Framingham: Ex-Dennison workers reminisce about days at paper products giant

Nelson Gifford, center, former chairman and chief executive officer of Dennison Manufacturing Co. receives applause from former employees and their families during the Dennison employee reunion hosted by the Framingham History Center at Village Hall on Thursday evening.  Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

Nelson Gifford, center, former chairman and chief executive officer of Dennison Manufacturing Co. receives applause from former employees and their families during the Dennison employee reunion hosted by the Framingham History Center at Village Hall on Thursday evening. Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

By Danielle Ameden
Daily News Staff
Posted Dec. 5, 2014 @ 12:01 am

FRAMINGHAM – Just like generations from many other families, Pete Allen followed his dad, Dick, to work at Dennison Manufacturing Co.

They enjoyed good jobs, great benefits and a camaraderie that was second to none.

That bond between colleagues was as strong as ever Thursday as Allen reunited with nearly 200 of his fellow “Dennisonians,” more than 20 years after the company merged with Avery International and moved out of Framingham.

Gathering in Village Hall, employees hugged, heartily shook hands and teared up as they came together to celebrate a new Dennison exhibit at the Framingham History Center.

“You look around,” Allen said as the former co-workers caught up with each other and reminisced. “It was a place to earn your livelihood but it really was kind of a family.”

Employees proudly recalled their roles in helping Dennison, one of the town’s biggest employers from 1897 to 1990, make everything from its famous tags and labels to then-cutting-edge Elephant floppy discs.

Steve Jionzo, who worked at Dennison for 38 years, sings with his wife, Joanne, who worked at the company for eight years, during the Dennison employee reunion hosted by the Framingham History Center at Village Hall on Thursday evening. The couple met in 1962.  Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

Steve Jionzo, who worked at Dennison for 38 years, sings with his wife, Joanne, who worked at the company for eight years, during the Dennison employee reunion hosted by the Framingham History Center at Village Hall on Thursday evening. The couple met in 1962. Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

“What we did in innovation, creativity, technology, was to help businesses all over the world,” Bart Marmer, Dennison’s former general manager and vice president of retail systems, told the crowd. “We helped consumers satisfy needs.”

History Center Executive Director Annie Murphy said she was thrilled by the opportunity to preserve the company’s legacy. The exhibit, now on display, showcases so many “treasures,” she said, from scrapbooks to machinery to manufactured products.

“It’s important for us to know that Dennison has returned home,” Marmer said to cheers. “We can show the world, and more important, we’re damn proud of what we did.”

All together, the employees sang a song about the company to the tune of “Harrigan,” and applauded their beloved “Giff,” former chairman and CEO Nelson Gifford.

The 84-year-old, who led the company until the merger in 1990, fondly recalled wanting to take care of his employees, including by setting up a stock plan and giving them proper pay and bonuses.

“We had a wonderful company – unbelievable – with all these employees,” he said, and they deserved the rewards. “It wasn’t me – it was them. They earned it.”

Nelson Gifford, left, former chairman and chief executive officer of Dennison, and Jerry Tardif, who worked at Dennison from 1960 to 1996, enjoy the reunion hosted by the Framingham History Center at Village Hall on Thursday evening.  Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

Nelson Gifford, left, former chairman and chief executive officer of Dennison, and Jerry Tardif, who worked at Dennison from 1960 to 1996, enjoy the reunion hosted by the Framingham History Center at Village Hall on Thursday evening. Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

Arthur Bouley, 72, came from Woonsocket, Rhode Island for the reunion, proudly thinking back on his 35½ years on the job as a printer at Dennison. He made his living creating labels on wax paper that would stick to product bottles through heat transfer.

“I look back at how lucky we were to have a good job,” Bouley said.

The reunion was emotional for Dick Fotland, 81, of Franklin.

He was especially happy to see Gifford, who lent him a lot of support during his career.

“I’m almost crying,” Fotland said.

He worked in corporate research and development for Dennison for 17 years, helping create, among other innovations, a new printing process, and said people just “love this company.”

“You would love nothing better than to work for a company like this,” said Lou D’Amaro of Medfield, former president of stationery products. “You worked hard and you played hard.”

Burt Marmer, a former executive, speaks at the reunion Thursday night.  Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

Burt Marmer, a former executive, speaks at the reunion Thursday night. Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Kathleen Culler.

Sushil Bhatia, of Framingham, said he worked on several patents for Dennison, and products including a glue stick, sticky convention badges and a binding system for books.

