Red Sox Event


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Middleborough Historical Association Program

The Spring meeting of the Middleborough Historical Association, Inc. will be held on Saturday, April 26th, 2014 at 1:00 PM in the lower level meeting room of the Middleboro Public Library.


Celebrating the opening of the 2014 baseball season, Middleboro resident Paul Lazarovich will put on his Red Sox shirt and cap and present a program entitled “Fenway Park and The Boston Red Sox.

A professor of communications with Wentworth Institute of Technology, Lazarovich is known in the Cranberry Country area for his long-running Cranberry Country Journal local cable television program. During summer months he worked for the Red Sox as one of their initial Tour Guides, later working with the team’s promotions and marketing activities.

“It was while working for the Sox that I developed this presentation,” said Lazarovich.

The lively presentation begins with the early years of professional baseball played by the Boston boys of summer at the Huntington Avenue Field (now Northeastern University) to the first game played at their new Fenway Park site, up to the 2004 World Series.

A Boston native, Lazarovich brings his love of the team and the park to stories and facts from his research, along with remembrances such as buying grandstand tickets as a kid for seventy-five cents, working for the Sox at the 99’ All Star Game and the 2004 World Series and going inside the Green Monster for the first time.


The meeting is free and open to the public. Any questions, please call President Cynthia McNair at 508-947-3394.

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Women of the Civil War

Middleborough Historical Association to Present Program: Women of the Civil War

As our nation continues to remember the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a special program is planned by the MHA. Women’s efforts were significantly important in war zones and in the home front. Exactly what did women do to help support the soldiers and their home community? Jo Ann Clay will present an informative program: “The Role of Women in the North and the South during the War Between the States” on Saturday, February 22 at the Middleboro Public Library’s lower level Meeting Room. The program which will start at 1 p.m. is appropriate for all ages and is free to the public.

JoAnn Clay recently moved to Middleboro from Virginia, and is now a MHA director. For the past twenty-five years, she has done genealogy and historic work in Virginia and North Carolina. She has even traced her own family lineage to a Jamestown settler of 1607! Ms. Clay is past president of the Pickett-Buchanan Chapter : United Daughters of the Confederacy of Norfolk and recipient of the Jefferson Davis Medal. Her experience included working as a docent at historic Fort Norfolk. Ms. Clay is a published historical writer and has contributed information for two historical books.

Light refreshments will be served, and there will be a table with interesting items for sale. The library is handicapped accessible.

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Middleborough sees culture as key to future

When it comes to the future of downtown Middleborough, local and business leaders have had a united vision: a thriving town center packed with arts, history, shopping, food, and fun things to do.
Now town officials are taking steps to get there by asking the state to designate Middleborough Center as a cultural district, a label they believe would boost tourism, trigger economic revival, and, basically, put the state’s second-largest town on the map.
The assets are all there, said Jane Kudcey, director of the town’s Office of Economic and Community Development, who has petitioned the Massachusetts Cultural Council for grants and technical assistance to complete the application.
“Designating a district would highlight the positive aspects of downtown, establish it as a place to go, and give it its own identity,’’ Kudcey said. “We have a lot going on.”

In place since March, the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative allows cities and towns to add the designation as a way to promote arts and cultural activities, stimulate new offerings, and attract creative businesses.

