Ipswich in the 20th Century

In 1903 the Electric Light System was built as a municipal utility by the Town. A labor strike at Ipswich Hosiery Mills in 1913 resulted in a young Greek woman being killed after out-of-town police were brought in. The Great Depression brought desperately hard times to the people of Ipswich. The Old North Church on Meetinghouse Green was destroyed in 1965 by fire after being struck by lightning, and the South Congregational Church suffered the same fate a decade later. A new Town Manager Charter was adopted in 1967.

Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles - *Excerpt From the Cowles Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.which contain correspondence, writings, biographical information, Caldwell and Cowles family papers and a photograph. Chiefly focusing on Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles amd her connections to Mary Lyon and Zilpah P. Grant Banister through both […]
The Ice House - Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company was located at “Tougas’ pit,” a small body of water that may have been an old channel of the Ipswich River. It can be accessed off of Hayward Street at “Ice House Crossing.” Photos courtesy of Bill George and archives. Susan Howard Boice wrote […]
Crossing the tracks on High Street - High Street originally continued straight at the John Kimball Jr. house (the one with the blue tree house) until the first bridge over the railroad tracks was constructed in 1906. From 1900 when the first trolleys came to town until the bridge was built, passengers had to unload here to […]
The Ipswich Safety Steam Automobile, 1901 - The Safety Steam Automobile Company headquarters was in Boston but its factory was at Depot Square in Ipswich.
The Oceanside Hotel in Gloucester MA The grand hotels of Gloucester and Cape Ann, 1905 - At the beginning of the 20th Century, Cape Ann was a popular destination for tourists. Gloucester’s grand hotels were the subject of “The Summer Hotel Guide,” published in 1905. Images and text are available through Archive.org: “This little book will rejoice in the thought that it has accomplished […]
Boston streetcar 1906 The streets of Boston, 1906 - Boston’s first motorized trolley opened on Jan. 5, 1889. Within seven years, the city had a network of electric streetcars. Enjoy this 1906 trolley ride on Boston’s busy Boylston Street. Read more at the New England Historical Society.
Gorton’s becomes the largest fishing business on the Atlantic coast, March 31, 1906 - On March 31, 1906, the people of Cape Ann were stunned by the news that Gorton’s would merge with three other Gloucester fish companies.
Hook and Ladder 1 and heroic George Gilmore - by Harold Bowen, from Tales of Olde Ipswich, Volume 1. (published early 1970’s). He adds, “It is hoped that after my story is read this week, those persons who delight in sounding a false fire alarm will perhaps have found a lesson in this tragedy on South Main […]
The Giles Firmin Park: from tannery to arboretum to playground - In 1762 Benjamin Lamson set up a tannery on County Road along Saltonstall Brook, which starts in a wetland between the Public Works facility and the YMCA, crosses County Road and empties into the Ipswich River behind the brick Verizon building. View Google map. The old building continued for many years as Farley’s Tannery, […]
Dustbane–sawdust in a can! - Dustbane Products was founded in 1908 by two entrepreneurial Canadians, Chester E. Pickering and George W. Green, who managed to convince people to buy pine-scented sawdust for cleaning floors, despite the fact that people already used free sawdust for that purpose. U.S. Manufacturing plants were established in Chicago and Ipswich.The […]
The Strand Opera House and Theater - The Strand Opera House was built in 1909 at 37 Market Street in Ipswich. It hosted operas, plays, travelling shows and even the Boston Symphony. It was quite a big deal to have such a grand venue in town. In 1930 the Strand burned, then re-opened as a movie theater […]
Ada K. Damon, Ipswich MA Wreck of the Ada K. Damon - Ada K. Damon shipwreck photo from “Ipswich” by Bill Varrell Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years and is known by sailors on the Atlantic Coast as one of the most fateful days in the history of these waters. The “Great Christmas Snowstorm” struck the North Atlantic […]
1910 Ipswich Census 1910 Ipswich census and maps - The 121 handwritten 1910 Federal Census survey forms for Ipswich provide a wealth of information about the population of Ipswich during its greatest period of industrial growth, which included the arrival of hundreds of immigrants to work in the Ipswich Mills. Survey forms for Ipswich are provided through Archive.org. The lists below […]
Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11 - In 1909, W. Starling Burgess joined with Augustus Moore Herring to form the Herring-Burgess Company, manufacturing aircraft under a license with the Wright Brothers, thus becoming the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the United States. Burgess took the initial flight of his first plane in 1908 at Chebacco Lake in Hamilton, MA. […]
The Grand Wenham Canal and the Topsfield Linear Common - The Topsfield Rail Trail is a “Linear Common” following the former Danvers to Newburyport rail line, which was officially abandoned in 1981. A plaque at the trailhead in downtown Topsfield details the former railroad’s history.The trail connects to the Danvers Rail Trail as part of the greater Border to […]
Charles Wendell Townsend, Ipswich naturalist - Born in Boston, November 10, 1859, Charles Wendell Townsend, M.D. was attracted by the natural beauty of Ipswich. He built a summer house on a ridge overlooking a wide expanse of salt marsh with open sea to the east. From here he wrote a number of books, including […]
Teddy Roosevelt’s “whistlestop” in Ipswich, 1912 - Campaigning as the vice-presidential nominee with William McKinley in 1900, Theodore Roosevelt conducted one of the most famous political campaigns in U.S. history, traveling by train and making 480 stops in 23 states. Following the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, at age 42, succeeded to the Presidency, […]
Lowell women’s suffrage activist Florence Luscomb - Florence Luscomb was born in Lowell on February 6, 1887 in Lowell. She was among the first women to graduate from M.I.T. with a degree in architecture, and in 1912 she and a fellow MIT graduate formed a two-woman firm in Waltham, specializing in designing public buildings and housing […]
January 12, 1912: Lawrence Bread and Roses strike - On January 12, 1912, the labor protest later known as the “Bread and Roses” strike began in Lawrence. A new state law had reduced the maximum workweek from 56 to 54 hours. Factory owners responded by speeding up production and cutting workers’ pay by two hours. Polish women […]
Police open fire at the Ipswich Mills Strike, June 10, 1913 - On June 10, 1913,police fired into a crowd of protesting immigrant workers at the Ipswich hosiery mill. A young Greek woman named Nicholetta Paudelopoulou was shot in the head and killed by police. Fifteen persons, including the local leaders of the  I.W.W. were taken into custody.
The Great Salem Fire, June 25, 1914 - Salem, Massachusetts burned on June 25, 1914. It began with a series of explosions at the Korn leather factory on Boston street, and burned 253 acres, cut a swath a half-mile wide and a mile-and-a-half long through the city. Almost half of the population of 48,000 people lost their homes. Read more […]
Saving the Rooster, 1915 - The gilded weathercock at the First Church in Ipswich has graced the steeple of every church at that location since the middle of the 18th Century.
Invention of the fried clam, 1916 - (This article is from the New England Historical Society.) On July 3, 1916, Lawrence ‘Chubby’ Woodman invented the fried clam. It was a hot, steamy day in Essex, Mass. Chubby Woodman and his wife Bessie had opened a small concession stand on Main Street two years earlier. On weekends they […]
The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard jack William Clancy, WWI hero - Featured image: The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard Jack Harold Bowen wrote in Tales from Olde Ipswich that William Clancy’s family lived in the Old Post Office on North Main Street. Thomas Franklin Waters spoke about historic actions by William Clancy in a 1917 address to the Ipswich Historical Society, […]
The Halifax Explosion – One Plea for Help Launches a Crusade – New England Historical Society - On the evening of December 5, 1917 a French ship, the SS Mont-Blanc, entered the Halifax harbor as the Norwegian ship Imo was exiting. The Imo was empty, stopping in Halifax on the way to New York to obtain relief supplies for war-torn Belgium. Unknown to anyone but the crew […]
Red Cross carrying Spanish Flu victims 100 years ago – The Spanish Flu epidemic raged in Massachusetts in 1918 - by Helen Breen “John F. Boland, Jr., was born in Lynn and attended Cobbet Grammar School. While in school he was active in athletics and played football and baseball on the school teams. He was a leather sorter by trade, working at times for Stephenson & Osborne, a […]
Influenza 1918 - Influenza made its appearance in Ipswich in September of 1918. On Sunday, Oct. 6, the Cable Hospital had more than 30 patients suffering from pneumonia, which followed the influenza. The state authorities took over the hospital that Oct. 6, and erected 50 tents, each large enough for two patients. The 15th Infantry was put to the task. It was estimated that there were at least 1,500 cases of the flu in Ipswich during the height of this disease.
