It’s no secret that Massachusetts loves a good nickname. The state itself has many - the Bay State, Old Colony State, and the flattering, Baked Bean State. Similarly, many cities and towns within the Commonwealth have their own unique nicknames. Whether derived from the town’s industry, famous resident, or landmark, these nicknames demonstrate the state’s eclectic history.
Read on for some fun monikers and how they came to be!
- First settled in 1764, granted township in 1785, and incorporated as a city in 1923, Gardner has had a long history in the woodworking and furniture industry. From cane chairs to school furniture, Gardner had not one, but twelve furniture companies. These factories produced over 1.2 million chairs annually, rightfully making Gardner, the Chair City of the World (City of Gardner
). The most well-known chair manufacturing company was the Heywood Company. Established in 1826 and later merging to become the Heywood-Wakefield Chair Company, the Heywood Company produced beautifully crafted wood and cane chairs, as well as more utilitarian chairs you see in public schools. Today, the city of Gardner honors its chair history with its ‘Big Chair,’ a 20-foot monument which sits outside the Helen Mae Sauter Elementary School.
Shovel Town - Located about 25 miles south of Boston lies the town of Easton. Due to the area’s natural supply of bog iron, Easton became an industrial center, producing hoes, hammers, cut-nails, and shovels. Established in 1803 and situated on the Shovel-Shop Pond Dam, Ames Shovel Works became a leader in the shovel industry. Producing shovels, shovel handles, and later supplying the shovels which assisted in laying the nation’s railroads, Ames Shovel Works became a giant in the area’s iron industry. In 1844, Oliver Ames, who purchased the original property on Shovel-Shop Pond, left his business to his sons, Oakes and Oliver. Eventually the two sons would reorganize into the Oliver Ames & Sons Corporation. By 1875, Ames shovel productions were valued at $1.5 million (Town of Easton). The industrial and commercial impact from the Ames family is still seen within Easton today. Generations of Ames bequeathed stately public buildings and land to the town. And the impact of the shovel works is also still part of the community. If you ever find yourself in Easton, stroll the grounds at Borderland State Park to see the Ames mansion and afterwards stop in for refreshment at the local Shovel Town Brewery!
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- Incorporated as a city in 1884, Waltham is known for its watches! The city was once home to the Waltham Watch Company. Established in 1854 with a factory along the Charles River, the Waltham Watch Company was founded by Aaron Dennison who aspired to bring the factory machine process to the production of watches. This aspiration would prove successful as Waltham Watch Company became the first to manufacture watches on an assembly line (City of Waltham
). The company would expand to make clocks, and played a large part during World War II. Stopping production of civilian watches, from 1942-1944, the company produced aircraft clocks, compasses, springs, speedometers, and watches for navigation and general military service (Moore
, p.276). The company would declare bankruptcy not too long after the war’s end with the company closing in 1957. Today, you can see parts of the remaining factory and surrounding area as part of the American Waltham Watch Company Historic District.
Want to know what your city or town nickname is? The State Library has many city and town history books, annual reports, vital records, maps, and more. Browse our online catalog or contact the Reference Department, email@example.com. You just might learn something new about your hometown!