Portrait of John Gannett at Milford Hospital, painted several years after his death by his second cousin, Bill Draper. That picture really should have a name tag. Several years ago, just to make sure, I asked the receptionist, whose desk was about 20 feet from it, who that was. She didn’t know, but said she’d make a phone call and find out. She called five people before anyone had an answer for her, and unfortunately it was the wrong answer. They said Bill Gannett. There are very few people still at the hospital who remember John.
Twenty-five years ago – April 1998 – In Japan, the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge linking Shikoku with Honshū and costing about US$3.6 billion, opens to traffic, becoming the largest suspension bridge in the world.
Good Friday Agreement: An hour after the end of the talks deadline, the Belfast Agreement is signed between the Irish and British governments and most Northern Ireland political parties, with the notable exception of the Democratic Unionist Party.
The World Trade Center officially opened in New York City with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included the two tallest buildings in the world, the 110-story buildings that were 1,350 feet (410 m) high.
Representatives of the American Indian Movement (AIM), headed by Russell Means, and the United States government, by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kent Frizzell, signed an agreement to end the 37-day siege of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, by the AIM and militants within the Oglala Sioux nation.
Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball, playing in a game at Boston’s Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. Blomberg was brought in during the first inning with the bases loaded and two outs, but was walked on ball four with five pitches from Luis Tiant. In the evening, Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins became the first-ever “DH” to hit a home run during the Twins 8 to 3 win over the host Oakland A’s. Other designated hitters who saw action as the first on their teams were Orlando Cepeda (Boston), Ollie Brown (Milwaukee), and Dave McNally (Baltimore).
One hundred years ago – April 1923 – The romantic comedy film Safety Last!, starring Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis, premiered at the Strand Theater in New York. This film features one of the most famous scenes of the silent movie era: Lloyd clutching the hands of a large clock while dangling from the outside of a skyscraper.
George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, 56, English aristocrat who had financed the expedition to find the tomb of Tutankamun, died of blood poisoning arising from an infected mosquito bite a few days before March 19 at Aswan, and a razor blade cut. His death, two months after the opening of the tomb, gave rise to the legend of the “curse of the pharaohs“.
News items above are from Wikipedia. For Hopedale news from 25, 50 and 100 years ago, see below this text box.
By Ray Potter
Milford Daily News
John Draper Gannett says he never had much doubt about his chosen line of work.So, after graduating from Harvard University at the height of the Depression, he travelled to South Carolina to work a year in a cotton mill. Not in some white-collar job, as might be expected for a direct descendant of the founder of the Draper Corporation of Hopedale. He worked on machines as a laborer in what he now calls his apprenticeship.
The real job he had wanted since his childhood, living in Milton, was back north in Hopedale, but the working tour in the south was part of the management training at Draper back then, Gannett said.
“It seemed a little bit long at the time,” he recalled, “but looking back, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”
John and his brother William, are the last direct descendants of Ebenezer Draper who are “still in the business.”
There’s a mistake there that must have been made by the reporter. I’m sure John Gannett knew enough about his ancestry not to say that he was a direct descendant of Ebenezer Draper. Ebenezer was the first Draper in the Hopedale Community, later joined by his brother George. John and Bill Gannett were great-grandsons of George Draper. They were grandsons of Gov. Eben Draper. And yes, Eben. That’s the name on the governor’s birth certificate; not Ebenezer. The first Draper in Hopedale was Ebenezer, but in the George Draper line there were several Ebens.
Both brothers have retired from the Draper Corporation, or what’s now part of Rockwell International Corporation. But, as John explained, “that was my whole business life.”
He worked in sales and purchasing for 33 years before leaving the firm in 1969 and on the Draper board of directors from 1955 to 1967.
It was Ebenezer Draper, who moved from Uxbridge to Hopedale in 1841 (No, actually in 1842) to set up a loom business in the “Little Red Shop,” now a town museum just west of the Draper factory. (The Drapers didn’t produce looms until the early 1890s. In the days of the Hopedale Community, Ebenezer, and later George, were producing a loom part called a temple.)
The advancements made in the textile loom by Ira Draper (father of Ebenezer and George) and others in Hopedale increased efficiency and by allowing each weaver to run more than one machine. The business grew and was formed into the Draper Company in 1896 and later the Draper Corporation.
Within the shadow of the plant was built a company town in the complete sense, providing quality low-rent housing for workers.
The Draper family also produced a Civil War hero (General William Draper) and a state governor (Eben Draper, 1909 – 1911).
The family endowed the town with schools, town hall, community building and a library, plus several other municipal projects. Company workers could enjoy recreation and dining at The Larches, which once served as the company president’s home. (That was Robert Page who was president of the Draper Division during the Rockwell era. The impression given by the sentence about Draper workers dining at the Larches is rather misleading. There was a significant membership fee, and Draper workers who were members were almost entirely of the mid and upper management level. ) Employees also benefited from an early form of profit sharing.
The company also exerted power in town government. Town meetings before World War II usually ran about 10 to 15 minutes, John Gannett recalled. “The company called the shots,” Gannett said.
“Town meeting became better attended, much longer and much more controversial,” he said. “I question in my own mind if the dollar is spent as wisely now, as then.”
One issue where Gannett questioned spending was in 1960 when a committee was formed to consider the possibility of establishing a Housing Authority, with the intent of building apartments for the elderly. He was the only one of the five-member committee to oppose the idea. The matter was voted on at a special town meeting that year, and was defeated. It was brought to a vote again the next year and that time it passed. The Griffin Apartments were completed in 1964, and the Dennett Apartments opened in 1975.