Hotel Needham

572-576 Essex Street, Lawrence

Hotel Needham, undated postcard. Courtesy of the Lawrence History Center.

In the early hours of May 6, 1919, in the midst of a major strike by textile workers in Lawrence, a group of 15-20 masked men raided Hotel Needham. The hotel was known as a place where out-of-town supporters of the strike stayed. And it was such supporters who were the targets of the right-wing vigilantes who raided the hotel.

The armed men found two Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America organizers—Anthony Capraro and Nathan Kleinman—dragging them out of their hotel rooms and forcing them into cars outside the hotel. The kidnappers left Kleinman outside of Lowell, warning him to stay away from Lawrence and threatening him with death if he returned. Capraro received more violent treatment: at the hotel, kidnappers beat him with blackjacks; they beat him further in the rural outskirts of Andover until allowing him to flee.

The kidnapping took place at a time of heightened tensions surrounding the strike, which began on February 3, 1919. Just days prior to the raid on the Hotel Needham, police in Lawrence deployed a truck-mounted machine gun and patrolled the city’s streets armed with rifles.

Despite such repressive measures, the strike, which involved around 20,000 of Lawrence’s 30,000-35,000 workers, continued. And despite the threats, Kleinman promptly returned to Lawrence to resume his work. Capraro eventually did so as well after recuperating from his injuries. More broadly, the violence seems to have only strengthened the resolve of the strikers and their supporters to continue their struggle. Two weeks after the kidnapping, the strike ended (on May 20), the mill owners having accepted most of the workers’ demands. Key among them was a 48-hour workweek, with the maintenance of the same pay offered at the then-current 54 hours.

Hotel Needham first opened in June 1909. According to a description published in the Lawrence Souvenir while the hotel was in operation, it was “metropolitan in service, modern in every particular and carefully conducted by an experienced hotel man.” The establishment was also, the description gushed, “up-to-date in every respect, having every feature of the best hotels in New England including 51 light and airy rooms with hot and cold running water in every room, finely furnished baths and suites, steam heat, electric and gas lights, a rathskeller and excellent cuisine, private [dining] rooms and elevator service.”

It appears that Hotel Needham ceased to exist, for unknown reasons, shortly after the strike ended. Later in 1919, the building was known as the Hotel Lawrence. And in 1922, it was the Hotel Bristol.

The building first known as Hotel Needham still stands. Today it houses a business on the first floor and residential apartments on the five floors above.

The former Hotel Needham, circa 2023.

Getting there:

From the MBTA Commuter Rail Station in Lawrence, a one-mile (20-minute) walk.

To learn more:

Dexter Arnold, Dexter. ‘“A Row of Bricks”: Worker Activism in the Merrimack Valley Textile Industry, 1912-1922, PhD dissertation, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1985.

Anthony Capraro, “How the Lawrence Ku-Klux Gang Taught Me American Democracy,” New York Call, May 27, 1919.

Jennifer Guglielmo, Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Acknowledgments:

Thanks to Dexter Arnold for his assistance. Thanks as well to Kathy Flynn and Amita Kiley of the Lawrence History Center, and to Jim Beauchesne.

Lithuanian Hall

17 St. George Avenue, Norwood

In the late 1800s, a significant Lithuanian population resided in South Boston. By 1900, some of them had moved to Norwood—particularly South Norwood, a part of town with a lot of multifamily, working-class, and tenement-like housing. According to historian Patricia Fanning, heavily immigrant, polyglot South Norwood was “like a foreign country” to Norwood’s more established residents, its inhabitants “increasingly viewed as the source of social problems and political unrest.” One institution that was highly associated with these negative views was Lithuanian Hall.

17 St. George Avenue, the former Lithuanian Hall, March 2023. Photo by Joseph Nevins.

The venue was established due to political differences among Lithuanians in Norwood. In 1905, members of the community formed a mutual aid society, but divisions soon emerged—between individuals who had strong religious (Catholic) beliefs and socialist “freethinkers.” In response, and at a time when Lithuanians on the other side of the ideological divide were discussing the building of a Lithuanian Catholic church in Norwood, freethinkers decided to build a meeting place of their own. Lithuanian Hall, that meeting place, opened in November 1914.

