In Memory of Mary…

Contributed by Elsa Hornfischer

December 14, 2014

Years ago, when the Framingham History Center’s Oral History Project began, it was my privilege to volunteer alongside Mary E. Murphy. During the years since and over 100 stories later I had learned many things from this loving teacher, mentor, and friend.

  • Mary was all about stories – both in and out of the Oral History Project…
  • She listened, closely, to the stories around her.
  • She repeated many of them – historical stories, interesting stories, Irish stories, political and educational stories, and stories from her many years of teaching.
  • She lived a most beautiful, committed, kind, attentive, and forward-thinking story of her own, and, by example, showed others how to TRY to do the same.
  • But one of her most impressive and frequent demonstrations was to relay these stories accurately and visually – exposing her clear and impeccable memory in the “telling!” It was Mary, not I most of the time, who remembered just about everything I ever told her or had been written within the pages of a book I once read!

She was a positive life force – always – and seemingly ageless: a very early example of where the accomplishments of America’s women would end up going since the 1950’s. She mentored dozens and dozens of women by her example – in a nutshell, the movement just flowed out of her and up into the community, it seems, just about everywhere. What could we women do but TRY to follow!

Over this past year, I often heard my grandson Jacob speak fondly about one of his very favorite ITN clients – a wonderful lady he drove around town on errands. (His client could no longer drive herself so often called ITN – a Framingham-based non-profit service for those who no longer drive.) Jacob’s client? Her name was Mary E. Murphy. Within one year of their friendship, however, Jacob left to pursue a job as a taxi driver, hoping for more hours.

My very last memory of Mary, only weeks before she passed, was of her almost running through a full capacity crowd in Old Edgell Library.

“Elsa,” she spoke excitedly, “Jacob is back!”

Mary’s spirit, her smile, her memory, her kindness, and her storytelling has passed down to yet another, much, much younger, generation – to my grandson’s – and undoubtedly to grandchildren of her own…

That’s just exactly how a good life plays out – Mary knew that.

Thank you, Mary E. Murphy for all that you were and all that you stood for!

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.