From the Pandemic of 1918 to the Bird Flu - A Local History, copyright 2008, by Bruce Laing “I had a little bird Its name was Enza I opened up the window And In-flu-enza.” *a Skip-rope song sung by children, Fall, 1918 Early Friday morning, August 23, 1918, in a small coastal town of Ipswich, on the North […]
Boston rum runners caught during prohibition Rum runners - Ipswich folks have always had a taste for good rum. Its hidden creeks was a paradise for the rum runners and bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Tales of the Coast Guard chasing rum runners were common. It was very seldom that one could be caught. The booze was unloaded at convenient places like Gould's Bridge. To distract the authorities, someone would set a fire in town.
Boston’s Great Molasses Flood, January 15, 1919 - On January 15, 1919, people in Boston’s North End were startled by a loud rumbling noise. They watched in horror as a five-story tank broke apart, unleashing a wave of molasses 15 feet high and 160 feet wide.   Moving at 35 miles per hour, it traveled over […]
Nancy Astor, Hamilton MA The Amazing Life of Nancy Astor - If you look at an online map you will often see a reference to “Nancy’s Corner” at the intersection of Highland Street and Cutler Road in Hamilton. I started researching who this Nancy was and discovered an amazing story. Nancy Witcher Langhorne was the daughter of a Virginian […]
The day Nute Brown crashed through the Choate Bridge - Harold Bowen wrote this story in Tales of Olde Ipswich. In the early 1900’s, just about everybody knew Elisha Newton Brown, better known as Nute Brown. He was a prosperous farmer who lived in the Candlewood section of town. For years he was captain of the old Tossut […]
Wreck of the Edward S. Eveleth, October 1922 - In October 1922, the sand schooner Edward S. Eveleth rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of Steep Hill Beach. Filled with sand, each tide buried her deeper. Her remains were visible for several years. The skeleton of the hull is just off-shore a short distance from the wreck of the Ada K. Damon.
Crocker Snow, aviation pioneer - When we moved to Mill Road in Ipswich we wondered why Google Maps labeled a grassy strip across the street “Snow Airport”. The property belonged to Crocker Snow, an aviation pioneer who continued to fly his 1947 single engine plane until he died in 1999 at 94 years […]
Ralph W. Burnham, Antiques and Hooked Rugs - In the late 19th Century, hooked rugs gained immense popularity, partly due to a Maine Peddler and rug hooker named Edward Sands Frost, who introduced preprinted hooked-rug patterns on burlap. In 1876, when Frost sold his business, he had about 180 patterns. Frost’s patterns included a wide variety of natural […]
Lakeman's Lane and Fellows Road Ipswich Lakemans Lane and Fellows Road - by Charlotte Lindgren One hundred years ago, Lakemans Lane was a narrow dirt road lined by stone walls. About a mile beyond Parting Paths, then called Whittier’s Corner (for the now demolished homestead of the large Whittier family), the lane connected County and Essex Roads. It was bisected […]
The Agawam House in Ipswich The Great Agawam Stable Fire - By Harold Bowen, 1975 In the days of stagecoaches, there were several inns along the old Bay Road and High Street. These inns also provided stables in which to house the horses.. One of the later hotels was the Agawam House on North Main Street. In 1806 Nathaniel […]
The “Little Old Lady from Ipswich” who was seen around the world - In 1934, Mrs. Mary C. Hayes became the centerpiece of a poster that was placed in 25,000 English-speaking theaters throughout the world. Mrs. Hayes was chosen as the model by famous Ipswich artist M. Leone Bracker (1885 – 1937) as the personification of the great body of movie-goers. The theme of this […]