Groups ranging from the Lithuanian Literary Society to the Norwood Lithuanian Men’s Glee Club took advantage of the new site. In March 1915, Lithuanian Hall hosted its first wedding: a Jewish ceremony as Norwood’s small Jewish community did not have a temple. Soon thereafter, socialist and radical political figures began to visit Norwood as part of their lecture tours, with Lithuanian Hall often their location of choice.

In the context of World War I, matters in Norwood took an ugly nativist turn. In February 1917, two months before the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany, the Town of Norwood established a General Committee for Public Safety, a subcommittee of which was known as the Night Riders. Made up of armed young men, the “Riders” patrolled the town to guard against sabotage of public property and the area’s industrial infrastructure. Norwood residents of German descent became targets of harassment. Anti-German sentiment overlapped with efforts to repress leftist and other radical movements, with the immigrant community often the focus of condemnation. Lithuanian Hall, as both “foreign” and leftist, was thus doubly suspect.

The aftermath of the war saw continuing tensions between socialists and non-socialists in Norwood. These tensions dovetailed with the outbreak of a “Red Scare” nationally, one that resulted in raids by federal authorities in immigrant areas across the United States, with South Norwood being one of the targets. Authorities arrested 12 Norwood residents, all of them men of Lithuanian descent. One of the arrests took place in Lithuanian Hall.*

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Lithuanian Hall continued to be an occasional site for radical politics. In 1927, for example, a very large meeting took place in support of Sacco and Vanzetti. At the same time, the venue expanded the types of activities—from athletic events and weddings to movies—that it hosted; it even became the home for a Sons of Italy lodge. In the 1930s and 1940s, the second floor became a music and dance venue known as the Butterfly Ballroom.

Over the decades, many of the most dedicated members of Lithuanian Hall passed on. Relatedly, the radical politics associated with the venue declined. In 1980, Lithuanian Hall was sold and turned into a community residence for adults with Down’s syndrome. Sometime in the 2000s, the building was sold again and redeveloped. It is now home to condominiums.

Getting there:

An MBTA bus that runs between Forest Hills Station (Orange Line) and Walpole passes within one block of the site.

To learn more:

Patricia J. Fanning, “From ‘Bolshevik Hall’ to Butterfly Ballroom: The Assimilation of South Norwood’s Lithuanian Hall,” in Peter Benes (ed.), Life in the Streets and Commons, 1600 to the Present (The Dublin Series for New England Folklife, Annual Proceedings 2005), Boston: Boston University, 2005: 109-123.

Patricia J. Fanning, Influenza and Inequality: One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918, Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010.

Norwood Historical Society website.

To learn more about South Norwood, see the entry on Morrill Memorial Library, South Norwood Branch.

*For more on the Palmer Raids, see the entry on “Socialist Hall” in the Lowell section of A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.

Samuel Adams School for Social Studies

37 Province Street, Downtown Boston

“Our aim is not only to teach facts, but social, democratic understanding.” So stated Dr. Harrison L. Harley, a professor at Simmons College, in reference to the pending opening of the Samuel Adams School for Social Studies, according to The Boston Globe. The school advertised itself as committed to a “Democratic America in a world of peace,” one that stood “shoulder to shoulder with the common people.”

Samuel Adams School for Social Sciences, 37 Province Street, Downtown Boston, December 6, 1947. Photo from Record-American newspaper; photographer unknown.

What the Globe characterized as a night school opened on September 25, 1944. The school’s initial offerings were 12-week courses that met one night a week; the cost of enrollment was $6. Over time, courses included the Negro in American Life, the Jewish People, Knowing the Soviet Union, Child Psychology, Contemporary Literature, and History of American Labor.

Its offerings also included Modern Art and Music Appreciation, in addition to courses on socialism and fascism; on Saturday mornings, there were story hours and music lessons for young children and a course on current events for youth, 12-16. Moreover, writes historian Allison Hepler. the school “sponsored a film series and a weekend workshop in folklore and literature, summers courses at Camp Annisquam in Gloucester, and an amateur theater group.” A key focus of the leftist institution was trade union education. It thus offered workshops on collective bargaining and shop steward training.

