The Mystery of Margaret Knight

Originally published in the Spring 1986 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Steve Herring

Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914), one of the most prolific woman inventors in America, was also a Framingham resident. But the “lady Edison” has remained as somewhat of a mystery figure in local history, and we are always pleased when new information about her turns up.

Professor Fred Amram of the University of Minnesota, who is working on a book about woman inventors, visited the Old Academy recently to learn more about Miss Knight. While we were able to share some of our information with the professor, the historical society also gained information including copies of Miss Knight’s 1871 patent for a machine that makes flat-bottom paper bags, and her obituary from the Boston Transcript.

Margaret Knight, a native of Maine, resided for the last twenty-five years of her life in a rented house at the corner of Hollis and Charles Streets in South Framingham. In that neighborhood at that time there were other families with the name of Knight who may have been relatives. She spent most of her time in her Boston laboratory, and when not tinkering with new inventions was successfully fighting off law suits challenging her patents.

Apparently Miss Knight was totally absorbed in her work right up to the time of her final illness at the age of 76. In 1912, at the age of 74, she developed an advanced automobile engine known as the Knight-Davidson motor. In all she had 87 patents to her credit, although it seems that she made little profit from them. Her estate at the time of her death was valued at $300.

There is also the mystery of Miss Knight’s portrait. Some accounts of her life claim that her portrait hung in the US Patent Office in Washington. In recent inquiries to the Patent Office, however, no record of such a portrait or other likeness of Margaret Knight, it may well be that she never had the time to have her picture taken.


Pokemon GOes to the History Center

Corey L, Framingham High School Sophmore with FHC Executive Director Annie Murphy

Corey L, Framingham High School Sophmore with FHC Executive Director Annie Murphy

by Annie Murphy, FHC Executive Director

July 22, 2016

I’ve been enjoying my lunch outside under the maple tree in front of the Edgell Library these past few days.  The weather has been beautiful and we have a new picnic table donated by yours truly.  It’s been especially fun to see the Pokemon players coming to check off the library as a “pokestop” on the game.  I still haven’t downloaded the app, so this terminology may be wrong, but who cares – people are noticing our historic buildings!  Some are moving too fast to talk and others like my friend Corey Lamont (see photo) was able to chat.  He was sitting on the bench in front of the Old Academy – a “gym” in the game – and I asked him if he had a second to talk.  He was very gracious and showed me the virtual battle happening at our “gym” between the reds and the blues.  He’s a sophomore at Framingham High School and when I asked him if he remembered visiting the Academy during his 3rd grade tour he said “I remember it like it was yesterday.”   You can imagine how my heart soared!  Stay tuned for more on Pokemon – perhaps a “Poke party?”

History: Bringing People Together in All Ways

by Colleen Jenkins, 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern

I am about halfway through my summer internship, and everything I am learning is rich and diverse. I am still working on sorting through the doll collection (and many other projects!), but there is never a boring day at the Framingham History Center. I have learned that there is no simple way to deaccess anything at the FHC. For example, if there are four boxes in a corner that we know do not know much about, we have to triple check that we won’t regret letting them go. Once the boxes have been inventoried, the things that fit the FHC Mission are accessioned and stored into our collection. The items that are left may have some information that lead us to more knowledge about something else, and other items do not fit the mission at all. What is interesting about this process is that even the smallest bits of information can create an involved story line.

Kendall doll chest

Margaret Kendall’s Doll Chest

For example, the donors I have come across most often with these dolls are, Mrs. George Marlowe, wife of a prominent Framingham architect, Ms. Margaret Kendall, a well-known artist, and Mrs. Daniel Dodd, who I haven’t been able to find much about. Dodd’s dolls and doll clothing are from the 1850s, while Kendall and Marlowe’s dolls are closer to the mid-1900s. Though these women lived at different times throughout Framingham’s history, each woman shares a common interest from their childhood and their doll collections are now together into one large collection at the FHC.

In my internship interview, I mentioned how important I think it is that people are aware of their own history. FHC Curator Stacen Goldman asked me why I thought it was important for people to be aware of this. It was hard to give her a straight answer because it’s one of those questions that you know has an answer, but, like the history itself, it changes throughout your life.  In regard to the doll collection, I think these dolls show us the importance of community in one’s life. The definition of community is a group of people who live in the same place, usually for a long period of time, which means they have a history together. As Framingham grows and diversifies, it maintains the roots of its community — the history of its town. Playing with dolls is something that nearly everyone can relate to as a child, and this particular doll collection is part of the history of every person that lives in Framingham.

