The economy of Beverly changed greatly from the post-Revolution era through 1920. Well into the mid- to late-1800s Beverly's fishing and farming industries still survived but clearly had a diminishing affect upon the economy. Beverly's diverse economy and late fishing boom caused it to be one of the later towns in Essex County to industrialize. Industrialization and the evolution of Beverly's economy would alter the town's landscape over the course of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One area of the town that went through many changes and can be traced back to the original settlers of Beverly is the section of the "Thousand Acre Grant" that made up John Balch's estate. 1
The fishing industry in Beverly flourished after the Revolutionary War. During the war many ships in Beverly were transformed for privateering and people made larges fortunes capturing British goods. While old sloops and schooners were being used to attack British ships, the fish populations had a few years to recover their numbers. After the war cod prices were the highest they had ever been. Besides the abundance of cod, Beverly fishermen were considered some of the most innovative, fishing in less frequented areas. 2 "Beverly had been a latecomer to the industry, but the schooner fleet based in the harbor grew steadily from nineteen vessels at the end of the 1780s, to over forty in 1832, to about 75 in 1850." 3 Fishing in Beverly, although productive much longer than in other parts of Essex County, soon ended and the fishing industry remained vital only in nearby Gloucester where it still exists.
Farming also remained part of the local economy into the 1800s although it played a relatively minor role. A major change to the industry after the Revolutionary War was that as the population grew, the availability of land diminished creating a larger gap between the wealthy and a new class of landless poor. Growing farms hiring farm hands and migrant workers. 4 The last remaining farm on the property was Raymond farm which lasted until the mid-1900s.
As fishing and farming were factored out of the economy Beverly adjusted to the new industrial age. A major factor in Beverly's industrialization in the 19th century was the shoe making industry. At first shoemakers were scarce, but in 1830 Daniel Lafavour began to manufacture women's shoes in the Cove. Shoes soon took off as a major industry not only in Beverly, but in Essex County. In 1856 Seth Norwood built a factory on the corner of Rantoul and Railroad Avenue. 5 One of the largest influences on Beverly's economy was not shoemaking, but the United Shoe Machine Company. USMC, as it was referred too, was a huge influenceon the economy and environment.
The USMC factory was opened in the early 1900s, located on what was once the old Balch estate. Today the area has been remodeled into a thriving industrial park called the Cummings Center. It was a 250 acre lot that was purchased from 20 different private parties from Beverly, and as far away as Ireland and Australia. The area was originally made up of farms, homesteads, a grist mill and a wharf on the tide water, and contained marshy bogs as well as massive ledge formations, which were ground up and used as fill. Natural trap rock from the area was crushed and mixed into the cement used in the factory building. 6 The USMC factory was made of reinforced concrete, and was the largest building in the world of its kind at the time. It took up a great deal of land for not only the factory, but also nearby housing and recreational facilities for its employees (see map). Shoe Pond Dam created the Upper and Lower Shoe Ponds which still exist today . The dam was built circa 1903 and was used to provide fresh water for the factory and its employees.
During World War I and later during World War II Victory Gardens or War Gardens were started to produce vegetables to support one's family so as to lessen the strain on the nation's food supply. The idea was that the food that you did not buy (because you had grown your own) would be sent over to the troops in Europe. This was one way to contribute to the war effort at home. In response to this effort a Garden Club was created and maintained, and exhibits were shown on "Sam Sam" day at the USMC. There were Vegetable and Poultry Shows , Agricultural Shows , and garden competitions . These gardens were maintained on the USM property and are an example of how the land was used over time.
Besides War Gardens, The United Shoe Machinery Corporation also provided plenty of recreational facilities for their employees. The Beverly Golf and Tennis Club of today (Figure 13-14) was once the USM Country Club where golf and tennis tournaments were held. On the property surrounding the factory were fields for baseball, cricket and other field events. "Sam Sam" Day was a huge event for employees. They participated in various competitions, including a baseball game between the Beverly Factory and the Boston Office . The USMC even had a motor boat club that used the Bass River. Boats are still kept along the shore of the Bass River, but the waterway has changed over the past decades do to the reclaiming of land. A gun club was available on the premises for both men and women to practice their shot. This was all part of USMC's plan that keeping employees happy would make them more productive. Even during the Depression, workers at the United Shoe had a higher standard of living than most due to the company's monopoly upon the machinery industry.
Industrialization in Beverly and surrounding areas also had an impact on transportation. The Eastern Division of the Boston & Maine Railroad (Formerly the Eastern Rail Road) ran adjacent to the USMC property . Boston & Maine began operating in August, 1844 and was a major commercial influence. 7 Prior to the USMC coming to Beverly, it was considered a sleepy suburb of Salem, best known for its "Gold Coast" where the wealthy spent their summers. After the establishment of the factory, Beverly became one of the busiest and most enterprising cities in the entire nation. 8
The economy of the country, as well as Beverly and the rest of Essex County, made a dramatic switch from agrarian to industrial beginning in the late 19th century. Beverly phased out fishing and farming from its economy and embraced the world of shoemaking and the making of machinery. Shoemaking was a major factor in bringing Beverly up to speed with the Industrial Revolution, and the United Shoe Machine Corporation brought us into the twentieth century. It changed the landscape not just because of the new factory building but because it created recreational areas, altered bodies of water, and created new homes. The evolution of Beverly's economy from the post revolution period to 1920 would alter the landscape as each generation came closer to the industrial age.
1. Robert Raymond, "Map of the Old Planters 1000 Acre Grant of 1635," 2003, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/
~raymondfamily/OldPlantersMap.html. (15 September 2003).
Beverly Public Library. "Picture Collection," 30 September 2003, http://www.noblenet.org/beverly/ (10 October 2003).
History of USM: 1899-1905. Beverly, MA: Beverly Historical Society, 2000.
Hoisington, Daniel J. Made in Beverly: A History of Beverly Industry. Beverly Historic District Commission, 1989.
Municipal History of Essex County Massachusetts, Vol. II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company .
Raymond, Robert. "Map of the Old Planters 1000 Acre Grant of 1635," 2003, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/
~raymondfamily/OldPlantersMap.html. (15 September 2003).
Vickers, Daniel. Farmers and Fishermen. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994