company’s first President.  Just a year and a half later, on November 8, 1845, the first ceremonial train loaded with company officials and invited dignitaries traveled the 37 miles from South Boston to Plymouth. And over the next 50 years, the Old Colony line expanded to cover much of eastern Massachusetts by building branch lines, leasing existing routes and merging with other railroads.

For example, in 1854, the Old Colony consolidated with the Fall River Railroad.

Old Colony & Fall River Railroad "Free Ticket" 1855
Old Colony & Fall River Railroad "Free Ticket" 1855

In 1855, the President of the Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Company, Kingstonian Alexander Holmes, issued this pass to his “Wood Agent” and fellow Kingstonian George Adams. Mr. Holmes had secured the services of Mr. Adams in May of 1850, and charged the company $20 for doing so as his debit account shows.

Old Colony & Newport Railroad Co. to Alexander Holmes, 1850-54
Old Colony & Newport Railroad Co. to Alexander Holmes, 1850-54

The Old Colony & Fall River had become the Old Colony & Newport in 1866 (the full accounting extends to that year, the last of Mr. Holmes presidency).  The company reverted to its original corporate name in 1872 after absorbing the Cape Cod Railroad. By 1892, the Old Colony Railroad stretched from Provincetown to Providence, west to Worcester, north to Fitchburg, over to Lowell and back down to Boston.

Kingston’s “local” line exemplifies the growth and consolidation of the railroad industry through the 19th century.  Small lines incorporated, then grew and combined into ever-larger conglomerates.  In 1893, the Old Colony’s Providence Division caught the eye of the mighty New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad — known as the New Haven — as a direct connection to Boston.  Rather than lease this important component to its larger neighbor, the Old Colony leased itself as a whole and was subsumed.  The New Haven continued to expand, eventually taking over not only most of the railroads in the northeast, but trolley lines and steamships as well

In 1935, decades of aggressive purchases and accumulated debt lead  the New Haven to bankruptcy (for the first time).

N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R. Co. Commuter ticket book, 1935
N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R. Co. Commuter ticket book, 1935

The Old Colony line still carried passengers, as shown by Kingstonian Helen Foster’s ticket book. The commercial artist commuted to her studio on Park Street in Boston by train until 1946, when she shifted her workplace back to Kingston. In 1947, the New Haven emerged from receivership. Despite some success in the early 1950s, overwhelming debt combined with the growing interstate system led the New Haven to discontinue service on the Old Colony line in 1959. The New Haven limped on to 1961, when it declared bankruptcy again; in 1969 it became part of the gargantuan Penn Central, which itself failed three years later, marking the final collapse of the railroad behemoths that had dominated the country for a century.

In Massachusetts, regionalism saved the rails.  In 1964 the MBTA was formed and the next year, it laid claim to the New Haven’s tracks in and around Boston.  Over the next four decades, purple trains began to appear along the commuter rail system.  In 1997, the Old Colony line once again ran through Kingston.

Taking Stock

A new exhibit is now in the display case.  “Taking Stock — Kingston Investments in the 19th Century” shows a century of local and national stock certificates and related business ephemera.

One of the local items is particularly intriguing.

Plymouth and Kingston Oil Company stock certificate, 1865
Plymouth and Kingston Oil Company stock certificate, 1865

Little can be found about this early corporation.

The named individuals can be identified. The owner of  the shares was George T. Adams, brother of Kingston’s library benefactor Frederic C. Adams. The president of the company was Benjamin F. Ames, listed in vital records as a Kingston merchant in 1848.  Secretary William H. Burges was a well known Kingston shopkeeper (first at Burges & Bailey, then Burges & Keith and finally under his own name alone), Town official (treasurer, tax collector, and town clerk) and state representative.  The company, however, remains shrouded in some mystery.

The derricks and refineries in the engravings point to petroleum, rather than the whale oil  that dominated southeastern Massachusetts in the 19th century. The date 1865 fixes the company at the very beginning of the modern oil industry.  The processes of distilling kerosene — first from coal, then from “seep oil” — had been discovered in the late 1840s .  The first oil well had been drilled in Titusville, PA, in 1859, and John D. Rockefeller had entered the oil business in 1863 with a refinery in Cleveland.

Beyond these clues drawn from the face of the document, there are more questions than answers, as often happens with historical ephemera.  How long did the company last?  What exactly did they do?  Is there any way to find out more?  Inquiring minds always want to know.

For your holiday viewing and shopping pleasure!

The Friends of the Kingston Public Library are offering a lovely set of notecards featuring 12 historic scenes of Kingston from the Local History Room.  Some larger prints of these photographs are on display in the lobby.  Please stop by, take a look and if you like, pick up a box of cards for the low, low price of $10.

Kingston passenger railroad station, no date.
Kingston passenger railroad station, no date.
Frederic C. Adams Library, 1908
Frederic C. Adams Library, 1908
The Holmes shipyard at the Landing, about 1890
The Holmes shipyard at the Landing, about 1890

A different kind of boat picture

Boat shop interior, no date
Boat shop interior, no date

 

This photograph just turned up in a recent donation to the Local History Room.  It has no date, no place, nothing beyond the image itself.  Context and best guesses, however, suggest that it dates to the late 19th century and shows the interior of one of the small boatyards on the Jones River.  Further, the vessel under construction very likely belonged to a member of the Holmes family.  More research may turn up additional information.  In the meantime, enjoy the unusual view.

