Buckland, Shelburne to celebrate former Lamson & Goodnow cutlery workers Sunday

  • Employees from years gone by at the Lamson Goodnow factory. Contributed Photo

  • Contributed PhotoThe Lamson & Goodnow buildings.

  • Contributed PhotoThe Lamson & Goodnow buildings.

  • Contributed PhotoThe Lamson & Goodnow buildings.

  • Contributed PhotoThe Lamson & Goodnow buildings.

  • The Lamson & Goodnow buildings. Contributed Photo

  • Contributed PhotoThe Lamson & Goodnow buildings.

  • Contributed PhotoThe Lamson & Goodnow buildings.

  • Contributed PhotoMechanical parts at the Lamson & Goodnow factory

  • The elevated, curved hallway connecting buildings at the former Lamson and Goodnow factory in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The former Lamson and Goodnow factory in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz.

  • Gears for a hand-operated 1,000-pound elevator at the former Lamson and Goodnow factory in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz.

  • Old machinery in one of the buildings at the former Lamson and Goodnow factory in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The interior of the elevated, curved hallway connecting buildings at the former Lamson and Goodnow factory in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Shelburne Falls can be seen out the attic window of the office building at the former Lamson and Goodnow factory in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lamson and Goodnow employees making cutlery in Shelburne Falls. Recorder file photo

  • An employee works on creating knives at Lamson and Goodnow. Recorder File Photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 11/3/2017 9:55:19 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — In its 19th-century heyday, Lamson & Goodnow Co. had up to 500 workers and used about 200 tons of steel a year for scythes, knives, and other cutlery tools.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, the historical societies in Buckland and Shelburne will celebrate former employees from one of America’s oldest cutleries. The event will take place in a restored building within the Lamson & Goodnow complex — in what is now called “The Mill at Shelburne Falls” — on Conway Road from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Tours of the old mill buildings, now owned by John Madocks, will be available from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Also, former employees and their families will be featured on a panel, where they will talk about their experiences working at Lamson & Goodnow. Residents are encouraged to bring artifacts and memorabilia related to the working and social environment surrounding the mill during its years of former glory. Lamson family descendants of the Lamson & Goodnow founders will also be on hand to honor the workers and their town.

In addition, state Sen. Adam Hinds and state Rep. Stephen Kulik will be there to award citations to the workers and their families, recognizing the contributions of the workers to the economic and social fabric of the community over 178 years.

“We are expecting hundreds of people,” said Michael McCusker of the Buckland Historical Society. “We are so motivated to let the workers know that they are appreciated by the community. It isn’t overstating, to say that their culture has been rooted in our (village) heritage for generations.”

McCusker said the event has been nearly a year in planning, and that many of the Lamson families are coming with memorabilia from the cutlery’s past. Also, both Buckland’s and Shelburne’s historical societies will be exhibiting Lamson & Goodnow artifacts from each town’s collection.

The cutlery began on the Shelburne-side of Shelburne Falls, off Deerfield Avenue, in 1837. It was started by Silas Lamson, the inventor of the curved scythe snath — an innovation that allowed a worker cutting grass, grain or other tall crops to stand fully erect, making it easier on the back. In 1837, his two sons and Abel Goodnow were interested in making knives, which is the origin of the Lamson & Goodnow name.

The company grew steadily, adding new buildings in Shelburne Falls. Also, experienced cutlery workers were recruited from both Sheffield, England and Solingen, Germany. Descendants of these European workers were still employed by the company in 2009.

In 1851, the company moved to more spacious grounds, on the Buckland side of the Deerfield River, and by 1852, it employed 200 people, according to the Shelburne town history. The Lamson & Goodnow website says the company employed at least 500 workers during the Civil War and added tableware to their line of agricultural cutlery.

During the Civil War, Lamson & Goodnow made muskets for the Union soldiers, and during World War II, it made cutlery for the U.S. Army, Navy and other government branches. From 1942 to 1945, about 80 percent of Lamson & Goodnow’s production was for government orders, according to “The History of Buckland, Mass.”

“Cricket Field,” also known as Veterans Field, was originally part of the Lamson & Goodnow complex. It was the place where cricket players and baseball teams from the mill provided entertainment and social clubs in the village.

In 2014, Lamson & Goodnow filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors, while the company reorganized and formed a new business management plan. In 2015, the company sold most of its Shelburne Falls 19th-century complex and moved its factory operations to Westfield.

Today, Lamson & Goodnow still operates a retail store and one other building on part of its old land. Two years ago, John Madocks of Ashfield bought most of the building complex and has been renovating some of the historic structures for small-scale manufacturing. The site has been recently added to the village’s “cultural district” designation.

Reach Diane Broncaccio at
413-772-0261, ext. 277
or dbroncaccio@recorder.com


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