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.
WHEN: Through December 2015
WHERE: Framingham History Center, 16 Vernon St., Framingham
INFO: 508-626-9091; www.framinghamhistory.org