Speaking of common connections, we had a great bonding experience the other day. We all know that interns have a medley of responsibilities, but never did I think I would be standing next to our Education Coordinator, Laura and our Costume Collections Manager, Katie, with a crowbar in my hand and safety goggles on my face, taking down a cabinet in our costume room. Since we are a non-profit, we don’t have the luxury of passing the hard work off to someone else. However, these resourceful women were eager  take on the challenge. A day of hard labor was accompanied with laughs, smiles, and some Disney songs, making the task one of the most fun things I have done so far this summer. So now we have a pile of wood in our basement and more space to organize our costumes. One task done, many more interesting ones to come!Clean up crew, Katie, Laura and Colleen

A Day in the Life of a Museum Intern by Colleen Jenkins

Colleen carving mannequins

Intern Colleen Jenkins sculpting a mannequin for the FHC Costume Collection

by Colleen Jenkins, 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern

My name is Colleen Jenkins. I am a senior at Framingham State University and I am majoring in History.I first started searching for an internship in a museum or history center to answer one question that has plagued me since the beginning of my freshman year, “what exactly does a museum worker do?” I would later come to find out what a narrow question that was, as this question is dependent on one’s role in the museum, who you work with, and the size of the collection.

So I sought out this internship to find the experience that would answer this question, and further guide me to the career path I will be officially starting next May. Like I always do before making large career or academic decisions, I consulted Dr. Maria Bollettino of Framingham State University about a summer internship. She directed me to the Framingham History Center. Over the next week, and with multiple consultations with other professors, I perfected my resume, and sent it along to the History Center. I eagerly waited for a reply.

The first of the many surprises that were going to come with this job that the response did not come from the current FHC Curator Dana Ricciardi, who I had e-mailed, but from Laura Stagliola, the FHC Museum Assistant & Education Coordinator, who is well-known in the history department at Framingham State. Whenever the FHC is brought up, Laura’s name is mentioned somewhere in the conversation as she is a FSU alumni, interned with the FHC, and was hired as a fulltime museum employee. She and FHC Executive Director Annie Murphy requested an introductory interview with me the following week. Later, after I passed their inspection, I met with the new curator, Stacen Goldman, who hired me to be the 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern.

I had a vague idea of the type of work I would be doing with the FHC collection, but I did not think my first day would be spent rooting through mismatched dolls, doll clothing, and doll accessories trying to piece together any identifying information. I made my first of many inventories to come of almost 200 doll items. The next step is for one of the many wonderful volunteers to research the significance of each item.

The dolls were actually a great introduction to what my internship at the FHC is all about, which is to assist with lengthy projects that are difficult for any one staff member to dedicate themselves to on top of the other work they have. For example, Laura’s main focus as the 2013 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern involved processing the recently acquired Dennison Mfg. Co. Archival Collection. The two Desilets interns that followed her also focused on processing, sorting, organizing and inventorying the Dennison Collection. So far, I have spent nearly a week with volunteers trying to put the finishing touches on the Dennison work. Many of the projects I have been given involve a collaborative effort of staff members and volunteers because “it takes a village” to properly access, record, maintain, and store a collection or artifact in a museum. This part of my internship has made my time at the FHC exciting and informative as I learn more each day of what the responsibilities of a museum staff are.

I look forward to making substantial progress on all of my projects, as well as aiding with the FHC’s family programming, and interacting with the incredibly hardworking (not to mention enjoyable) staff here.

Framingham Baseball Trivia

Test your baseball trivia knowledge.

1. Who was graduated from Framingham High and later played shortstop for the Chicago White Soxs? Hint: He played for the White Soxs from 1926-1930.

2. Who was born in Framingham and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Hint: The player was elected in 1948.

3. Who pitched for the Dennison baseball team and later the Pittsburgh Pirates? Hint: He was at Dennison from 1905-1906.

Framingham Baseball Trivia


  1. William Hunnefield graduated from Framingham High School. “Wild Bill” played shortstop for the Chicago White Soxs from 1926 through 1930. In 1931 he played for Cleveland, Boston Braves and the New York Giants.
  2. Harold Joseph Traynor was born in Framingham on November 11, 1899. “Pie” was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1948. He is considered, by most, tp be the greatest third baseman that ever played. His entire career was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His batting average of .320 was over a 17 year period.
  3. Martin O’Toole pitched for the Dennison baseball team during 1905 and 1906. In 1911, he was with St. Paul in the American Association when he was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The price of $22,500 was then the largest amount ever paid for a minor league player. “Marty” ended his career with New York in 1914.

