The Third Annual Spirit of Innovation Award will be presented by the Trustees of the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation on June 2, 2016 to the Nichols Family, a storied clan descended from legendary engineer/machinist W.H. Nichols who established his eponymous company in Waltham in 1904. Nicknamed “Accurate Nichols” for his exacting standards, W.H.’s lifelong motto was “Anything Almost Right is Wrong.”
Later known as W.H. Nichols and Sons, the company built its well-earned reputation for precision manufacturing by successfully developing production capabilities for IBM, DuPont, and other companies and inventors whose products were theretofore believed to require machining tolerances too exact to be mass produced. Their manufacturing excellence earned W.H. Nichols & Sons a remarkable five “E Awards” (no company ever earned more than six) for particularly outstanding wartime production excellence helping to defeat the World War II Axis Powers.
W.H. Nichols and his family were also known for their love of recreation. Outdoor enthusiasts with a tennis court and swimming pool, they were especially fond of boating, with a boathouse on the Charles River. In the 1930s the family launched their new boat, the White Swan, in the Charles, a nod to a paddlewheel steamer of the same name that used to carry passengers from the Moody Street Bridge to Auburndale in the 1870s.
During World War II the family opened their boathouse to Nichols Company employees and formed baseball and softball teams to provide an outlet for shop workers during a very pressured time. Rowing was a major pastime; there was even an 8-person shell on loan from Wellesley College for the women workers.
Steam engines were a great hobby of the Nichols men. W.H. is seen here on "Ella Cinders," a "live steam" model locomotive he built that ran on a track around the company property and was a popular attraction with local children.
The Nichols were also known for their fair and equal treatment of their employees, supporting churches and temples alike. They also made great civic contributions to the community including funding a new wing at Waltham Hospital. Years later, around the time the company was sold to Parker Hannifin Corporation, they seeded the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation’s collection with many exceptional artifacts, among them the beloved “Engine 1,” Waltham’s first fire engine, which W.H. had purchased from the City and restored as a centerpiece of the company’s own Museum.
As W.H. Nichols & Sons thrived as a company across generations of family leadership, so, too, did the Nichols family grow and thrive, living rich and varied lives that have woven a tapestry of extraordinary and delightful stories worth sharing.
The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation and its Trustees are delighted to be presenting the W.H. Nichols family with the Museum’s Third Annual Spirit of Innovation Award at a Gala to be held in their honor at the Museum on Thursday evening, June 2, 2016. A special Nichols Family exhibit will be unveiled at the Museum that evening as well, exploring the company’s and the family’s extraordinary history, their inspiring contributions to industry and community.
Schedule of Events:
5:30pm—Cocktails & Hors d’Oeuvres in the Main Gallery
6:30pm—Seating and Buffet Dinner Begins in the Jackson Room
7:15pm—Award Program in the Jackson Room
Tickets to the 2016 Spirit of Innovation Award Gala are $50 and available for purchase now at Eventbrite.
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