He left the company with “extremely fond” memories and went on to open his own business, JMD Manufacturing, in Framingham and teach at Suffolk University.

Bhatia happily reconnected with Fotland Thursday, calling him “one of the brightest lights at Dennison.”

“The links we had with each other, they all come back,” he said.

Danielle Ameden can be reached at 508-626-4416 or dameden@wickedlocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @damedenMW.

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20141205/NEWS/141208007

Caroling on the Common

Saturday December 13, 12:00-3:00pm

Edgell Memorial Library 12:00-1:00pm (shopping and exhibition)

Historic Village Hall 1:00-3:00pm

2 & 3 Oak Street, Framingham Centre

caroling 2014

We are hosting our traditional family holiday celebration!  Take part in a festive shopping event after viewing our Dennison Mfg. Company: 1844-1990 exhibition at the Edgell Memorial Library.  We’ll feature discounted items in our Museum Shoppe and our new Christmas ornament!

Then join the caroling inside the Village Hall with Voices of MetroWest and enjoy delicious treats and hot chocolate.  Santa will be here, so bring your camera!

Children can also craft a keepsake frame as a special memento.

‘Dennison Mfg’ back in business at Framingham History Center

Business is booming once again in “Dennison Mfg. Company: 1844-1990,’’ a nostalgic and informative exhibit at the Framingham History Center that explores the history and impact of the “largest tag works in the world’’ through memorable artifacts and hundreds of documents.

By Chris Bergeron / Daily News Staff

Posted Nov. 16, 2014 @ 5:00 am

Updated Nov 16, 2014 at 9:44 AM

http://bcove.me/6w1fiw2f —> Click here for a video of Executive Director Annie Murphy talking about the exhibit.

FRAMINGHAM – For most of the 20th century, the Dennison Manufacturing Company powered Framingham’s economy, shaping the town’s growth and social life while pioneering business innovations that still affect how Americans live today.

Longtime townies remember the signature Dennison tags that drove a global business empire, the crinkly crepe paper with a hundred uses and the imposing Howard Street buildings where generations of relatives worked in a different community in a different era.Business is booming once again in “Dennison Mfg. Company: 1844-1990,’’ a nostalgic and informative exhibit at the Framingham History Center that explores the history and impact of the “largest tag works in the world’’ through memorable artifacts and hundreds of documents.Entering the exhibit, visitors will see the familiar red brick building rising above the railroad tracks in Woolsey Conover’s atmospheric oil painting.At its considerable best, visitors will see a multifaceted family portrait of a company and community that grew up together until circumstances sent them in different directions.FHC curator and co-organizer Dana Dauterman-Ricciardi described the exhibit “as the most ambitious in scope and the number of objects and records that we’ve staged.’’Following prior shows about Shoppers World and the Civil War, “Dennison Mfg.” continues a strong streak by FHC staff who continue to present exhibits that explore Framingham’s history through residents’ stories.Co-curator Nancy Prince, whose father was a Dennison executive, sifted through more than 100 cartons of documents, giving the exhibit both a human touch and scope by documenting the experiences of workers at all levels and the company’s far-reaching innovations.The Newton resident described her work on the show as “a labor of love in honor of my parents.’’FHC Executive Director Anne Murphy said the company mastered the then-unknown art of “branding itself before anybody else’’ by making its products essential for business and celebrating the holidays.She credited former employee Paula Boulette for convincing Avery-Dennison to donate many boxes of archived Dennison documents to FHC, while others were sent to Harvard Business School.Visitors will see – naturally – hundreds of the signature tags that revolutionized how businesses around the world labeled their products and the modest cane chair once occupied by Henry S. Dennison in the early 1900s.They will see the jewelry boxes made by Dennison in the mid-1800s in Maine before relocating in Framingham and tiny figurines fashioned from crepe paper for a company Christmas party during World War I.And they’ll see 4,000-year-old ceramic “tags’’ made in ancient Babylon likely used to catalog trade goods that an archaeologically-minded employee brought home from a far-flung vacation.

Conveying the breadth of Dennison’s 146-year history, Dauterman-Ricciardi and Prince have created a detailed timeline that covers a gallery wall as it chronicles significant events from 1844 when Andrew Dennison “made the first jewelry boxes in the U.S. on his cobbler’s bench’’ in Maine to 2006 when space in the former business at 300 Howard St. was converted into luxury condos.