Gettin’ away on the ‘Pike - In the first half century of the automotive age, a weekend trip to the country for Boston folks often meant driving a few miles north on the Newburyport Turnpike and renting a cabin not too far from the shore. The Douglass Evergreen Village, above, was on Rt. 1 between […]
Soffron Brothers Ipswich Clams - Thomas, George, Stephen and Peter Soffron and their sister Virginia were the children of a couple who moved from Greece to Ipswich, to work in the mills. Whether the brothers ever worked in the mills is uncertain, but in 1932 they started digging clams for the local market, […]
Ipswich in the Great Depression - The severe winter of 1933-34, in which below-zero temperatures lasted for weeks, added great misery to the lives of the homeless during the Great Depression. As part of the New Deal, President Roosevelt signed a forced draft work relief program known as the Civil Works Administration, putting millions to work on […]
The Burke Heel Factory and Canney Lumber Fire, June 19, 1933 - The Burke & Son heel factory at Brown Square burned on June 19, 1933. In the adjoining lot was the Canney Lumber Co., where most of the building and the lumber was destroyed. Shown below are photos of the aftermath of the fire, shared by Bill Varrell in Ipswich: Images of America A […]
WPA dam on Green Street in Ipswich The Green Street dam - (*In March 1934, Congress passed the Civilian Conservation bill, creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC). It was through this program that the old jail on Green Street was demolished and the short-lived Green Street dam was built.) by Harold Bowen, Volume III Tales of Olde Ipswich, […]
The 1934 parade celebrating the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Ipswich - The Indian village of Agawam became a Puritan settlement in 1633 as an outpost of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The community was named Ipswich in 1634 upon the official founding of the town. Click on any photo to begin the slideshow. Click on the X in the upper […]
Ipswich Red Raiders, “a melting pot of awesome contenders!” - “A melting pot of awesome contenders were the Ipswich Red Raiders, members of a semiprofessional football league active during the late 1930’s and 1940’s. Made up of Ipswich men in their twenties and early thirties, they played teams from the surrounding cities and as far north as Augusta, […]
A Heated Battle – Lodge vs. Curley 1936 - by Helen Breen Some things never change. In the midst of the inflammatory rhetoric of the 2016 American Presidential campaign, let us pause and reflect on the simpler, but no less acrimonious, political days of yore. To wit – the Massachusetts US Senate race of 1936. In the […]
Ipswich MA lighthouse Santa hits the Ipswich lightkeeper’s house, December 24, 1937 - Benjamin Ellsworth was appointed keeper of the Ipswich Lighthouse by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and remained in the post until his death in 1902. His daughter Susan lived with him and also tended to the light.
The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II - The former Ipswich Mills, now owned by EBSCO, was the site of one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Second World War. The VT proximity fuze (variable time fuse) resembled tubes found in radios, and made it possible to detonate antiaircraft shells in the proximity of their target, rather than on impact. Fearing that the […]
Ipswich during World War II - WWII scrap metal collection in Ipswich To build tanks, ships, and planes during WWII, scrap metal drives were held across the country, and Ipswich was no exception. Do you recognize this location?   The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WWII The former Ipswich Mills, now owned by EBSCO, was the site of one of the […]
WWII scrap metal collection in Ipswich - To build tanks, ships, and planes during WWII, scrap metal drives were held across the country, and Ipswich was no exception.The location is Market Square across from Market Street.
