Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 9th - Bright Eyes in Brockton, MA

Women's History Month - Day 9 

While exploring Concord, MA today, I stumbled upon this young lady. Her bright eyes and smile are rather captivating. She is solidly middle class and dates to around c. 1889.  The original photo is a cabinet size card and was taken at the Astrom & Co in Brockton, MA.

I know little of Brockton, MA, so I looked it up, and found that these bright eyes were witnessing a dynamically changing city located in Plymouth County. Today, Brockton is a diverse city of around 100,000, and her generation would have begun to see this city very differently than those before her. Brockton was changing dynamically - In 1874, the city's name changed from North Bridgewater to Brockton (after local merchant, Isaac Brock). In 1881, officially became a city with a population around 13,000 and was quickly becoming "the shoe factory to the world". ...and maybe most interestingly, in 1884, Thomas Edison introduced his 3 wire electrical system to the world in Brockton, MA.

What does that mean to her and other residents of Brockton? Brockton became the first city on earth to have centralized electric power through a 3-Wire or 3 Phase system, and help Edison prove that efficient, affordable electric power could be brought to average people.  The technology was simply too new to electrify every home, but major public outlets (including schools) would be electrified. Brockton would not remain the center of his experiment, choosing instead (for many reasons) to complete his project in New York City.

How this young women with her bright eyes and smile fit into this progressive city -- along with her name is lost to history. Yet, we are still able to relate to her. She grew in or near a dynamic technologically and progressively changing community. Being so young, memories of great events which came before would be lost on her. She would never remember the Civil War, though she was surrounded by its veterans.  She would never remember Frederick Douglass speaking to the community, though she could visit the tree at the site where he gave his speech. She would never remember Brockton as a farming community nor really remember the political hubbub over its name change. She would bear witness to world changing technology right in front of her eyes, though we don't know how it personally affected her. Her name is lost to history and presuming she met a healthy adulthood, those bright eyes and smile would experience the triumphs and challenges which accompany a society driven by advanced technological changes -- not so differently than us.

Photo provenance: Purchased at Thoreauly Antiques, on Waldon Street in Concord, MA

No comments:

Post a Comment