There are 19 established cultural districts and 45 others in the pipeline, said the state program’s manager, Meri Jenkins.
“We are brand new, so I think that’s pretty good going,’’ Jenkins said. “In Massachusetts, we are blessed with an extraordinary amount of cultural assets, which give people the framework to develop their identity.”
Communities that want the designation need cultural assets clustered in a compact, walkable area, Jenkins said. There must be a partnership with residents, businesses, and arts groups willing to put in the time and effort to develop the district, hold a series of public meetings, and gain approval from local officials.
“It’s a proactive, can-do agenda,’’ Jenkins said. “People really have to be stewards of their own vision.”
In Easton, the Shovel Town Cultural District has sponsored galas, exhibitions, and holiday events since its launch.
Middleborough Selectwoman Leilani Dalpe, who is also an opera singer, has been working to establish the town as a tourism destination.
Creating a cultural district would shine an additional spotlight on the community’s established attractions, she said, such as the Burt Wood School for the Performing Arts, the Alley Theater, the Rachel Park Dance Studio, the Massasoit Community College campus, the downtown historic district with centuries-old homes and buildings, and spaces in public places — from the Middleborough Public Library to the Town Hall ballroom — where events are regularly held.
Middleborough recently launched lantern-illuminated ghost tours downtown, and in the spring plans to debut a new multiple-day Herring Festival, Dalpe said.
The Robbins Museum of Archeology on Jackson Street is foremost in collections of Native American artifacts, she said, and the nearby Middleborough Historical Museum boasts varied collections, including memorabilia of General Tom Thumb.
Once Middleborough acquires the designation, Dalpe said, “we will be eligible to apply for funding for things like the Adams art program, cultural facilities grants, and help in organizing many activities throughout the year.’’
The community has been trying to reinvent itself for some time, said Judy Bigelow-Costa, president of Middleborough on the Move, a business advocacy group.
“Like many struggling towns throughout the country, it becomes necessary to think outside the box and find a way to draw people in,’’ she said.
It is an achieveable goal, Bigelow-Costa said. Imagine a movie theater with a fine restaurant in the center of town, she said, hearkening back to the days when stores stayed open late, unlike today “when the sidewalks roll up at 5 p.m,” and historic buildings renovated to house cultural activities.
It could be a place where students, the elderly, and others feel comfortable going downtown to see ballet, listen to music, catch a movie, have an ice cream, dine with wine, and then stroll along the sidewalks window-shopping and spending money, she said.
The overall transformation is possible with the state’s help, and a commitment by residents and others to shop and dine locally and seek out local entertainment, Bigelow-Costa said.
“In doing so, newer opportunities will come along to feed off the new designs and new population,” she said.
Once a district is in place, the community would work to attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage new businesses and jobs, establish tourist destinations, and preserve and reuse historic buildings — all ways to enhance property values and foster local development, according to the state council’s website.
Middleborough business owner Lorna Brunelle said she would welcome the designation.
Brunelle opened the Burt Wood School of Performing Arts in 1995, and the Alley Theatre in 2010. Response was so good that the theater was booked for 30 weekends a year within a month of opening, she said, and the numbers have only gone up since then.
Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at

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Historian to speak on the world tour of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Thumb

MIDDLEBORO — The annual membership meeting of the Middleborough Historical Association will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. at Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant on West Grove Street (Rte. 28).

The program will feature Eric Lehman, who is an historian, travel writer and the director of creative writing at the University of Bridgeport, Conn. His essays, stories, and reviews have been published in dozens of journals, newspapers and magazines. He is the author of numerous books about the Nutmeg State.

Mr. Lehman’s new book, “Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P.T. Barnum and the Dawn of American Celebrity,” is the first academic biography of this iconic American entertainer and will be available for purchase at the program. Mr. Lehman’s talk will include the three-year world tour of Tom and Lavinia, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Thumb, which started just a few weeks after the Golden Spike was driven uniting rail service west to east. From San Francisco, the famous couple and troupe performed in Japan, China, Australia, India, Egypt, Italy and England and met emperors and dignitaries including Queen Victoria.

Many artifacts from this tour are on display at the Middleborough Historical Museum.

Lunch is “Lorenzo’s Famous Hot & Cold Buffet.” Cost for the buffet lunch is $20. Those planning to attend should make reservations by this Saturday by mailing a check to M.H.A.,P O Box 304, Middleboro, MA 02346. Those who wish to attend just the program should plan to arrive by 2:30 p.m. The program is open to the public, however non-members who wish to attend are asked to make a $5 donation. For any questions, call Cynthia at 508-947-3394.

This program is partially funded by a grant from the Middleboro Cultural Council.

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Middleboro town meeting to vote on CPA funds

By Eileen Reece

Posted Sep 24, 2013 @ 06:00 AM

When special town meeting meets on Oct. 7, voters will be asked to approve Community Preservation Funds for the preservation of the historic Oliver Homestead, the purchase of the 103-acre Lion’s Head property, preservation of historic town records and to provide climate control for two Historical Museum buildings.

The Oliver Homestead on Plymouth Street, an 18th-century estate associated with the historic Oliver Mill Park on Route 44 in Middleboro, is for sale and the town hopes to entice a perspective buyer to preserve it.

“It is one of the most significant private homes in town,” CPA Chairwoman Jane Lopes told selectmen this week.

The Oliver Homestead was built by Judge Oliver for his son ,who was married to the colonial governor’s daughter. It is situated on a sprawling 50 acres which abuts the Nemasket River, explained Lopes.

“We would like, as a town, to help preserve this property,” said Lopes noting that the current owners who are selling the property are descendants of Judge Oliver.

Town meeting will also be asked to appropriate $15,000 from the Community Preservation Fund for a historic and archeological inventory of the Oliver house, grounds and outbuildings.

Once the inventory is complete, the CPA would then seek additional funding to help determine a value for placing conservation and preservation restrictions on the property.

