We Love our Boston (Manufacturing) Sox!

We celebrate so many great Waltham companies here at the Charles River Museum–Charles Metz's Waltham Manufacturing Company, the W.H. Nichols Company, and of course, the one which gave us the nickname "Watch City," the Waltham Watch Company. And we have many artifacts on display from each of these historic and important manufacturers. However, we cherish the history and the innovation of the Boston Manufacturing Company, the company whose walls house the Museum today, most of all. 

We unfortunately have very few artifacts from that great and historic company. As America's first integrated factory and the first place where mechanized power looms wove cotton fabric in the US, the BMC, founded in 1813 by Francis Cabot Lowell, was responsible for a major leap in the American Industrial Revolution. Directly tied to the city of Lowell (founded by BMC partners and named in honor of the late company founder), and inspiration to so many American industrial and manufacturing cities which helped forge our country's greatness, the BMC is arguably the most important of all Waltham's historic companies.

So it brought us great joy to have recently acquired a seemingly simple pair of socks, made here, and branded with the Boston Manufacturing Company name. 

These stockings, labeled size "6" and bearing a simple trim of three red stripes, are one of the very few products of the Boston Manufacturing Company currently in our possession. As historically important as the company is, it was fairly a nondescript manufacturer in its own time and, while even then recognized for its innovative origins, it seems very little of the company was preserved for posterity when it ceased operation in 1930. That these socks, seemingly, aside from some light staining, to be in what might be called New-Old-Stock condition, have survived and come back home to us is truly remarkable.

Our fascination with these humble items has just begun. While we know that they originated from the BMC, we don't know when they were manufactured or what other products would have been made alongside them. We will keep you updated as we discover more!

Charles H. Metz and the Wings Over Waltham

Charles H. Metz (1863-1937) was a pioneer in transportation. Beginning by manufacturing his Orient bicycles, made by his Waltham Manufacturing Company and renowned as being some of the fastest racing bikes in the world, he branched out successfully into automobile manufacture and motorcycles (some credit him with first using the term "motor-cycle"). We have examples of all three of types of Metz's vehicles here in our collection at the Charles River Museum.

The only place to go from there was up. Literally. Metz attempted to produce and market a "Metz Air-Car" in 1911, but it supposedly only one was ever built. That same year, he purchased the Gore Mansion in Waltham and surrounding grounds and set up the "Metz Aerodrome" where on June 16-18th he held an aviation meet.

We can't confirm if these picture postcards are from that weekend aviation meet, but it's interesting to consider the idea of airplanes taking off and buzzing about the Gore Estate. Indeed, it's almost as remarkable a concept as the notion of the venerable and stately Gore Mansion being referred to by anyone as a "club house"... 

The manufacturing plant he would set up on the 120 acres surrounding the Gore Estate would unfortunately never produce his own aircraft. Instead his facilities were drafted for use by the U.S. military for DeHavilland airplane production during the First World War–a development which would crush Metz financially.

"The Watch As A Growth Industry" - Appleton's Journal. July 9, 1870

Appleton's Journal was a publication dedicated to literature, art, and science, published in New York City from 1869 to 1891. This article examines, in unique detail, the departments and operations used by The Waltham Watch Company (then the American Watch Company) in the making of their signature machine-made watches, and contrasts Waltham's processes of manufacture with those of the handmade Swiss timepieces.

Take note of the prophetic third-to-last paragraph which not only predicts the generational legacy in which so many Waltham watches would be passed from hand to hand, but also describes a world in which "...telegraphs enclose the globe like a net." (emphasis ours).

VIEW: "The Watch As A Growth Industry" - Appleton's Journal, July 9, 1870


"The Boston Watch Company" - The Waltham Sentinel, March 13, 1856

A very early article on The Waltham Watch Company, while still operating under its earlier name, The Boston Watch Company, written just 6 years after the company was founded and less than a year and a half after opening its factory along the Charles River in Waltham. The company would still be years away from being celebrated the world around for its revolutionary machine-made horological masterpieces.

VIEW: "The Boston Watch Company" - Waltham Sentinel March 13, 1856

Welcome to "Yesterday's News"

A museum such as the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation is not just about the collections of artifacts and objects. Every one of these items has a story to tell and those stories aren't just the ones we have to tell today. Often, insight into history comes from seeing it, not just through modern eyes, but through the eyes of yesterday. Via newspapers, magazine articles, advertisements, letters, picture postcards and photographs, we can learn much about how the contemporaries of the great men and great companies which we celebrate here at the Museum were viewed in their own time.

This is a place where we will occasionally post some of our favorite pieces from our archives for you to view, enjoy, and learn from.