 

 

Ice cream!

Earlier this week the Patriot-Ledger asked “Have you had a penny lick, a hokey pokey or a toot today?” The paper went on to explain that before cones became the preferred holder, ice cream was eaten from a small glass (a penny lick), wrapped in a bit of paper (a hokey pokey) or scooped into a cup (a toot). Ice cream has been around awhile, but how long exactly?

Before mechanical refrigeration, ice cream and its well-chilled relatives depended on snow and ice either transported from colder areas or packed away during previous winters. It is unclear where or when ice cream was invented but the historical record shows that ancient cultures around the world — Egypt and Persia, Greece and Rome, India and China — all enjoyed sweet iced treats, though the expense generally limited the dish to the wealthiest elites.

In the 19th century, however, two American developments would democratize ice cream. First, in 1805 Boston businessman Frederick Tudor opened the first large scale commercial harvesting business, shipping New England ice as far away as the West Indies and around the country throughout the year. Then in 1843, Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia patented the hand-cranked ice cream freezer. By the later years of the 19th century, the combination meant everyone could enjoy an ice cream party.

An outdoor ice cream party, no date.
An outdoor ice cream party, no date.

In Kingston, ice cream could be bought in stores, restaurants. In the 1940s, Jordan’s Pharmacy on Summer Street in Kingston Center had a soda fountain, where school teams were known to stop in after practices at the Bailey Playground or the Reed Community Building.

Flora Kite scoops ice cream at Jordan's, around 1940
Flora Kite scoops ice cream at Jordan's, around 1940. By Ted Avery.

Located on Main Street in the building that now houses the Charlie Horse restaurant, Dutchland Farms was known for its ice cream treats in the 1930s. By the 1940s, the building housed Leland’s Restaurant but ice cream remained on the menu.

Staff outside Dutchland Farms, around 1935
Staff outside Dutchland Farms, around 1935

Today, we are spoiled with the easy availability and many flavors of ice cream. It is still a favorite warm weather treat.

Bryant’s Boxboard Mill

For almost 50 years, Sylvanus Bryant ran a mill located on Sylvia’s Place Road between Bryant’s Pond and Soule’s Pond in the Indian Pond neighborhood of Kingston.

Bryant's Boxboard Mill on Sylvia's Place Road, no date
Bryant's Boxboard Mill on Sylvia's Place Road, no date

As far back as 1721, several water privileges existed on Furnace Brook, Trout Brook and the man-made ponds that connect them.  Around 1810, the Anchor Works (which actually produced spades and shovels) operated on the site of Bryant’s mill. Later, Daniel Bisbee and Henry Soule ran a nail and tack factory there.    Next was Thomas Russell, who also produced tacks.  In 1856, Sylvanus Bryant Jr. and Noah Prince set up a sawmill to make boards for boxes.  By 1879, Bryant had bought out Prince; he continued to operate the mill until 1900.

Bryant's Pond, 1925, by Emily Fuller Drew
Bryant's Pond, 1925, by Emily Fuller Drew

This view, taken from the O.W. Stewart Preserve (part of the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts), shows some of the buildings around  Bryant’s Pond. In the left foreground stands a small boathouse, and behind it to the right is the Bryant Boxboard Mill. Behind the mill, the Lyman-John Cushman house and barn can be seen, along with a dirt road that is today’s Sylvia’s Place Road. At the far left is the Deacon Cushman House, which today is 33 Indian Pond Road.

Source: Life on the River by Carrie Elliott, 2005

George E. Cushman’s delivery wagon

G.E. Cushman's delivery wagon and John White the horse, circa 1900

Even before the days of online ordering and overnight shipping, groceries and other necessities could appear at your door on demand, delivered perhaps by the horse-drawn wagons of Kingston merchant George E. Cushman. From 1864 when he began clerking in Azel Sampson’s dry goods store at 196 Main Street to 1919 when he retired from his own establishment across the street at 193 Main, Cushman sold groceries, flour, grain, candy, yard goods, drugs, boots and shoes. During much of that time, the store also housed the post office, with Cushman served as the assistant postmaster.

The wagon above sports a proud sailing vessel, homage to Kingston’s shipbuilding heritage, while the one below displays a peaceful rural road, testament to the town’s bucolic character.  As one of a number of competing retailers in town, Cushman may have added a competitive edge with these  elegantly decorated wagons.

G.E. Cushman's delivery wagon, Old Dan the horse and Ed Sherman, circa 1900
G.E. Cushman's delivery wagon, Old Dan the horse and Ed Sherman, circa 1900

Sources: Photos from the Margaret Warnsman Collection; other information from House Histories, Vertical File: Businesses, and the Eleanor Loring Cole Collection.

KINGSTONOPOLY!

The Local History Exhibit for February starts with the game of Kingstonopoly, a customized version of the classic board game Monopoly done for the PTO of Kingston Elementary School in 2000.  Looking through the collections of the Local History Room, we find not only a pair of adorable wooden boxes fashioned after houses out on Wapping Road (buy a house), but letterhead from the Kingston Inn (build a hotel), stock certificates (collect $200), promissory notes (borrow from the banker),  and foreclosure documents (don’t go bankrupt).  Life imitates the game and our historical collections represent a slice of life.

Stop in and take a look!

Plymouth and Kingston Oil Company stock certificate, 1865
Plymouth and Kingston Oil Company stock certificate, 1865