The Samuel Adams School for Social Studies was one of several adult education institutions across the United States affiliated with the Communist Party. Others were located in cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis. The largest and most well-known was the Jefferson School of Social Science in New York City; it had more than 45,000 students in its first four years of existence.

Schools for “Marxist studies” arose during World War II, a time when the U.S. Communist Party “took a super-patriotic ideological turn” asserts historian Marvin Gettleman. They were the descendants, in effect, of Party-run “Worker Schools” that emerged in the 1920s. But instead of focusing first and foremost on recruiting and educating members of the Party, the new schools were concerned with broad engagement with the cities in which they were located. As such, they had a greatly expanded curriculum and many more students than had been the case with the worker schools—some of them at their peak had thousands of students each term. The Samuel Adams School reported that 449 students, ranging from the ages of 16 to 60 and representing a wide array of occupations and backgrounds, enrolled during its first term. “Yes, truly a People’s School was born,” it proclaimed in its Winter Term 1945 course catalog.

Labor unions often sponsored and helped to finance the schools. Administrators of these adult education centers, as well as many (but certainly not all) of the faculty, were typically members of the Communist Party. In the case of Boston’s Samuel Adams School, manifesting the broad social ties that the Party engendered and enjoyed at the time, its “faculty list was Communist and non-Communist,” says Hepler; and its board of trustees included two Protestant ministers, an editor of The Jewish Advocate newspaper, trade unionists, and the head of a major publishing house.

Following World War II and with the emergence of the Cold War, strong anticommunist sentiment reemerged across the United States. In Boston and, more broadly, in Massachusetts—“something of a pioneer in red scare politics” in the words of historian M. J. Heale—leading politicians, Democrat and Republican alike, and elements of the Catholic Church hierarchy helped to fan the flames of anti-Left hysteria.* In this context, the Samuel Adams School, along with sister institutions in other cities, became a target for FBI infiltration and state repression.

In 1947, U.S. Attorney General Tom Clark added the Samuel Adams School, one of 11 schools included, to his list of “subversive” organizations. Several months later, in October 1948, the Internal Revenue Bureau stripped the school—and 39 other “subversive” entities—of its tax-free status. However, it appears that the Samuel Adams School for Social Studies had already closed its doors by this time.

It is unclear when exactly the Samuel Adams School ceased operations. According to Allison Hepler, it was in May 1948. Similarly, the July 8, 1948 issue of Counterattack, an anti-communist newsletter founded by three former FBI agents, claims that school closed in the spring of 1948, while suggesting that it was, in part, due to the newsletter’s “exposure” of the institution in its initial issue in 1947. As a result of such publicity, and the U.S. Attorney General’s subsequent inclusion of the school on his list of subversive organizations, the newsletter explained, “Some people in and near Boston who had been giving money to the school got scared. So the school folded up in the spring.”

Through much of the 1950s, authorities on the federal level and within Massachusetts continued to harass many individuals associated with the Samuel Adams School as part of their anticommunist crusade. In one particularly infamous case in 1953, the Town of Norwood, a Boston suburb, fired Mary Knowles, a librarian, for her alleged communist ties. Knowles had worked as a secretary at the school; in May 1953, she refused to respond to questions regarding membership in the Communist Party when called before the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (see Morrill Memorial Library, South Norwood Branch).

The building in which the Samuel Adams School was located no longer exists; it stood a little to the north of where Bosworth Street intersects with Province Street. Like most of the west side of Province Street, the site is now occupied by a development dedicated to luxury condominiums.

On the lower-left side of the photo is where Bosworth Street intersects with Province Street. (One accesses Bosworth Street via a stone staircase.) The building in which the Samuel Adams School for Social Science was located stood immediately to the right of Bosworth Street. Photo by Joseph Nevins, March 2023.

Getting there:

Red or Green Line to Park Street Station, or Orange or Red Line to Downtown Crossing Station. The site is a 0.2-mile (4-minute) walk from either station.

To learn more:

“Forty Groups Lose Tax-Free Standing: 8 ‘Subversive’ Organizations Among Those Stricken from Privileged Revenue List,” The New York Times, October 22, 1948.

Simson Garfinkle, “How an MIT Marxist Weathered the Red Scare,” MIT Technology Review, June 29, 2022.

