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Christmas 1903: The Year They Painted The Town Red

Part of an ongoing series of articles using former local newspapers to look back at the Lynnfield of long ago.

Last year on this website, I took a look at life in Lynnfield during , when World War II had just gotten underway with the attack on Pearl Harbor. I found so much material there was even a second article.

This year, I’m traveling a bit further back in time to talk about life in Lynnfield during the Christmas season of 1903 as told by the former Wakefield Citizen & Banner newspaper.

Let’s start with a scandal that began when some revelers decided to paint the town red the night of the firemen’s ball. According to the December 4th, 1903 issue of the newspaper, the firemen’s ball attracted 75 couples and Tripp’s Orchestra of Melrose

A week later, the newspaper reported the following had happened in Lynnfield Centre the night of the firemen’s ball:

“One morning recently the good citizens of our town were startled to discover that historic landmark, the town pump, painted with a fresh coat of brilliant red. Never within the memory of our oldest inhabitant has this venerable pump met with such barbarous treatment. Conclusive evidence shows that some band of midnight marauders attracted to our peaceful village by the fireman’s ball committed this unheard of sacrilege. Even the handle was dripping with the ruddy gore. It is expected that authorities will soon bring to justice the perpetrators of this red-handed outrage.”

A photo accompanying this article provided by the Lynnfield Historical Society for the weekly "Then And Now" history feature offers a better look at where the pump stood.

The January 1st, 1904 issue of the newspaper reported that the red pranksters remained at large and that the town’s historic pump, which once stood at approximately the beginning of South Common Street near the Old Meeting House. The vandals had “fled toward Melrose,” reported the paper.

Petty Business At The Post Office And A Poorly Supplied Fire Department

Here’s one of those gossipy little newspaper items that you can only really find in a local newspaper from before 1940 or so. On January 8, 1904, the Citizen & Banner reported that Lynnfield’s Postmaster John Rourke was at work when “some wearing apparel apparently designed for some member of the fair sex had escaped its wrapper and was thus rudely brought to view.” The newspaper added that “although there were several ladies present, no one claimed the lingeree.” (their spelling).

A strange entry from around that time says that the Lynnfield Chemical Company (that era’s name for the fire department) was “somewhat handicapped by the loss of their water pail,” which may have been seen recently on Main Street in Wakefield. Fortunately, a big fire that week in what was called the Reedy Meadow district of town did not require their assistance to be extinguished. Now with that – the fire pail must have been a term for some larger piece of equipment than what it sounds. But you never know. 

The Plum Island Club And Other Random Notes

- One popular social group in town was apparently the Plum Island Club, which reportedly held a strictly private initiation where inductees had to milk a cow that was known to be a kicker. The cow was owned by Mr. William Gibson.

- Speaking of livestock, Mr. Charles Smith was expanding his poultry enterprise on Tophet Hill and had “quite a reputation among poultry men as a breeder of R.I. Reds.”

- Selectman John J. Ingraham Jr. had acquired controlling interest in his father’s morocco business in Peabody, which was apparently a factory.

- The Utopian Society met at the home of Miss Stella Henfield and heard a presentation on “many strange facts” about Scandinavia not generally known to the public. Something tells me that neither wizards, vikings nor trolls were discussed however.

- A local milkman narrowly escaped serious injury when a horse bucked as he was making a delivery. “It’s no use crying over spilled milk,” he was quoted as saying.

Nikki December 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Bill, "...the good citizens of our town were startled to discover that historic landmark, the town pump, painted with a fresh coat of brilliant red." With your good sense of humor, I'm surprised you did not expand upon that, lol! Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas, as I hope all on this site are also.

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