The Tag! 1860-1870

By Laura Stagliola, Administrative Assistant

November 13, 2014

The period between 1860 and 1870 in the history of the Dennison Mfg. Co. was defined by the tag. The jewelry box business was steadily progressing and E.W. was expanding the number of sales offices and production size at a fast pace. E.W. patented the idea of reinforcing the hole in the tag with a paper washer on each side on June 9, 1863. The sales of tags for the first year were about ten million.

Dennison tags 6

Much like Aaron Dennison found that jewelry boxes in the 1800s were not reliable products, E.W. felt that imported tags from Europe were of inferior quality, and sought to change that. The world of advertising frequently used tags, but E.W. had to create a market for small jewelry tags of uniform size with a professional appearance. Businesses took some convincing but E.W. was able to harness and create with a tag machine. Now that jewelry tags had been introduced, Dennison’s newest invention focused on shipping tags, also known as direction labels.

necklace with tag

While shipping tags had been used well before the 1860s, the Civil War posed an overwhelming demand for cheap, durable tags unlike the expensive linen tags in Europe. After E.W.’s merchandise tag designer created the gummed washer to support the hole in 1863, his first shipping tag machine put out “about 15,000 tags a day and delivered 10 million tags to the marketplace in the first year.” Buyers quickly took to the new shipping and the need for tags increased steadily throughout the 1860s into the 1870s.

original and improved tag machines

Original and improved tag machines

The Dennison Beginnings: 1844-1850

By Laura Stagliola, Administrative Assistant

November 12, 2014

Dennison homestead

It all began in a small house in Brunswick, Maine in 1844. Aaron Dennison, a Boston watchmaker and jeweler, was frustrated with the poor quality of European jewelry boxes, and decided to craft a sturdy yet elegant jewelry box. While Aaron often made what he needed as a jeweler, he traveled to his childhood home in Brunswick to enlist the help of his family. His father, Colonel Andrew Dennison, was a shoemaker and cut the pasteboard supplies into box forms, and his sisters Julia and Matilda put the boxes together and covered each with fancy glazed paper. Later on Aaron’s brother, Eliphalet Whorf (E.W.), was also recruited in the box business as a salesman for his remarkable ability to attract potential customers. The jewelry boxes quickly became very popular and to meet the growing demand Aaron and Andrew hired ten workers and added new machinery in the first year alone.

In the early years of the box business, Aaron sold his product in Boston and shipped supplies to the factory in Brunswick. After a year or so, Aaron only wanted to focus solely on his watchmaking, while Andrew continued working on the boxes. Living in Maine, the Colonel needed an agent to go between the factory and Boston. On October 1, 1849 Aaron made E.W. responsible for managing the box sales and supplies for the company and Aaron soon retired from the box business. E.W. was a gifted salesman and he was always on the lookout for new ideas and products as he traveled across the nation promoting the jewelry boxes. They added items such as “twine, white and pink cotton, and jewelry cards” to broaden their product line. E.W. also introduced new custom boxes for “combs, wedding cakes, needles, flowers and hairpins,” to name a few.[1]

Finally in 1850, E.W. saw the potential to branch out and seek new product opportunities which prompted him to open his first salesroom and office at 203 Washington Street, Boston.

[1] The Dennison Mfg. Co. Archival Collection at the FHC.

Window display at the Framingham Public Library – November 1st through 30th

By Laura Stagliola, Administrative Assistant

November 10, 2014

Framingham History Center volunteers Linda deCougny and Nancy Hulme, along with Administrative Assistant, Laura Stagliola, installed a Dennison Manufacturing Company themed display case on October 30, 2014. The window display on the left side of the lobby of the recently renovated Framingham Public Library, features Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations made by The Dennison, as well as some of their most known for items such as the Buttoneer, jewelry boxes and the iconic gold star adhesives. From the ceiling of the display case hang reinforced tags like those of The Dennison to draw the eye of library goers. It was alot of fun installing the display! Make sure to stop by the FPL throughout the month of November to see it for yourself!

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The Holy Grail of Halloween decorations: Hobgoblinville

By Laura Stagliola, Administrative Assistant

October 30, 2014


According to The Mark B. Ledenbach Halloween Collection at,

Spookville (by Whitman)… isn’t to be confused with the awesome and tear-inducingly hard-to-find six section Hobgoblinville table decoration Dennison issued in 1928 for the then-steep price of $2.00.

He continues,

This has routinely eluded by grasp for decades and now tops the list of MBL’s Holy Grails!

With the recent acquisition of the contents of the Dennison Manufacturing Company’s History Room, the Framingham History Center unearthed the Spring 1928 What’s Next? (a publication sent to Dennison dealers and retail stores) where an image of the Hobgoblinville decoration was advertised. The advertisement briefly describes the decoration:

A new Hobgoblinville cut-out is most original and attractive. This comes in three sections, and although it is illustrated below in the long panel, it must be displayed and seen complete to be appreciated fully. It would be impossible here to tell you in detail about all the new subjects of interest, and you will want to see the complete line for yourself.

While we do not have a physical cut-out of Hobgoblinville in our collection, an image of the decoration must suffice! Happy Hallowe’en!

Hobgoblinville table decoration

Hobgoblinville table decoration, Spring 1928 What’s Next?, Dennison Mfg. Co.

Hobgoblinville What's Next article

Hobgoblinville Spring 1928 What’s Next article, Dennison Mfg. Co.