David DuBois writes about history for Worcester Sun and his own website, https://worcester.wordpress.com/. He holds a master’s degree in history from Clark University. When not buried in books, he enjoys playing music, cooking, motorcycles and brewing beer. Follow David on Twitter @davidjdubois.
“As transportation and technology improved, beer became more refined and commercial variants readily available. Signature ales, IPAs, porters and lagers were imported by Geo. F. Hewett in the 1870s. Companies such as M.A. Worcester sold commercially available hops, yeast and malt from its warehouse near Mechanic and Summer streets. It was not, however, until the Bowler brothers arrived in 1883 that the city’s first big brewery was born.” As brewing in the city experiences a renaissance, Worcester history expert David DuBois reflects on the first beer boom.
“The town government had proved itself ill-equipped to police its growing population and provide much-needed services. The temperance movement backed the calls by Worcester’s political elite — led by the Lincoln, Salisbury and Estabrook families — to change the form of government.” An exploding population, shifting societal priorities, and bit of chaos, lead to big changes in the Heart of the Commonwealth. David DuBois weaves the tale.
There’s little doubt that beer is back in Worcester. Between Wormtown Brewery, 3cross Brewing Co., and Flying Dreams Brewing Co., beer lovers have plenty of city offerings to choose from. While locally brewed beer may seem like a modern phenomenon, it is in fact a return to the idea that beer is a local product.
Except for Prohibition and a period from the 1960s through the early 2000s, Worcester was home to a number of businesses dedicated to beer.
Like traditional New England hard cider, beer in early Worcester was brewed in the home or served in a tavern. Stylistically, they skewed toward high-alcohol ales. Sometimes even served warm as a flip; a beverage made with beer plus molasses, sugar or dried pumpkin that was popular in Colonial times.
As transportation and technology improved, beer became more refined and commercial variants readily available. Signature ales, India Pale ales [IPAs], porters and lagers were imported by Geo. F. Hewett in the 1870s. Companies, such as M.A. Worcester, sold commercially available hops, yeast and malt from its warehouse near Mechanic and Summer streets. It was not, however, until the Bowler brothers arrived in 1883 that the city’s first big brewery was born.
Courtesy David DuBois
1872 entry in the city directory for Geo. F. Hewett, advertising, among other drinks, Guinness’ Dublin Porter.
John and Alexander Bowler emigrated from Ipswich, England, with their father in 1859. Born into a family of brewers, they entered the family business and launched their namesake brewery in 1883. They offered lager and porter under the Bowler name, but their signature beer was Tadcaster English style ale.
For most of its history, Worcester has been a city of immigrants. It began its life as a small agricultural community, and at the time of the first census in 1790 had about 2,000 residents. By the mid 1800s, however, immigration to the city exploded.
Courtesy Worcester Public Library
One of the first ordinances passed by the new city government was to establish the city seal.
Tensions between old and new residents often manifested themselves in unanticipated ways. In Worcester’s growing immigrant population the local temperance movement found its raison d’être. Alcohol was strictly controlled in puritanical Massachusetts. New arrivals brought with them different cultural ways around drinking. This combined with local ideals of freedom and liberty to form powerful and sometimes violent action against the state’s stringent laws.
Courtesy Worcester Public Library
An April 5, 1848 advertisement in the National Aegis for an abolition meeting. Worcester as a hotbed of social causes in the 1800s.
Temperance in Worcester was born from equal parts social reform and desire for law and order in a changing city. The town government had proved itself ill-equipped to police its growing population and provide much-needed services. The temperance movement backed the calls by Worcester’s political elite — led by the Lincoln, Salisbury and Estabrook families — to change the form of government.
“As home to trolley manufacturer Osgood Bradley and later Pullman Standard, Worcester played an important role in the history of passenger rail travel in the United States. And over the years, trolleys and trains have captured the imagination of millions.” Indeed, hop on and take a fascinating journey with Worcester history expert David DuBois.
The Civil War was still raging in September 1863 when the first horse-drawn trolley cars rolled down the streets of Worcester. By 1900, a system of light rail connected not only the neighborhoods within the city, but communities across Massachusetts and into neighboring states.
At its height in 1916, the Worcester Consolidated Street Railway Co. was the largest in the state with 429 cars, more than 300 miles of track and 72.7 million fares.
Worcester Public Library Periodicals Collection
A 1902 map published in the Sunday Telegram of the electric rail network.
The first electric trolley cars were introduced to Worcester in 1891. The streetcars were a big improvement and service expanded rapidly. The system was a mishmash of different trolley and railroad companies that formed a transportation network across Massachusetts and into neighboring states.
Today we think of transit as a government responsibility, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries rail was run by for-profit corporations. In the beginning, many of the companies were small and some were even created to run a single line.
“The most awe-inspiring feature of the auditorium is the second-floor Memorial Chamber with the names of those who died in WWI embossed in gold on the stone walls. Large floor-to-ceiling windows look out between the building columns toward Lincoln Square.” David DuBois explores the history, and looks into the future, of one of Worcester’s true gems.
There are many different ways people remember and publicly memorialize the past. As Memorial Day approaches, it is well worth taking a moment to think about how we remember veterans and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
All over the city there are monuments to those who served. From the squares in every neighborhood honoring veterans to the Civil War monument on the Common, perhaps the most impressive war memorial in the city is the long-shuttered Memorial Auditorium at Lincoln Square.
Courtesy David DuBois
Postcard from the author’s collection. Postmarked May 14, 1941.
After several years of neutrality, the United States entered World War I in April 1917. In August the 26th Yankee Division was established, including four infantry and two field artillery companies from Worcester. The division incorporated elements of the Massachusetts State Militia (predecessor to the National Guard) that date back to the Revolutionary War. It was the second U.S. division to arrive in Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force.
“It takes hikers past old rock quarries, through ravines, and along spectacular stone walls. One of the more unique landmarks is the old coal mine shaft, which today emits a post-apocalyptic vibe. Standing there brings a sense of long forgotten significance.” David DuBois treks far and wide for a unique view of the city’s past.
A combination of practical features and technical breakthroughs makes the rare Pioneer motorcycle produced more than a century ago in Worcester one of the most significant designs in motorcycling history. Worcester history expert David DuBois tells the fascinating tale.