Shoes, especially for women and children, drove the industries of Stoneham. Sited in a north-south valley above the Boston Basin, Stoneham is bounded by the Middlesex Fells Reservation of the Metropolitan District Commission to the south, I-93 on the west, and Route 128, the area's major peripheral artery, on the north. Formed as an independent town in 1725 from the original Charlestown grant, Stoneham remained an underpopulated agricultural area until the early nineteenth century. Then shoemaking began to grow, first in small shops and by midcentury in more substantial factories supported by tanneries and currying operations. The Civil War brought government contracts for shoes and boots that fueled further industrial development. These companies remained strong until the Great Depression. Since then, Stoneham has served more as an area of residential expansion for surrounding communities.
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