The Ipswich Company Massachusetts State Guard The Ipswich Company, Massachusetts State Guard, 1942 - (Thanks to Larry Collins for sharing this  document) With substantially 15,000 man hours of practice, procedure and training under their military belts, the Ipswich Company of the Massachusetts State Guard is rapidly being whipped into shape as a trained military unit for the protection of life and property […]
Clam Battle! (Life Magazine, July 16, 1945) - An article from the July 16, 1945 Life magazine: Last Summer, as their forefathers had for 300 years before them, the people of Ipswich and Rowley were making a comfortable living out of the rich juicy clams from the briny marsh along the Parker River. Last winter they suddenly […]
The Hello Girls - Story by Harold Bowen, from Tales of Olde Ipswich, 1975. It was sort of a sad year in 1954 when the telephone service in Ipswich was changed from the traditional operator system (Hello Girls) to the dial system. Although in many ways the dial system is an improvement over […]
IHS Calendar 1950 Block prints from the 1950 IHS calendar: Old Time Ipswich - Many thanks to Bill Barton for sharing the Ipswich High School Calendar for 1950, titled “Old Time Ipswich.” The slideshow below features block prints created and printed by the students for each month of the calendar. “The Calendar is the combined effort of the Ipswich High School Printing and Art classes […]
Ipswich woman survived two train crashes in one morning, 1956! - Today I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Charlotte Lindgren, an Ipswich native, and who also loves Ipswich history. Her great grandparents Marianna and Maynard Whittier owned a “commodious house” at the junction of Essex Road and County Road (also known as “Parting Paths“). The old house […]
Emma jane Mitchell Safford Emma Jane Mitchell Safford - Across Green Street from the Ipswich Town Hall is a sign on a fence, commemorating Emma Jane Mitchell Safford. She was a descendant of Massasoit, Sachem (tribal leader) of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620. While the sign is factually incorrect (the term “Indian Princess” is an English […]
Memories of Quint’s Corner - This is a 1967 photo of  Quint’s Corner (The Tyler block) in Ipswich which Robert Swan shared with the “I Grew Up in Ipswich” Facebook group. Buddy Riel commented, “Quints Corner had an effect on so many Ipswich people. A lot of us can mark the stages of […]
Building a ship in Essex - This very entertaining mid-20th Century documentary is shown at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, just a short drive from Ipswich. Viewing time: 12 minutes.
Joseph Nye Welch shuts down Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency?” - Before a nationwide television audience, Joseph Welch attacked McCarthy with the following words: Joseph Nye Welch "Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness....Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
Bull Brook boys, Ipswich MA The Bull Brook Discovery - Native Americans began moving into New England after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier, around 12,000 BC. Artifacts discovered at Great Neck and along the riverbanks have been identified as belonging to the later Archaic period (8000-5000 years ago) and the Woodland period (2000 years ago). Evidence of […]
Hurricane Carol, September 6, 1954 - These photos were taken after the September 6, 1954 storm knocked down trees and power lines all over Ipswich. Hurricane Carol devastated the Massachusetts south coast and Rhode Island, and was responsible for 65 deaths in New England and $642 million in damage. On September 11, Hurricane Edna hit […]
polio shot Life in the Summer of Polio - Photo by Peter Zaharis from the 1956 Ipswich Town Report. Before introduction of the Salk polio vaccine in 1955, there were tens of thousands of new cases of polio annually in the United States, many resulting in paralysis. In the following year, new cases had been cut in half, […]
Ipswich MA Conservation Commission 1958 Ipswich Conservation Commission approaches its 60th anniversary - The Town of Ipswich established the state's first Conservation Commission in 1958. Commissions were given responsibility to administer the Wetlands Protection Act, and by the mid-1980s, every city and town in the Commonwealth had established a conservation commission. 