The purchase price of the property would be reduced by the value of these restrictions if the new owners agreed to preserve the property, Lopes said.

Articles 19, 20, and 21 seek $435,000 to purchase 103 acres on the Nemasket River referred to as “Lion’s Head.” The land would be purchased for open space and is contingent upon the Wild Lands Trusts and Land Grant funding.

“This is exactly why I supported the CPA,” said selectmen Vice-chairman Allin Frawley, who described Lion’s Head as a ‘fantastic’ property for the town to preserve with its walking trails, horseback riding and access to the Nemasket River.

The special town meeting will be asked to appropriate $156,600 from the CPA toward the purchase of Lion’s Head..

Article 17 seeks $68,509 to begin Phase II of the town’s historic and vital records preservation.

Town Clerk Alison Ferreira said many historic documents dating back to 1669 are stored in the basement and are subject to water damage and mold.

The CPA funding would provide adequate climate control, filing, storage and microfilm or digital formatting of the records for easier access.

Article 16 seeks $91,050 from CPA funds for climate control measures in two buildings owned by the Middleboro Historical Museum that contain historic town records and artifacts.

The CPA fund has a balance of $441,000, Lopes told the selectmen. The funds are obtained through a 1 percent surcharge on property taxes, with the first $100,000 value exempt.

The state matches 27 percent of the funds. Awarding of the funds requires a vote of town meeting.

The selectmen voted unanimously to support each of the CPA warrant articles.



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Boston Globe Article

Middleborough museum exhibit recalls celebrity little people

By John Laidler

August 25, 2013

In the midst of the Civil War in 1863, a large crowd turned out at Grace Church in New York City to witness the wedding of a diminutive couple, Tom Thumb of Bridgeport, Conn, and Lavinia Warren of Middleborough.

The high-profile ceremony and a hotel reception afterwards that drew 2,000 guests was one of the most celebrated episodes in the eventful career of the two dwarfs, who earned fame as performers through their association with the legendary showman P.T. Barnum.

A century and a half later, the memory of Warren and Thumb remains alive in Middleborough, where Warren grew up and where the couple — when they were not on the road — resided for a good part of their 20-year marriage.

The Middleborough Historical Association maintains a collection of clothing and other artifacts from the lives of Warren and Thumb, whose real name was Charles Stratton, and exhibits them at its Middleborough Historical Museum on Jackson Street.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the fabled wedding, the association recently had a specialist restore a dress that had belonged to Warren and is now displaying the historic garment in a special exhibit at the museum.

“Seeing it on a mannequin specially made to her proportions, you can visualize her height and what she looked like,” Dan Thompson, a member of the historical association’s board, said of the 32-inch Warren.

The black two-piece silk-and-net dress embellished with sequins was originally thought to have been worn by Warren when she and Stratton had an audience with Queen Victoria in England, a meeting that occurred either during a European tour they took shortly after the wedding or on a worldwide tour that began about six years later.

But Marie Schlag, the textile conservator who restored the dress, determined based on design that it would have been made in the 1890s.

Schlag, a Scituate resident, said that the dress was in poor condition when she began working on it, but that she and the association chose it for the restoration in part because it was more glamorous than another dress they considered.

“The other was a lovely silk embroidered dress, but it was sedate. This had a lot more flash and excitement to it,” she said.

Due to the dress’s state of disrepair, the restoration was a challenge that required the use of many different conservation techniques, said Schlag, who estimated the project took her 200 hours to complete.

“I was dealing with silk net and with sequins made of gelatin, not metal or plastic. So you really had to be very particular about how you repaired the damage,” said Schlag, who also had to use a special dry-cleaning-sponge method to clean the dress.

“It’s wonderful to see it,” Cynthia McNair, president of the historical association, said of the dress. “You can talk about how little Lavinia was, but to see the dress, it’s like she’s coming alive.”

The exhibit is located in one of two old mill houses at the museum, a seven-building complex behind the police station.

Born in 1841, Warren grew up in a longtime Middleborough family. After attending school, she left Middleborough to work as a performer on a relative’s riverboat on the Mississippi River.

Stratton was born in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1838. He vaulted into early stardom when Barnum tapped him at age 4 to perform at his American Museum in New York City. Through their affiliation, Stratton performed as General Tom Thumb during the next two decades in this country and abroad, playing the part of real and fictional characters.

Warren gained attention from her work on the Mississippi, and in 1862 Barnum recruited her to work as one of his performers. Warren and Stratton met soon after, and “it was love at first sight,” McNair said.

Their wedding on Feb. 10, 1863, was “a huge media event,” Thompson said, noting that it “put the Civil War off the front page of the newspapers.”

