Tuesday, November 25, 2014

South Middleborough School - Sign the Petition

The South Middleborough Protective Association is undertaking a grass roots effort to preserve the historic South Middleborough School. Please visit the SMPA's Facebook page to sign up in support of their efforts. Every signature is critical to demonstrate support for this worthy project!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Middleborough Town Hall under Snow, 1920s

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Conservative Middleborough

Middleborough has always been a conservative town. Its ban on public swearing in 2012 achieved fairly widespread notoriety, but was not the first action of its kind. One hundred years ago, in a similar act aimed at maintaining a semblance of decorum among its residents, Middleborough police were tasked with ensuring that the slits in women's skirts did not exceed what was considered proper - 15 inches to be exact. At the time, the action attracted the attention of Chicago's The Day Book  which published the following notice on January 19, 1914.

  How high may a slit skirt be slit?
   "Fifteen inches!"
   Such is the decree of those intelligent guardians of propriety, the police. Any longer breach in the skirt is considered a breach of the peace - at least in the puritanical minds of the good people of Middleboro, Mass.
   Chief of Police [Harry] Swift of more-than-moral Middleboro has shown that fifteen inches is the very ultimate maximum of leg that can be decently shown. And so he has turned loose on the streets the "slit-skirt censors" - a detachment of patrolmen armed with two-foot rules instead of clubs.
   But the rule is, in fact, unnecessary, for each censor has so delicate a sense of decency that he can tell at once, and infallibly, by the tingle of shame which passes over him that when he sees it, that a certain slit skirt is revealing a sixteenth of an inch more of limb than the first fifteen inches which alone can be gazed upon with perfect propriety.

It's not quite clear just how far the measure progressed or how long it lasted. The Boston Globe in February 1914 reported that the story had reached as far as the west coast where Chief Swift was the subject of at least one cartoon and news clipping.

The Day Book (Chicago), January 19, 1914, p. 9.
Boston Globe, "Middleboro Fame Reaches the Pacific", February 8, 1914, p. 16.

"See What's Here - A Slit-Skirt Censor" from The Day Book(Chicago), January 19, 1914, p. 9

Representative woman's walking suit from 1913 featuring a decorously-buttoned slitted skirt. Women in Middleborough showing an inappropriate amount of leg were subject to being cited for indecency.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Peirce Academy in Decline, 1876

The following letter, published in the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial in early 1876 was written in response to reports that Peirce Academy, Middleborough's noted college preparatory school located on Center Street where the Post Office now stands, was in decline. With the departure of Professor John Whipple Potter Jenks as the school's principal in 1872 and the establishment of Middleborough High School, enrollment in the once popular academy that had been founded in 1808 fell abruptly. Efforts were undertaken in the 1870s to establish an endowment fund for the school and though these met with some success the school was ultimately discontinued at the conclusion of the 1880 spring term in the face of declining enrollment.

Middleboro', March 31, 1876,

Mr. Editor: - As stated in your last issue, Peirce Academy began its Spring term with but twelve pupils. However, tall oaks from little acorns grow; and this little acorn is already assuming the proportions of a very small oak. This week closes with twenty names upon the roll. The school is equipped and ready to fit students for any college in the land, in the shortest possible time, and in the most thorough manner. Young ladies or gentlemen may find here the best of instruction, in any branch or branches, which they desire to pursue. French and German are taught by a competent instructor, a Frenchman, who was for some time a resident Professor in Germany. Excellent instruction is provided in music, piano or organ, in drawing, water colors, and in oil painting.
Peirce Academy is still alive and expects to be fully up to the times. The helping hand is always welcome.

You may hear from us again at some future time, meanwhile, if you hear of any who desire assistance in ascending the hill of knowledge, tell them that Peirce Academy stands ready to assist.

Yours truly,


Peirce Academy, stereocard, John Shaw, Middleborough, publisher, 1870s.
Peirce Academy is depicted from near the corner of Center Street and Thatcher's Row (which the columned front of the school building faces).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lakeville Public Library, 1914

Lakeville Public Library, real photo postcard, 1914.
The library is depicted shortly before its completion.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Who's This Guy?

“Alewife or Branch Herring,” by Sherman F. Denton, chromolithograph. From Fish and Game of the State of New York (Forest, Fish and Game Commission, 1901).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Star Mill Herring Harvest, 1910

The manner in which herring were harvested from the Nemasket River changed radically over the course of the first half of the twentieth century and witnessed the disappearance of the picturesque scene of men using great hand nets to scoop vast numbers of up-running fish into waiting barrels. The image captured above was taken at the Star Mill by George Morse in 1910. Within a generation, seine nets would be employed to gather as many fish as possible with the harvest being deposited into waiting trucks rather than the crates and barrels seen here.

Image: Herring Harvesting at Muttock, George Morse, photographer, 1910.