Some of the notable events were:

  • 1858: E.W. Dennison made his first merchandise tags.
  • 1897: Twenty years after purchasing a factory in Roxbury, Dennison bought a vacant factory in Framingham and moved most of its operations there.
  • 1910-1916: Dennison added an employee lunchroom, rest room, kindergarten and recreational facilities.
  • Oct. 16, 1990 Dennison merged with Avery International Corp.

Visitors will see Dennison started as a family business in Brunswick, Maine, that began in 1844 making jewelry boxes and grew within 20 years to making the first “merchandise labels and making the “patch,’’ a reinforced circle so tags could be tied to products.

 After relocating to Framingham, the company was so successful at the turn of the 20th century it employed 3,000 people, or roughly a third of the town’s population, and its 16-acre site was called “the Gold Coast.’’Dauterman-Ricciardi and Prince have found artifacts from the FHC’s collection that show how Dennison products influenced residents’ lives in ways often forgotten today.In a display case, a 10 cent “Dennison Bogie Book’’ offers children suggestions about making costumes and decorations for Halloween. Above the slogan, “the show window is the mirror of the store,’’ a poster offers suggestions “How to dress a window with Dennison paper.’’On Thursday, Dec. 4, the FHC will hold a reunion of former Dennison employees and relatives at Village Hall from 6 to 9 p.m.For old-timers and newcomers alike, Murphy thinks the exhibit celebrates Framingham’s legacy of hosting a global business that “became an integral part of our town.’’“If you worked at Dennison or had relatives who worked there, you’ll be reminded of how important it was to the town,’’ she said. “For those who don’t know much about it, I think they’ll be amazed that Dennison was here and had such a global impact. That legacy hasn’t been lost.’’

WHEN: Through December 2015

WHERE: Framingham History Center, 16 Vernon St., Framingham

INFO: 508-626-9091; www.framinghamhistory.org

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20141116/LIFESTYLE/141117632/0/SEARCH/?Start=1

Framingham History Center To Unveil Dennison Manufacturing Company Exhibit

Exhibit opens to the public on Saturday, Nov. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m., and can be viewed through December 2015.

Framingham History Center To Unveil Dennison Manufacturing Company Exhibit
The Framingham History Center will unveil the exhibit The Dennison Manufacturing Company 1844-1990, tonight, Nov. 14, with a private members only party at the Edgell Memorial Library.

The public will be able to view the exhibit starting, tomorrow, Nov. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. $5 admission. Special membership rate available too. The exhibit will be open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. through December 2015.

The story of “The Dennison” is very much the story of the town of Framingham for nearly 100 years.

The Dennison Mfg. Company came to town in 1897 and employed thousands of Framingham residents until its merger with the Avery Corporation in 1990.

When the Dennison archives, which were so carefully kept in a special history room at the plant, were moved to headquarters in California there was a fear that a significant piece of Framingham history would be lost forever. Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, and a generous gift from the Avery Dennison Corporation, those archives were shipped back to Framingham over a year ago and our staff and volunteers have been caring for them ever since, according to the Framingham History Center.

The pride of being a “Dennisonian” runs deep among so many in our region and the Dennison Mfg. Company: 1844-1990 exhibition will celebrate that legacy.

Photo courtesy of Framingham History Center

The Tag! 1860-1870

By Laura Stagliola, Administrative Assistant

November 13, 2014

The period between 1860 and 1870 in the history of the Dennison Mfg. Co. was defined by the tag. The jewelry box business was steadily progressing and E.W. was expanding the number of sales offices and production size at a fast pace. E.W. patented the idea of reinforcing the hole in the tag with a paper washer on each side on June 9, 1863. The sales of tags for the first year were about ten million.

Dennison tags 6

Much like Aaron Dennison found that jewelry boxes in the 1800s were not reliable products, E.W. felt that imported tags from Europe were of inferior quality, and sought to change that. The world of advertising frequently used tags, but E.W. had to create a market for small jewelry tags of uniform size with a professional appearance. Businesses took some convincing but E.W. was able to harness and create with a tag machine. Now that jewelry tags had been introduced, Dennison’s newest invention focused on shipping tags, also known as direction labels.

necklace with tag

While shipping tags had been used well before the 1860s, the Civil War posed an overwhelming demand for cheap, durable tags unlike the expensive linen tags in Europe. After E.W.’s merchandise tag designer created the gummed washer to support the hole in 1863, his first shipping tag machine put out “about 15,000 tags a day and delivered 10 million tags to the marketplace in the first year.” Buyers quickly took to the new shipping and the need for tags increased steadily throughout the 1860s into the 1870s.

original and improved tag machines

Original and improved tag machines