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Leather industries drove the economic development of Woburn from the seventeenth into the early twentieth centuries. Initially settled as an outlying village of Charlestown, Woburn was established in 1642 as a separate community. The Aberjona River, a tributary of the Mystic, provided waterpower for tanning and dyeing operations. Shoemaking and bootmaking emerged as the dominant alternative to agriculture by the early nineteenth century. The Middlesex Canal (see WO5; 1803) connected North Woburn to Boston and Lowell, providing new markets and prosperity seen in fine houses of the period. The canal was quickly eclipsed by the arrival at North Woburn of the Boston & Lowell Railroad in 1835, with an extension to Woburn Center in 1844. Tanning and currying replaced shoe and boot manufacture as the focus of the leather trades in the 1850s. Not until the 1920s did other industries challenge the supremacy of leather production, especially patent leather. Woburn remained an industrial center until the mid-twentieth century, when Route 128 brought the community into the commuter expansion of Metropolitan Boston.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan

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