John Updike, the Ipswich years - In 1957, John Updike moved to Ipswich, where he and his family lived in the Polly Dole house on East Street, where they lived for seventeen years. Updike wrote that “Most Americans have not had the happy experience of living for thirteen years in a seventeenth-century house, since most of […]
Kings Rook and Stonehenge Club: when Ipswich rocked! - Just beyond the Choate bridge on South Main Street was a funky building put together from pieces of other buildings by an antiques dealer named Ralph Burnham early in the 20th Century. In the 1960’sHoward Ferguson and Gardner Damon started the Kings Rook. Good coffee and cocoa were served, […]
First Church burns, June 13, 1965 - It was a sad day for Ipswich when on June 13, 1965, lightning hit the steeple on the sanctuary of the First Church on Meeting House Green and the building was destroyed by fire. The building was more than a century old and was considered to be one of the […]
Stopping nuclear, 1967-1970 - 1967: Ipswich Nuclear Missile Site 1970: Nuclear Power Plant In 1970 a proposal was made to build a nuclear power generating plant on the site of the former town dump at the end of Town Farm Road in Ipswich. MEPP Inc., an organization of 29 Massachusetts Municipal Electric […]
The Middle Circumferential Highway (that never happened) - In its 1968 comprehensive report “Recommended Highway and Transit Plan” the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) proposed a new beltway around the Boston area that would be situated between MA 128 and I-495. The Middle Circumferential Highway would have been a 66-mile loop six-lane expressway cutting through the Ipswich River […]
The Hayes Hotel - The Hayes Hotel was constructed in 1842 by James Peatfield and Sandford Peatfield as a factory for the manufacture of woolen goods, hosiery and underclothing. John W. Hayes purchased the building in 1885 and established the Hayes Tavern, By the middle of the 20th Century the building still had the hotel sign, but was being used as a rooming house, which burned in 1969 with loss of life.
Massachusetts protest against the Vietnam War April 1, 1970: The Massachusetts Legislature challenges the Vietnam War - On October 16, 1967, over 5,000 opponents of the Vietnam War rallied on Boston Common and marched to the the Arlington Street Church.  At the end ofa service broadcast to the crowd, over 280 men turned in or burned their draft cards. On January 5, 1968, indictments were […]
Elizabeth Cole Ipswich MA selectman Elizabeth S. Cole is elected as first female Ipswich selectman, March 10, 1970 - IPSWICH, March 10, 1970: “For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, a woman has been elected a member of the Ipswich Board of Selectmen. Trouncing three male contenders, including the incumbent, Mrs. Elizabeth S. Cole of Argilla Road swept into office Monday, poling 1401 […]
Captain Arthur H. Hardy, 1972 - Arthur Hans Hardy was born in Marburg Lahn, West Germany on November 7, 1948, the son of Gordon E. and Inger Hardy of Highland Avenue, Ipswich. He graduated from Ipswich High School in 1966, lettering in football, basketball and track. As a student, “Bo” Hardy was well-liked, is said […]
The Preston-Foster house, Ipswich MA Something to Preserve - Featured image: the Preston-Foster house on Water Street. Something To Preserve was published by the Ipswich Historical Commission in 1975 and is a report on historic preservation by the acquisition of protective agreements on buildings in Ipswich, Massachusetts. This important book described the process by which the town of […]
South Congregational Church: only the Bell Remains - The South Congregational church burned on December 10, 1977. The lot is now a small park with two benches and the bell which survived the fire, surrounded by the old foundation. The house owned by Asa Brown was moved it to its current location on County Road in 1837 […]
The Blizzard of ’78, February 5, 1978 - Featured image: Market Street photo from “Ipswich Today” February 10, 1978. On the far right you can see the Strand Theater, which was demolished in 1985. The “Blizzard of ’78“ raged from Sunday evening February 5 through Tuesday evening February 7. Over a billion dollars of damage occurred, including the […]
Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation - The Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation on Little Neck Road is dedicated to Greenbelt’s first executive director. The property is primarily salt marsh–a trail through a small section of wooded upland leads to a viewing area and an osprey perch. In addition, the pond next to the Whipple House (formerly known […]
The Ipswich drive-through ban - In 1999, the Town of Ipswich began a growth management initiative for the 21st Century which came to be called “The Future of Ipswich Planning Project.” Its overall purpose was to help the residents, business owners, and property owners in Ipswich agree on a vision for the future […]

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