The spotlight on the couple continued when they traveled on to Philadelphia and then to Washington, D.C., where they were hosted at the White House by President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, and later during their European tour.

In Middleborough, the couple lived in a three-story house that they built across from the farmhouse where Warren’s family resided and an adjacent Cape where the family previously lived. McNair said all three houses remain in use as private residences today.

Stratton died in 1883, but Warren remarried two years later to “Count” Primo Magri, an Italian dwarf performer. The two resided in Middleborough but traveled with a performing troupe. Warren died in 1918 and Magri in 1919.

Thompson said that like many in Middleborough, he grew up absorbing the lore of the town’s connection to Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren. The story had a personal connection for him, because when his mother was a child her family lived in a two-family house above Warren’s nephew, Benjamin J. Bump, and his mother. Bump’s father was a brother of Warren, who was born Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump.

“Growing up, it was seen as our connection to the world of the rich and famous, celebrities,” he said of the town’s link to Stratton and Warren. “They were the stars of their time.”

Association members hope that the dress exhibit — and the colorful story of Stratton and Warren it recalls — can stimulate local residents to take a greater interest in the town’s past and explore all the museum has to offer.

“The museum focuses on life here in Middleborough and the surrounding areas as it was in the mid-1800s, and they were certainly part of that,” Thompson said.

John Laidler can be reached at

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Good thing comes in small package for Middleboro

Restoring dress of Mrs. Tom Thumb was huge undertaking

Marc Vasconcellos/The Enterprise

A dress once worn by Lavinia Warren (Mrs. Tom Thumb) is on display at the Middleboro Historical Museum.

By Jennifer Bray
Posted Jul 06, 2013 @ 06:00 AM

In 1892, Ellis Island in New York Harbor opened as the main immigration center on the East Coast.

In 1893, the New York Stock Exchange collapsed, touching off a financial tsunami.

And in 1896, the United States took part in the first modern Olympic games, which were held in Athens, Greece.

Today, a rare piece of history from that period is on display at the Middleboro Historical Museum.

A dress with rumors of royalty, worn by Lavinia Warren, wife of Tom Thumb, is making its debut after being kept under wraps for more than 120 years.

At one time it was thought that Lavinia wore the inky black creation when she was received overseas by Queen Victoria.

Thumb and Warren were world-famous petite performers during that time.

At one point, they worked for P.T. Barnum and his famous circus.

But in their down time, they lived quietly in Middleboro.

The Middleboro Historical Museum is home to the largest collection of Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren memorabilia. The museum recently commissioned a painstaking conservation project of the dress.

The black silk and net frock with velvet and sequin trim may only measure 26 inches long and span three yards of fabric in width, but it took Marie Schlag, a textile conservator, a year to bring it back to life.

“Over the course of a year, I probably spent 200 hours on the dress,” Schlag said.

She explained that her job began with a fiber analysis of the gown.

“There is a lot of science in this. I measured it and did an analysis of all the things wrong with it.”

The silk was so degraded, according to Schlag, that an intense bout of cleaning was done by hand.

The soils that were removed or reduced from the dress were vacuumed with specialized HEPA filters.

The sparkling sequins that made Lavinia’s dress glimmer and shimmer were an entire project in themselves.

“There are probably between 2,000 and 3,000 sequins on that dress, and because they are made from gelatin they cannot be wet or they dissolve,” Schlag explained.

Her painstaking methods included special dry cleaning techniques to bring the luster back to the sequins.

The skirt on the dress also posed a major textile conservation challenge.

“The skirt itself had a lot of slits, tears and breaks. The silk it was made from ages and it gets dessicated,” Schlag said.

To close those gaps, the conservator had to dye silk to match the dress. The next step was using adhesives to stick it to the back side of the silk by using adhesives and heat. The silk was too fragile for a needle.

That’s the biggest difference between conservation and restoration, said Schlag.

“Restoration changes the cultural history of the object, and conservation slows down the degradation and is always reversible,” she said.

Schlag said it is not known who made Lavinia’s dress. She completed a lot of historical research before embarking on the conservation project.

“To be able to keep that piece of history in our culture is why I do what I do,” Schlag said. “When I look at something in deplorable condition, open that box and that’s when my heart skips a beat. I say wow! I first appreciate where it’s been and who saw it.”

Jennifer Bray may be reached at


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Delightful tour guide made museum visit memorable

August 30, 2012 11:47 AM

To the Editor:

Our seven-member Lakeville book discussion group read “The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, a Novel” this past year and as a follow-up visited The Middleborough Historical Museum on Jackson Street yesterday. This museum houses the world’s largest collection of Tom Thumb memorabilia.