Marvin E. Gettleman, “Defending Left Pedagogy: U.S. Communist Schools Fight Back Against the SACB (Subversive Activities Control Board) . . . and Lose (1953-1957),” Convergence, Vol. 41, no. 2/3 (2008): 193-209.

Marvin E. Gettleman, “The Lost World of United States Labor Education: Curricula at East and West Coast Communist Schools, 1944-1957,” in Robert W. Cherny, William Issel, and Kieran Walsh Taylor (eds.), American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2004:  205-215.

“Groups Called Disloyal,” The New York Times, December 5, 1947.

M. J. Heale, McCarthy’s Americans: Red Scare Politics in State and Nation, 1935-1965, Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1998.

Allison Hepler, McCarthyism in the Suburbs: Quakers, Communists, and the Children’s Librarian, Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2018.

Judith Larrabee Holmes, “The Politics of Anticommunism in Massachusetts, 1930-1960,” Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1996.  

“Samuel Adams School for Social Studies Will Open Sept. 25,” The Boston Globe, September 11, 1944: 8.

David A. Shannon, The Decline of American Communism: A History of the Communist Party of the United States since 1945, London: Atlantic Books, Stevens & Sons Limited, 1959.

*For examples of anti-Left frenzy in Greater Boston and Massachusetts, see the Sacco and Vanzetti Tour in A People’s Guide to Greater Boston; see also the entry on River Works/General Electric (in Lynn).

Acknowledgment:

Thanks to the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at the New England Historic Genealogical Society for allowing us to peruse its holdings related to the Samuel Adams School for Social Studies.

Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee

256 Hanover Street, North End

Armband worn at funeral procession for Sacco and Vanzetjti., Boston, August 28, 1927. Source: Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department, via Digital Commonwealth.

On August 23, 2007, about 60 activists—from organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World and Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty—marched from Copley Square to the North End. Carrying huge effigies of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, they stopped at 256 Hanover Street, the former headquarters of the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee.

Pamphlet published by the Defense Committee. Source: Syracuse University Libraries.

The Committee was founded soon after the arrests of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1920. Headed by Aldino Felicano, editor of La Notizia, a socialist newspaper based in the North End, by then a largely Italian neighborhood, the Committee kicked into high gear following the pair’s conviction a little more than a year later. It was on the floor above the newspaper that the Committee eventually rented two rooms as its offices. Through publication and distribution of literature, the writing of articles for a wide variety of publications, fundraising, and the organizing of speaking tours, the Defense Committee played a central role in creating an international movement in support of Sacco and Vanzetti. And through its financing of a series of court appeals, the Committee helped to keep the pair alive for several years before their execution in 1927 at Charlestown State Prison.   

Entrance to 256 Hanover Street, 2014. Photo by Eleni Macrakis.

The building at 256 Hanover Street still stands. A City of Boston marker commemorates it as the Committee’s former home. The 2007 march resulted in the formation of the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society which now organizes annual events in honor of the pair and explains their significance in respect to contemporary struggles over immigration, political repression, xenophobia, and the death penalty.

Plaque outside of 256 Hanover Street.

Getting there:

Orange or Green Lines to Haymarket Station. (0.2 mile, about a 5-minute walk.)

Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgement of Mankind. New York: Viking, 2007.

To learn more:

Stephanie E. Yuhl, “Sculpted Radicals: The Problem of Sacco and Vanzetti in Boston’s Public Memory,” The Public Historian, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2010: 9-30.

The Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society’s website: http://saccoandvanzetti.org

See also the “Sacco and Vanzetti Tour” (which includes the site of the Defense Committee) within A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.

Related, nearby site:

Former site of Langone Funeral Home (where the wakes of Sacco and Vanzetti took place and over 100,000 came to pay their respects), 383 Hanover Street.

Crowd on Hanover Street joins funeral procession, August 28, 1927. Source: Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department, via Digital Commonwealth.

Stone-Davis Hall, Wellesley College

106 Central Street, Wellesley

Emily Greene Balch in Hungary, circa 1900.

