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slides: 8 Ways Worcester Changed the Nation

Friday, March 21, 2014

 

Founded in 1722, Worcester is a city with a long history of innovation, outright rebellion, and forward thinking.

In the 1850's, noted abolitionist and Worcester resident, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, enthusiastically described Worcester as a "seething centre of all the reforms." Worcester is continuing this history of innovation and new thought with research, education and life sciences and new Nobel Prize winners.

Here are some of the times that Worcester paved the way for a revolution, movement or a new way of thinking in the United States.

 

Related Slideshow: 8 Ways Worcester Changed the Nation

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Declaration of Independence Reading

The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence to a group was in Worcester.

On the July 14, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, then on its way from Philadelphia to Boston, was intercepted at Worcester, and read for the first time in Massachusetts by a well known and distinguished defender of the American Colonies, Mr. Isaiah Thomas. Thomas who published the Massachusetts Spy, was the first to read the Declaration of Independence to a group, and was the first paper to publish it.

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The Beatles

WORC in Worcester was the first radio station to play a Beatles song in the United States.

By 1963, something of life-changing musical importance was happening across the sea from New York. The Beatles were becoming a phenomenon in England. “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” rocketed to the top of the charts as albums flew off the shelf. Throngs of screaming fans followed the Fab Four everywhere. The British Invasion had not yet begun and in the United States, they remained virtually unknown. However, one small station was also aware of The Beatles: WORC, in Worcester, Massachusetts. The first Number 1 record by the Beatles on an American chart was "I'll Get You" on WORC’s charts. Beatlemania had begun in the U.S.

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National Women's Rights Convention

The first National Women's Rights Convention was held in Worcester in 1850.

The first national convention of women advocating women's suffrage was held in Worcester on October 23 and 24, 1850 and a second in 1851. Among those attending were Susan B. Anthony and Abby Kelly Foster. While geography played a role in the site selection, Worcester was considered a sympathetic place to hold a convention on such a radical topic as equal rights for women.

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Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins of Worcester was the first woman to serve in a President's cabinet and credited with creating minimum wage laws and Social Security.

Soon after Frances “Fannie” Perkins was born, her family moved to Worcester, attracted by the growing market for paper goods. Her father founded a store that has become what is Butler-Deardon Paper. She served as Commissioner of Labor for New York State under then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Perkins became his Secretary of Labor when he headed to the White House in 1932. She worked tirelessly, for twelve years, and accomplished considerable important labor reforms including social security, the minimum wage and child protection labor laws.

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Yellow Smiley Face

The first Yellow Smiley Face originated in Worcester at "The America Group Insurance Company".

When it comes to creating a movement, Smiley can’t be left out. In 1963, State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Worcester merged two companies with resulting low employee moral. Hired to develop an image for a “friendship campaign”, Worcester freelance artist Harvey Ball drew a smile at first but then added eyes and the smiley face was born. He was paid $45 for his artwork but his design swept the nation in the early 1970s. An estimated 50 million smiley buttons alone had been sold by 1971, and the image appeared on countless other products as well.  Smiley’s popularity continues today endearing itself to each new generation. At the time of his death, Ball still was the proprietor of an art studio located on Main Street in Worcester.

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Government Protest

First organized protest of the new government after the Revolutionary War

As the country floundered under the weight of heavy foreign and domestic debt that left the soldiers of the Revolution unpaid, Congress asked each state to raise their portion through taxation which created a hue and cry among the already over burdened residents. Finally in 1787, Daniel Shays led an uprising with 1,000 men to take possession of Worcester and prevent a sitting of the Supreme Court.

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Nobel Prize

Former Clark University Department Chairman won the first American Nobel Prize.

The nineteenth century physicist, Albert Abraham Michelson, was the first American to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics. The former chairman of Clark University's Physics Department, was named America's first Nobel Prize Winner in 1902 for his experiments relating to his calculation of the speed of light.

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Historic Society

Worcester is home of the first national historic society founded in America.

In 1812, Isaiah Thomas founded the now world-famous American Antiquarian Society, dedicated to preserving American history. The library's collections document the life of America's people from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Collections include books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, broadsides, manuscripts, music, graphic arts, and local histories.

 
 

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