The purpose of this letter is to lavish praise on our tour guide, Gladys Beals. Because she was good friends with the mother of one of our members, we calculated her age to be around 90 years young. What an incredible oral history she gave us, all the while pointing out maps or pictures or chairs or interesting artifacts, and never faltering, never losing her place. She was articulate and interesting, dressed impeccably and seemed to thoroughly enjoy her subject … and the sharing of her knowledge with us. She made our tour of the museum a memorable one.

Thank you, Gladys.

Carol Kalchthaler


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Open for Business Once Again: The Peirce Company Store

June 21, 2012 11:26 AM

This Saturday, the Middleborough Historical Museum reopens its iconic Peter H. Peirce Company exhibit, with an open house from 10 to 3, including a ribbon-cutting at 10 and tours at 11. The exhibit documents the history of the Peirce Company store that occupied what is now the Middleborough police station on North Main Street from the early 1800s through 1935. Closed for the past few years in order to permit repairs to the building which houses it, as well as a re-cataloging and re-interpretation of the exhibit artifacts, the Peter H. Peirce Company exhibit has long been a popular attraction at the museum, and the public is invited to come celebrate its re-opening.

The Peirce family, their store, and the fund which they left behind, all hold an important place in Middleborough history. In 1934, a year before the store officially closed, the Middleboro Gazette published an overview of the store’s history, which follows.

“Our feature this week relates the story of a store – the P. H. Peirce Company – from whose extensive trade of years ago, a trust fund was able to be established for the use of the Town of Middleboro, and which has been of great value and assistance since its origination.

“The old firm name of P. H. Peirce and Company stood for Peter Hoar Peirce and his sons. Job, Thomas and James were the sons interested in the general store, which was however a department store as we speak of them today.

“Peter Hoar Peirce, who was born March 25, 1788, and who was named after Peter Hoar, with whom he lived after the death of his parents, began as a storekeeper in the two story house now standing at the Upper Four Corners, on the southeast corner of the intersection of “¦ Main and Vaughan streets in Lakeville.

“He had few advantages, but developed an unusual business ability in his early youth, and by his energy and persistent endeavor, he became the leading business man of the town. Forseeing business life at the Four Corners, he moved from Lakeville into Middleboro and set up headquarters in the store on North Main Street.

“The old store, which was started in 1808, satisfied the needs of the townspeople and residents of the neighboring towns withi a radius of twenty miles. They drove here to purchase the necessities of life.

“In the back room, there were bolts of cloth for dresses, shirts and aprons and an assortment of ribbons, buttons, thread and all sewing materials. This room also contained earthenware, farming implements and carpets, wallpapers and oilcloth.

“In the cellar was a room set apart for the sale of ‘West Indies goods’, which included rum, gin, brandy and all spirituous liquors.

“The order wagons were driven about town to solicit orders and deliver goods. This type of store was conducted for about 75 years. As other stores opened in the district the sale of merchandise other than groceries was gradually dropped.

“‘Mr. Thomas’ and ‘Mr. James’ were the only surviving Peirces at the time Elton L. Pratt came to work as clerk in the store. This was in 1885, and Herbert A. Pratt started with the firm in 1893.

“Mr. James Peirce died in 1901, and his brother Thomas also passed away that same year. ‘Mr. Thomas’ was the last of the Peirce brothers and consequently inherited much of their wealth. At his death he gave over a half a million dollars to the Town of Middleboro and a hundred thousand to the Public Library.

“After his death, however, the business was purchased by the Pratt brothers who conducted a grocery store until 1929, when Elton L. Pratt bought out his brother’s share.

“Mr. Pratt, who is the present owner, has seen many changes take place both inside and out. Electricity has replaced the old fashioned oil lamps which were used. The cash registers and adding machines and modern forms of bookkeeping are a great improvement over the old money drawer and ledgers so crudely kept. The end of the store used as sheds was remodeled for storage purposes. As the horse and carriage was replaced by the automobile, the sheds used by the customers, who drove into town, were no longer necessary.

“On the second floor of the building was a hall large enough to seat two hundred people. Years ago, town meetings and entertainments were conducted there at at one time, the Catholic church services were held in this hall.

“From all the facts at hand, it is interesting to learn that such an establishment existed in those early days, and that there are very few changes if any in the building, where the store of Peter Hoar Peirce was the center of trade in this portion of the state.”

The following year, in 1935, the Peter H. Peirce Company store closed forever, concluding a history of over 125 years.

For more local history, visit

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