BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) welcomed Cathy Taylor, Chair of the Upton Historical Commission, to the State House last week to accept a bonnet, manufactured by the former William Knowlton & Sons hat factory in West Upton, which will be displayed at the State House to represent the unique historic qualities of the Second Worcester District.
Earlier this year, the Senate unveiled a public display at the State House to highlight historic elements of each senatorial district across the state. Senator Moore sent letters to the eight historical commissions within the Second Worcester District to solicit suggestions and recommendations for an item to be placed in the display.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase part of the unique cultural and historic identity of the Second Worcester District,” said Sen. Moore. “Central Massachusetts certainly has roots as a manufacturing hub and I appreciate the Upton Historical Society loaning this item to be enjoyed by visitors and legislators at the State House. I also encourage area residents to take advantage of free tours offered at the State House.”
“Upton is proud of its history,” said Cathy Taylor. “Apart from hat manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution, the community is also home to the famous ‘Upton cave,’ and a newly-renovated town hall dating back to the 1890s.”
The William Knowlton & Sons hat factory was founded by William Knowlton, who began his career as a dealer of straw braid in Upton Center during 1833. Knowlton later established the largest hat manufacturing company in the country and transitioned from making straw braid hats to straw hats, and then to felt hats.
During its peak, the company produced 72,000 hats per week that were sold through various brand names such as Brewster, Thornton and Leighton. After 93 years of operation, Knowlton sold the business to the Merrimac Hat Company in 1926, and in 1953, the building was purchased by Kartiganer Hat Company. In 1982, the building was named the National Register of Historic Places and later renovated to serve as a residential facility for area seniors.
The bonnet will be on display at the State House until December 2016 with other items of historical significance from each of the Commonwealth’s forty senatorial districts.
The Second Worcester District is comprised of the Towns of Auburn, Grafton, Leicester, Millbury, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Upton and the City of Worcester.