1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Worcester (Massachusetts)

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WORCESTER, a city and the county-seat of Worcester county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., about 44 m. W. of Boston on the Blackstone river, a branch of the Providence river. Pop. (1900) 118,421 (37,652 foreign-born); (1905, state census) 128,135; (1910) 145,986. Area, 39 sq. m. Worcester is served by the Boston & Albany, the New York, New Haven & Hartford and the Boston & Maine railways, and is connected with Springfield and Boston by interurban electric lines. The park system of the city comprises about twenty tracts with a total area of more than 1100 acres; among them are Elm Park (88 acres) in the W. including Newton Hill (670 ft. above sea-level), and Green Hill Park (500 acres) in the N.E. Other parks are Institute Park (18 acres) and Boynton Park (113 acres) in the N.W. on Salisbury Pond, given to the city by Stephen Salisbury; Dodge Park (13 acres, N.); Burncoat Park (42 acres, N.E.); Chandler Hill Park (80 acres, E.); Hadwen (50 acres), University (14 acres) and Crompton Park (15.25 acres) in the S.W. and S.; and Greenwood (12.65 acres), Beaver Brook (15.5 acres), Tatnuck (2.94 acres), Kendrick (14.87 acres) and Vernon Hill (16.4 acres). Two miles N.E. of the centre of the city lies lake Quinsigamond, 4 m. long, from which flows the river of the same name, a branch of the Blackstone. On its shores is Lake Park (110 acres). Fronting the Common, a wooded square in the centre of the city, is the City Hall, near which is a bronze statue, by D. C. French, of G. F. Hoar. On the Common there is a monument, designed by Randolph Rogers, to the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War, and one to Colonel Timothy Bigelow (1739-1790), one of Worcester's soldiers of the War of Independence. The E. side of the Common was the site of an old burying ground, and the W. side of the First Church, built in 1663. About ½ m. N. of the Common is Lincoln Square, adjacent to which is the granite Court House; in front of it is a statue of General Charles Devens (1820-1891) by French. The old Salisbury mansion, dating back to Colonial days, stands in this square. At Salisbury Street and Park Avenue are the library and museum (1910) of the American Antiquarian Society, established in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, with a collection of interesting portraits, a library of 99,000 vols. and many thousands of pamphlets, particularly rich in Americana. The Art Museum was erected and endowed (1899-1903) by Stephen Salisbury, and contains a fine collection of casts, many valuable paintings, and the Bancroft Collection of Japanese art. The city has many fine churches.

Worcester is an important educational centre. Clark University was established here in 1889 by Jonas Gilman Clark as a purely graduate institution. In 1902 Clark College was opened for undergraduate work under the presidency of Carroll D. Wright, with a separate endowment of $1,300,000. In 1910 it had 30 teachers and 177 students. The university in 1910 had 15 instructors, 103 students and a library of 50,000 volumes. Under G. Stanley Hall, who was made president in 1888, the university became well known for its work in child-psychology. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (founded in 1865 by John Boynton of Templeton, Massachusetts; opened in 1868) is one of the best-equipped technical schools of college rank in the country; in 1910 it had 49 instructors, 515 students and a library of 12,700 vols.; the buildings are near Institute Park. On Packachoag Hill or Mt. St James (690 ft.) is the Jesuit college of the Holy Cross, with a preparatory school, founded in 1843 by Benedict J. Fenwick, bishop of Boston, and chartered in 1865; in 1910 it had 30 instructors and 450 students. There is a State Normal School (1874), and connected with it a kindergarten training school (1910).

The city library (175,000 vols.), founded in 1859, was one of the first in the country to be open on Sunday. There are four daily newspapers, one printed in French. From 1773 to 1848 was published here the weekly edition of the Worcester Spy, established by Isaiah Thomas in 1770 in Boston as the Massachusetts Spy and removed by him to Worcester at the outbreak of the War of Independence; a daily edition was published from 1845 to 1904. Early in the 19th century the city was an important publishing centre.

Worcester is one of the most important manufacturing centres in New England: in 1905 the value of the factory product was $52,144,965, ranking the city third among the cities of the state. Manufacturers of hardware and tools at an early date laid the foundation for the present steel and other metal industries, in which 42.8% of all the workers were employed in 1905. A large proportion are employed in the wire and wire-working industries, one plant, that of the American Steel and Wire Company, employing about 5000 hands; in 1905 the total value of wire-work was $1,726,088, and of foundry and machine shop products $7,327,095.

The first grant of land in this part of the Blackstone Valley was made in 1657, and the town, Quansigamond (or Quinsigamond) Plantation, was laid out in October 1668. In 1675, on the outbreak of King Philip's War, it was temporarily abandoned. In 1684 it was settled again and its name was changed to Worcester because several leaders in the settlement were natives of Worcester, England. In 1713 the vicinity was opened up to settlement, a tavern and a mill were constructed, and a turnpike road was built to Boston. Worcester was incorporated as a town in 1722. In 1755 a small colony of the exiled Acadians settled here. At the outbreak of the War of Independence Worcester was little more than a country market town. During Shays's Rebellion it was taken by the rebels and the courts were closed. The first real impetus to its growth came in 1835 with the construction of the Boston & Worcester railway, and it received a city charter in 1848. The strong anti-slavery sentiment of the city led in 1854 to a serious riot, owing to an apparent attempt to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. In Worcester, or within a radius of a dozen miles of it, were the homes of Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine; Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; Erastus Bigelow (1814—1879), inventor of the carpet weaving machine; Dr Russell L. Hawes, inventor of an envelope machine; Thomas Blanchard (1788—1864), inventor of the machine for turning irregular forms; Samuel Crompton (1753—1827) and Lucius James Knowles (1819—1884), the perfectors of the modern loom; and Draper Ruggles, Joel Nourse and J.C. Mason, perfectors of the modern plough and originators of many inventions in agricultural machinery.

See F.E. Blake, Incidents of the First and Second Settlements of Worcester (Worcester, 1884); Wm. Lincoln, History of Worcester to 1836 (Worcester, 1837); also same extended to 1862 by Charles Mersey (Worcester, 1862); D.H. Hurd, History of Worcester County (Worcester, 2 vols., 1889); I.N. Metcalf, Illustrated Business Guide to City of Worcester (Worcester, 1880); C.F. Jewett, History of Worcester County (2 vols., Worcester, 1879); the Collections and Proceedings (1881 sqq.) of the Worcester Society of Antiquity (instituted in 1877).