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Unique Central Massachusetts Facts

Famous People Of Worcester County

  • John Adams, 2nd U.S. President – graduated from Harvard College in 1755 and also taught in the Worcester School system.
  • Clara Barton, Founder of The Red Cross - born in Oxford, MA in 1821 
  • Robert Benchley, Writer & Actor, born in Worcester, 1889
  • H. Jon Benjamin, Actor & Comedian - featured in various television shows such as Archer, Home Movies, Bob's Burgers, and Important Things with Demetri Martin
  • Elizabeth Bishop, Poet laureate & Pulitzer Prize Winner - Born in Worcester, 1911
  • John Chapman “Johnny Appleseed” – Born in Leominster, MA 1774
  • Bob Cousy, Basketball Legend – born in Worcester 1928, still residing
  • Rich Gedman, Major League Baseball Catcher – raised in Worcester
  • J. Geils, J. Geils Band – grew up in Worcester and started playing in Worcester Clubs
  • Robert Goddard, Father of Modern Rocketry – invented the first liquid fueled rocket
  • Abbie Hoffman, Sixties radical – born and raised in Worcester, 1937. Coined the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.”
  • Stanley Kunitz, - Twice appointed Poet Laureate - born 1905 and raised in Worcester
  • Dennis Leary, Comedian and actor – born and raised in Worcester
  • Connie Mack, Baseball player/manager, born in East Brookfield, 1862
  • Frank O'Hara, Poet & MOMA Curator - grew up in Grafton, educated in Worcester
  • Charles Olson, Poet - born in 1910 and raised in Worcester
  • Orpheus, 1960’s Rock group – three members from Worcester
  • Cole Porter, Famous songwriter – graduated from Worcester Academy Class of 1909
  • Mary Sawyer, Subject of “Mary had a Little Lamb”, based on a true incident in Sterling, MA.
  • Casey Stengal, Baseball Hall of Famer, played baseball for the Blackstone Valley Mill League before joining the majors.
  • Lucy Stone and Abby Kelley Foster, Women’s rights advocates
  • Marshall “Major” Taylor, World–class cyclist – the first black athlete to win an international competition.
  • Ernest Thayer, Author of Casey at the Bat – First published in 1888, the famous poem was inspired by his schoolmate at Worcester’s Classical high School Henry Casey
  • Alicia Witt, Actress – born and raised in Worcester

Reprinted with permission from Favorite Places of Worcester County, published by: Tatnuck Bookseller.

