The table I like best at The Atheneum is tucked into stacks of old books about Massachusetts cities and towns. On one particularly distractable days, I realized that if towns like Dedham and Deerfield were in front of me, Fairhaven might be behind. I figured I'd pull out the two-volume history I knew so well and look at photos of Fort Phoenix and John Manjiro and the high school and feed a little winter nostalgia. I nearly cried out in surprise when I found a small volume of my town's history that I had never before laid eyes on. I didn't, of course, because crying out when you are among the silent few on the fifth floor would not be well received.
From the title page: American Guide Series: Fairhaven, Massachusetts; Compiled and Written by Members of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in Massachusetts; Sponsored by the Board of Selectmen; 1939.
In among the chapters on the town's founding, The Revolutionary War, whaling, John Manjiro, Henry Huttleston Rogers, The Hurricane of 1938, and what is called Present Day Fairhaven are a lot of fun nuggets. For example, did you know the HHR asked to be appointed to Superintendent of Streets in 1895? While he served, the roads in town were paved and fitted out with sidewalks and curbs, all at no more the cost than the meager annual budget.
I was struck by the description of Atlas Tack as it was in 1939. The company, created by Rogers to provide jobs, was Fairhaven's largest employer.
The town's industries are few but distinctive. Chief among them is the Atlas Tack Company, founded here in 1891 and said to be the largest and best equipped tack factory in the world. It gives employment to some four hundred people and sends its tacks, bottle caps, and other metal products to many countries." (50)
And I appreciate the metaphor used to describe the town:
On any sizable map Fairhaven has very much the appearance of a cleaver. The straight cutting edge is the town line between Fairhaven and Mattapoisett on the east. The town line of Acushnet on the north forms the top of the head. The back or battering section is the town's western shoreline and boundary. Sconticut Neck, jutting southerly into Buzzards Bay, forms an irregular handle." (49)