During the nineteenth century, Massachusetts was transformed from a fishing and farming economy into a highly urbanized industrial state. This book presents an appealing portrait of the diverse manufacturing enterprises that flourished from 1865 through the 1920s and the colorful trade cards they used to market their goods.
More than thirty years after the Revolutionary War, the United States remained dependent on Europe for most manufactured goods. The War of 1812 persuaded a number of Boston merchants to invest in industries at home. Using waterpower, cotton from the South, and locally built machinery, they established textile mills at Waltham and later at Lowell and Lawrence. Following the decline of whaling, Fall River and New Bedford also became textile towns. With the help of protective tariffs, Massachusetts mills could compete against textile imports.
Mass-production methods of manufacture were soon applied to shoes, organs and pianos, parlor stoves and kitchen ranges, and sewing machines, among many other products. As steam power replaced water power, factories were built close to railroad tracks and near town centers. Lynn, Brockton, and Haverhill developed as shoe-towns. Boston grew rapidly as the financial and cultural hub and became a world-class center for the raw wool, cotton, and leather markets, as well as the port of export for manufactured goods. Springfield and Worcester built the machinery for the factories and became centers for precision tool making.
With fierce competition, new methods were needed to sell the goods. Massachusetts-made products were extensively displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, as well as at shows in Europe. Attractive trade cards were widely distributed to introduce these goods to customers across the United States and abroad.
During the Gilded Age of Massachusetts industry, most everything people needed was locally made and sold in locally owned stores. Patent medicines, bicycles, motorcycles, and even automobiles were added to the list of products made in Massachusetts. Over time, the old red-brick industry has been replaced by a service economy based on higher education, financial services, biomedical research, and healthcare. Goods for Sale pays tribute to the state's manufacturing enterprises during their period of greatest prominence.