Fabulous Firsts

  • Anesthesia – Dr. William Thomas Green Morton – Charlton
    A dentist, Morton was the first to use ether as an anesthetic in 1846. He later demonstrated its use at Mass General Hospital in Boston in an amphitheater known today as the “Ether Dome”.
  • Baseball Catcher’s Mask – St. Mark’s School – Southborough
    First used in 1875 by St. Mark’s School catcher, who modified a fencing mask to protect his broken nose. Later patented by a Harvard student, who was on the opposing team that day.
  • Birth Control Pill
    Developed by the Worcester Foundation For Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury. It was announced in 1957; approved by the FDA in June, 1960. Developed by Drs. Gregory Pincus and Min-Chueh Chang.
  • Carpet Loom – 1855 – Clinton
    Invented by Erastus Bigelow, whose carpet empire had the slogan, “A title on the door rates a Bigelow on the floor”.
  • Curve Ball Pitch – W.A. “Candy” Cummings – Athol
    Cummings, later an Athol businessman, pitched the first curve ball in 1867 when playing for the Brooklyn Stars. A plaque at the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown credits Cummings with turning the baseball into a science, transforming the sport. Cummings got the idea tossing clamshells on the beach in 1864, and spent several years perfecting his technique. After his retirement from major league baseball in 1877, he returned to Athol, where he ran a paint and wallpaper store and pitched for the amateur baseball team, the “Athols”.
  • Elm Park – Park and Elm St. – Worcester
    Elm Park, designed by Olmstead of Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace fame, is considered to be the nations first public park.
  • First American Nobel Prize Winner – 1902 Albert A. Michelson – Worcester
    Michelson was chairman of Clark University’s Physics Department whose prize-winning work concerned the measurement of light.
  • First Farmers Almanac – 1792 – West Boylston
    Robert B. Thomas, a West Boylston school teacher, published the first Farmer’s Almanac, which farmers considered second in importance only to the bible. The almanac published weather predictions and other helpful hints.
  • First Federally-licensed AIDS test – Cambridge Biotech Corp. – Worcester 1988
    Cambridge Biotech, formerly Cambridge Bioscience Corp., received a federal license for its HIV 1 rapid diagnostic test on Dec. 13, 1988.
  • First Major League Baseball “Perfect Game” – Pitched By J. Lee Richmond Worcester June 12, 1880
    Richmond pitched for The Worcesters, a National League team, from 1880-1882. A perfect game is one in which no batter is allowed to reach base by any method. The Worcesters retired the Clevelands in 1-2-3 order nine successive times.
  • First National Women’s Right Convention – 1850 – Worcester
    Abby Kelly Foster spoke at both the first and second convention (also held in Worcester 1851). Other notable attendees were Lucky Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and William Lloyd Garrison.
  • First Radio Station to Play the Beatles – WORC Radio – Worcester
    Disc Jockey Dick “The Derby” Smith introduced the Beatles to the country on Worcester radio station WORC. The Beatles were so thankful they gave Smith the gold record for their hit, “She Loves You,” and inscribed it “To America’s First Believer”.
  • First Ted Williams Home run in New England – 1939 – Worcester
    Legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams hit his first home run in New England in 1939 during an exhibition game played against Holy Cross College at Fitton Field.
  • G Suit – Developed by David Clark (1903-1989) – Worcester
    The famous “Anti-G” suit that prevents pilots from blacking out when pulling out of high-speed dives was developed in Worcester by David Clark. Famous pilots to wear the suits include Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong. The company also manufactured all of NASA’s Gemini space suits, including the suit worn by astronaut Ed White in the first U.S. space walk in June, 1965.
  • Hook Organ – Mechanics Hall – Worcester
    The oldest unaltered instrument of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, believed to be the only four-keyboard organ built before 1900 left in existence. The 3,504 pipe organ was made by the E. & G.G. Hook company of Boston, and was dedicated in 1864. It was featured in the 1984 movie “The Bostonians”.
  • Liquid-Fueled Rocket – Auburn
    Invented by Robert Goddard, Clark University professor.
  • Massachusetts’ First Public Reading Of the Declaration of Independence – 1776
    Isaiah Thomas read the Declaration from the western porch of the meeting house, and his Massachusetts Spy was the first New England newspaper to print the declaration.
  • Modern-Day Typewriter – 1840 – Worcester
    Invented by Charles Thurber
  • Monkey Wrench – 1840 – Worcester
    Invented by Loring Coes. Coes Knife Co. was in business in Worcester’s Coes Pond area until the 1990’s.
  • Pink Flamingo Lawn Ornaments – 1950 – Leominster
    The ubiquitous plastic pink flamingos that decorate so many American lawns were first manufactured by Union Products in Leominster.
  • Postage Stamp – Millbury
    The country’s first postage stamp was manufactured in Millbury, and the famous “Return to Sender” postal phrase was a Worcester invention.
  • Rickshaw – 1846 – Worcester
    Albert Tolman built a “man-drawn lorry” in Worcester for a missionary heading to South America. From there, the rickshaw made its way to popularity in Asia.
  • Sewing Machine – Spencer
    Patented by Elias Howe in 1846
  • Shay’s Rebellion – 1786 – Worcester
    First organized protest of the new government after the Revolution. Farmers led by Daniel Shays marched on the Worcester courthouse to protest high taxes.
  • Shredded Wheat – 1890 – Worcester
    Invented by Henry Perky in his Jackson St. factory. Worcester was once the “shredded wheat capital of the world”.
  • Spring Bed – Spencer
    Developed by Tyler Howe, uncle of sewing machine inventor Elias Howe.
  • Steam Calliope – Invented in 1855 by Joshua Stoddard (1814-1902) – Worcester
    Synonymous with the sound of the circus, the calliope has a keyboard connected by wires to valves that contain whistles. Stoddard’s invention became a favorite during circus parades, political rallies, at carnivals and on riverboats.
  • Valentine – 1847 – Worcester
    Esther Howland (1828-1904) was the first person to mass-produce valentines in the U.S. She liked imported valentines, and began to a make valentines with sentimental messages at home, later employing several women and using an assembly line method for her valentines decorated with doves, doilies and roses. BY 1874 she was using the name “The New England Valentine Company.” Her business eventually grossed $100,000 per year, and she was later bought out by The George C. Whitney Co., also of Worcester.
  • Webster Lake – Webster
    Real name: Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg – The longest geographic name in the U.S., the longest lake name in the world.
  • White Chocolate – Shrewsbury
    Developed and first sold by Hebert’s Candies in the early 1950’s.
  • Windchill – 1939
    Windchill, which measures the combined effects of temperature and wind velocity on the loss of heat by human skin, was first defined by Clark University Ph.D. Paul A. Siple, (1909-1968) in 1939. On a 20 degree day with 10 mph wind, the “windchill factor” is three degrees. Siple, an expert on cold weather, tested his theory in Antarctica, where he also named a previously uncharted 4,000 feet high mountain range the “Clark Mountains” in the honor of his alma mater.
  • Worcester State Hospital – 1833 – The country’s first publicly financed insane asylum – Worcester
    Sigmund Freud visited Worcester State Hospital in 1909 during his first and only trip to America.
  • Yellow “Smiley Face” button – 1963 – Worcester
    This “national icon” was designed by Worcester graphic artist Harvey Ball, for and in-house moral boosting promotion at The America Group Insurance Company in Worcester. The Company wanted to promote a “smile attitude” among workers with customers. The rest is history.

Sources: The Telegram & Gazette; The Worcester Historical Museum; various town historical societies; Grolier Academic American Encyclopedia; Forty Immortals of Worcester and Its County, Worcester National Bank, 1920; Heart of the Commonwealth, Maragaret A. Erskine , Windsor Publications, 1981; Lunenburg Historical Society,1977; More Once-Told Tales of Worcester County, Albert B. Southwick, Databooks,1994; Northborough American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1982; The City and the River, Vol. 1, Doris Kirkpatrick, Fitchburg Historical Society,1971; Worcester Area Writers 1680-1980, Michael True, Worcester Public Library, 1987, Worcester County residents.

Reprinted with permission from Favorite Places of Worcester County. Published by: Tatnuck Bookseller.