Memories of an Older Framingham — Part III

Originally published in the 1985 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Phyllis Waite Watkins (1909-2005)
travis drug store

Worcester Turnpke/Travis Drugs

There weren’t many stores. I remember two grocery stores, the needle and thread shop, Strong’s Market on High Street (later moved to its present location on Edgell Road as the Shawmut Bank), Travis Drug Store, the blacksmith shop, post office and the Home for the Aged, (later to move into the Esty House and become Vernon House.

Downtown there was Fitts Market, Kerwin’s Shoe Store, the Hat Shop, the Five and Ten Cent Store, and above it a Chinese Restaurant. Across the railroad track was an excellent fruit store. But I am sure there were many more places of business, but Travis Drug Store was very important for it meant ice-cream cones in summer; and in winter, after dark, a walk through the snow with my Father for delicious hot chocolate.

Edgell Memorial Library

Edgell Memorial Library

Edgell Library was the “treasure house.” When the apples were ripe it was a fine thing to get a new volume of the “Little Colonel” books, return to the orchard where there was one special tree comfortable and big enough for two, climb it, sit in it and read with apple juice running down one’s chin.

There was no ROUTE 9! It was Worcester Road, long and straight as it ran between lines of poplars for all the world like a road in Belgium. The aroma from the sewage beds could not take away the excitement of reaching the gypsies’ house. It was on the left going toward Natick. During part of the year their bright caravans would be parked in the yard.

There was a formal opening of Jonathan Maynard School and a little girl named Eleanor Davies took part in the ceremonies as she was a direct descendent of Jonathan.

The day Lincoln Junior High opened was exciting. The children marched from the old, wooden structure where the new library is now situated and, carrying their books and pencil boxes, sang as they went to that wonderful new brick school.

High School, So. Framingham, Mass.

High School, So. Framingham

Sometimes they would have an out-of-doors “sing” at the High School, now Danforth Art Museum. The words would appear on the façade of the building (a screen, I suppose) and whole families would burst into “A Bicycle Built for Two” and all the old favorites still sung at Pops.

At first there was the Gorman Theatre. It showed black and white films and the music was provided by a lady who sat in the pit and set the mood with her playing. She must have had more than one tune in her repertoire but one definitely was her favorite. What a versatile piece! It did for the thief tip-toeing through the house, for cavalry charging, for love scenes and, played adagio with judicious use of the soft pedal, for the death of a child.

Then the Saint George Theatre was built. It had a foyer and what was more, the first few rows of the balcony were reserved. That meant one sat with one’s friends although it wasn’t too pleasing if one went with one’s beau only to find MOTHER and FATHER beaming from too close a vantage point.

There was little problem with discipline. Too much noise and the usher warned you – once. The next time, OUT YOU WENT, and it took a personal apology from the culprit and a visit from parents to the manager to be allowed into the theatre again!

Historic Village Hall

Historic Village Hall

Local thespians appeared at the Village Hall, Dennison Memorial, and the Gorman Theatre. Anything could and did happen as when during  love scene in “Ermine” one of our best known school teachers was pushed onto the stage before her time and, trying to shrink into herself, dressed in a long nightgown and cap and carrying a lighted candle, she crept across the stage in back of the startled lovers.

Chautauqua came each year and erected a large tent off Lincoln Street. They stayed one week providing concerts, plays and lectures – good ones, too. Roland Hayes and Carl Sandburg were among the artists. The scent of citronella wafted on the breezes of dozens of palm leaf fans. Children went to class every morning that week. They learned little songs, dances, and recitations. There were costumes for each little elf, or mouse, or fairy.

As that exciting week drew to a close, they had children’s day and all the parents came to watch awkward little darlings making mistakes while feeling like primadonnas. They learned a lot including the theme song:

I am proud of my Town.

Is my town proud of me?

All she needs is citizens

Trained in loyalty.

In our work, in our play

With our fellow-men,

Good citizens we will be.

So – I’ll be proud, be proud

Of my Home Town



Words from a more innocent time, last heard many years ago by not a bad idea at that!

Phyllis Waite Watkins

Memories of an Older Framingham — Part II

Originally published in the 1985 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Phyllis Waite Watkins (1909-2005)
Mount Wayte

Mount Wayte (Waite) c. 1950

The woods, fields, and hills were an invitation to discovery. A few lopsided sandwiches and away to adventure! Mount Wayte was a good place. One could sit on the steps of the little temple and tell weird tales of the “Holy Rollers” and their strange ceremonies. The place had a peculiar fascination because of the Eames Massacre in 1676 and the fact that it had been part of the Wayte Grant in 1658, the marker for which is in the basement of the Academy.

Any place was a good place for a picnic, especially if it provided good cold water to drink. Indian Head provided both a well and the chance of finding Indian arrow heads. Nobscot was good if one didn’t believe that bears lived there and would catch you if you didn’t hurry. Actually, Nobscot is the highest point in the Town and Indian Head next, with the third being Bare Hill, or Normal Hill as we call it.