Wellesley College is a liberal arts college for women in the affluent town of Wellesley, about 19 miles west of downtown Boston. An elite institution, it has about 2,400 students and an endowment of almost $2 billion. Its alumnae association has been characterized as the world’s most powerful women’s network.  Two out of the three women who have served as U.S. secretary of state (Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton), for example, are graduates. Less well known is a Wellesley professor who worked to challenge war and militarism, at a high cost to her academic career, and who eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize: Emily Greene Balch.

Balch helped to found Denison House (part of the settlement house movement, and a site in A People’s Guide to Greater Boston) in Boston’s Chinatown in 1892, serving as its first headworker. After graduate studies, she became a professor at Wellesley and the chair of its Department of Economics and Sociology, teaching courses (from 1869 to 1918) on a variety of topics including the history of socialism, labor issues, immigration, and the economic role of women.

Balch was a strong supporter of worker rights and helped to found the Women’s Trade Union League. She self-identified as a socialist, while rejecting the notion of class struggle. An internationalist, feminist, Christian (first Unitarian and later Quaker), and pacifist, Balch attended the International Congress of Women at The Hague in 1915, as a U.S. delegate and helped found the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (which still exists today). Balch worked to end World War I through international mediation, while publicly opposing U.S. entry into the conflict and the military draft and supporting the rights of conscientious objectors and non-citizens. Her activism and the positions she took ultimately led Wellesley’s board of trustees to refuse to reappoint Balch, at 52, when her contract expired in 1918—despite her having the support of departmental colleagues and the College’s president.

After her firing from Wellesley, Balch continued her activism, particularly with the WILPF, and worked to oppose war as well as racism and imperialism—the U.S. occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) a key concern. In 1946, Balch received the Nobel Peace Prize “for her lifelong work for disarmament and peace.”

From 1898 to 1900, Emily Greene Balch lived on the Wellesley College campus at Stone Hall, a building destroyed by fire in 1927. On the same site now stands Stone-Davis Hall. Balch died in Cambridge in 1961, at the age of 94. She is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery, two miles away from where she was raised (130 Prince Street) in Jamaica Plain.

Stone Hall, Wellesley College, date unknown. Source: Wellesley College Archives Image Gallery,

Getting there:

Commuter rail (Worcester Line) from South Station to Wellesley Square. 1.0 mile (20-minute) walk.

To learn more:

Robert W. Dimand, “Emily Greene Balch, Political Economist,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 70, No. 2, 2011: 464-479.

Melinda Plastas, “A Different Burden: Race and the Social Thought of Emily Greene Balch,” Peace and Change, Vol. 33, No. 4, October 2008: 469-508.

Judy D. Whipps, “The Feminist Pacifism of Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Laureate,” NWSA Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3, 2006: 122-132.

Parker Brothers Headquarters

190 Bridge Street, Salem

Parker Brothers is a well-known game company established in Salem in 1883, by siblings George, Charles, and Edward Parker. As the company grew, it purchased the property at 190 Bridge Street where it eventually built a 35,000-square-foot facility that housed its factory and offices.

Parker Brothers’ most famous game was, and remains, Monopoly. While many credit Charles Brace Darrow with the game’s invention (Parker Brothers purchased the rights to it from him in 1935), Elizabeth Magie (later Magie Phillips) first devised it.

Magie’s version, which she called “The Landlord’s Game,” grew out of her progressive politics. Indeed, she designed the game as a protest against the monopolistic practices of the likes of John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. A student of the writings of the 19th century political-economist Henry George, who argued that natural resources—including land—should belong equally to all, Magie patented the game in 1903, hoping that it would teach people the importance of sharing wealth. Unfortunately for Magie, Darrow’s capitalistic adaptation of the game captured the attention of many more people and it was he who made millions from the game’s purchase by Parker Brothers.

Hasbro bought Parker Brothers in 1991 and closed down the factory soon thereafter, tearing it down in 1994. It is now the site of an apartment complex.

Former site of Parker Brothers Headquarters, as seem from Salem Commuter Rail Station, July 2015.

Getting there:

MBTA Commuter Rail (from North Station) to Salem. MBTA bus from Orient Heights Station on the Blue Line.

To learn more:

Mary Pilon, “Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’,” The New York Times, February 13, 2015.

New England Historical Society, “The Parker Brothers of Salem, Mass.,” undated, circa 2013.