Half-way along Union Avenue at Newton Place was Bean Pot Hill. People said that there was a huge bean pot on the top of the hill where they actually baked beans. The hill is no more; they did more than level it – they made a depression where once it stood and built houses on it.

Learned’s Pond was the place to swim, canoe and skate. Mr. and Mrs. Stalker used to waltz, silent except for the hiss of their blades on the ice, like figures in a dream. For the swimmers there was quite a choice – Big Sandy off Warren Road, Nurses Dock by the Hospital, and Little Sandy off Dennison Avenue. Oddly enough, Little Sandy now is the Public Beach, complete with life guards. Of course, there were private places like the dock at “Bridgemere” the home of the Bridges which stood where the Marion High School now stands. The more intrepid swimmers went to “The Ledge” off Salem End Road. But it was very, very deep and one dove in.

The clear sparkling Sudbury River was a most pleasant place to swim. Once there had been a blue boat-house at a spot near Maple Street and the place still was known as “Blue.” There we could climb trees, swing out on a branch and drop into the cool, clean water below.

Sudbury River at Gordon's Bridge

Sudbury River at Gordon’s Bridge

There was skating on the reservoirs in winter. In summer the boys went in for an illicit dip.

Where Bowditch Athletic Field is now, there used to be a racetrack. I believe they had sulky racing. The racing the children did there was unofficial and with a great disparity in their mounts. There were wonderful flat fields on the land now occupied by Cushing Hospital. It was a perfect spot for young riders to play “cowboys and Indians.”

Traffic was slow and one had time to see each wagon, or pung, or car as it passed by. One bore the legend “W E Chenery Coal.” There was no punctuation and for a long time I assumed that it was a fancy was of saying “We Deliver Coal!”

The runners of the pungs (wagons on runners) stuck out beyond the body of the box and it was great fun to run and jump on the runner holding on to the back of the sleigh. This was called “hooking a pung.” One could pull a sled behind them also if the driver was willing. Both feats were somewhat dangerous!

There were sleigh rides where we snuggled into the fragrant hay, sang songs and went to the Wayside Inn for a light supper and hot cocoa.

Because of the many horses, street cleaners were a necessity. They were in evidence during the day with wide brooms, shovels, and pushcarts. But, nightfall brought even more of the workers plus water wagons which sprayed the roads to lay the dust and wash away any waste materials. One of the leading baritones of the day scored quite a success with a song about them. The words were, loosely, “For I am a city sweeper and I sweeps the street-ses clean. In the midnight hush with me whirlin’ brush and drawed by me trusty pair, on the streets that’s dark and bare.”

Trades people delivered in those days. Freddie Bastien came in his freshly painted wagon pulled by a gorgeous Morgan horse, his sturdy bull dog alert besides him. Heaven help anyone who tried to get near the wagon after Freddie had dropped the round, iron piece that acted as a hitching-post for the horse. That dog took his duties seriously! Freddie came into the pantry and checked to make sure the house was provided with flour, sugar, and other staples. If any child had a cold there would be a small bag of hard candy “for tickly throats.” Outdoors and indoors Freddie wore a visored cap. He gave a little salute with one finger to its brim but never removed it.

Mr. Strong came, too, his refrigerated wagon holding great sides of beef, lamb, and pork. The family trooped out to help select the meat!

Each household had its square ice card to place in the window telling the iceman the poundage one desired. Young athletes vied for the delivery jobs, as lifting a large block of ice and carrying it on the leather protective piece over the shoulders was the equivalent of a good workout in the gym lifting weights and paid money as well. This was the ice cut from the local ponds during the previous winter, packed in sawdust and stored in large ice-houses. The delivery man gave children the pieces left over from chipping a block to the proper size. On each street children ran to meet him and watch his dexterous use of pick and tongs.

Another treat was the FUDGE made and sold by a lady who had a little needle and thread shop on Pleasant Street. A peanut vendor sold hot, unshelled peanuts in striped brown, red, and green paper sacks with serrated tops: FIVE CENTS A BAG. He stood in the little park in front of the Baptist Church in downtown Framingham. At the railroad station one could buy small glass locomotives filled with colored candies – if your parents would let you.

Kendall Hotel at sunset, 1907

Kendall Hotel at sunset, 1907

There seem to have been more private parties from dancing school on. The Kendall Hotel downtown was available, also the Village Hall, and the Country Club if one’s home was not large enough to accommodate the guests and small orchestra. No matter where the parties were held, they were well chaperoned and each couple had to bow and curtsey to the people in the receiving line.

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