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VOL. 7, NO. 1

• Thomson tale

• Can we talk?

•Town tableau

Design. Build. Maintain.

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56 Sanderson Avenue | Lynn, MA |

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371 Paradise Road, Swampscott • 781-598-4110 • vinninliquors.com



2 | 01907



A publication of Essex Media Group


Edward M. Grant

Chief Executive Officer

Michael H. Shanahan


Edward L. Cahill

John M. Gilberg

Edward M. Grant

Gordon R. Hall

Monica Connell Healey

J. Patrick Norton

Michael H. Shanahan

Chief Financial Officer

William J. Kraft

Chief Operating Officer

James N. Wilson


Susan Conti


Thor Jourgensen

Contributing Editors

Madison Bethune

Gayla Cawley

Sophie Yarin


Adam Bass

Madison Bethune

Allysha Dunnigan

Alena Kuzub

Sam Minton


Spenser Hasak

Jakob Menendez

Advertising Sales

Ernie Carpenter

Ralph Mitchell

Patricia Whalen


Edwin Peralta Jr.

Advertising Design

Emilia Sun


4 What's up

6 Let there be light

10 Surf and skate

12 House Money

14 Perseverance

16 Friends with zest

19 Thomson tale

24 Way to play

28 Town tableau

29 Can we talk?


85 Exchange St.,

Lynn, MA 01901

781-593-7700 ext.1234


781-593-7700 ext. 1253


Plugged into


In the 1880s, a young scientist named Elihu Thomson had an idea

to use a spark from an electrical current to provide heat for welders. He

won the patent for his invention in 1891 and introduced it at the welding

company he had founded in 1886, called Thomson Electric.

For more than 80 years, Thomson Electric operated out of the building

on 161 Pleasant St. in Lynn, now occupied by Traditional Breads. You can

see it from the Lynnway.

A scientist and inventor, Thomson was granted 696 patents during his

life that spanned 83 years. He is perhaps best known as being extremely

instrumental in forming the merger of electrical giants that resulted in the

General Electric Company. And the Thomson Club in North Reading

bears his name.

Thomson was born in England, but his family moved to the United

States when he was a child.

So what’s the 01907 connection?

As an adult, he settled in Swampscott, in an estate near the beach on

22 Monument Ave., where he lived until his death in 1937. We know it

today as Swampscott Town Hall.

In this edition of 01907, Alena Kuzub profiles Elihu Thomson. She

talks of his childhood in Philadelphia, and his interest at an early age in

all things scientific. Alena relates the circumstances under which Thomson

partnered with Silas Barton, Henry Pevear, and shoe-manufacturer

Charles Coffin to leave New Britain, Conn., and come to Lynn to form

the Thomson-Houston Electric Company on Market Street in downtown

Lynn. Later, Thomson helped engineer the merger with his competitor,

Edison-General Electric Company of Schenectady, N.Y., to form General


And why do I care about Thomson Electric? Because my father worked

there until he died at the age of 48 in 1969. As a kid I’d accompany him

to the plant on occasion – but never had a clue as to what he did or what

the company did or who Elihu Thomson was.

Now I do. Thanks, Alena.

I do know what Essex Media Group designer/illustrator Edwin

Peralta Jr. does, because I work with him almost daily. And I marvel

at his drawing and digital talents, which he used to capture the iconic

Swampscott Town Hall. Check it out on Page 28.

A different type of artistic prowess is shown by Julie Butters. The

Swampscott Public Library staffer – who graces the 01907 cover –

combined her love of playwriting with Zoom’s popularity to write and

stage a Jane Eyre novel adaptation. A novel adaptation, indeed.

And – speaking of a novel concept – there’s town resident Bob Scheier,

who co-founded the New England chapter of Braver Angels, a group

dedicated to bringing conservatives and progressives together to listen to

opposing views and shaping perspectives.

Civil discussion? In 2022? What a concept. Good luck with that, Bob.

COVER Actor and writer Julie Butters found a way to stage "Jane Eyre" on Zoom.

PHOTO BY Jakob Menendez

4 | 01907


Civic reminder

What: It's time to register to vote

in the April 26 town election — a

Swampscott springtime ritual.

Where: The quickest way to register to

vote is either online at http://www.sec.state.

ma.us/ or visit the Clerk's office, Town Hall,

22 Monument Ave., to complete a voterregistration

form in person. Mail-in forms

are available online or at the Clerk's office.

When: The registration deadline is

Wednesday, April 6 with registration open

from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Global appetite

What: Swampscott Recreation

sponsors Eat Breakfast Around the

Globe, a culinary adventure for students

in grades 5-8 making "stops" in Costa

Rica, Japan, Switzerland, and the U.S.

Where: Swampscott Senior Center, 200R

Essex St. — check swampscottma.myrec.

com for registration information.

When: Tuesday, March 15-April 5, 3-4:30 p.m.

Taxing questions

What: The public library is taking calls

for American Association of Retired

Persons (AARP) income-tax-assistance


Where: Visit the library reference desk, 61

Burrill St. AARP will mail information prior

to the appointment day.

When: The library will take

appointment calls Monday-Friday until

5 p.m. and Saturday until 1:30 p.m.

Sitter School

What: Swampscott Recreation sponsors

a babysitting class for students in

grades 5-10 taught by a licensed daycare

provider focusing on infant and toddler

care. Sign up at Swampscottrec.com.

Where: Swampscott Senior Center, 200R

Essex St.

When: Sunday, March 13, noon-4 p.m.


What: Rotary Club of Swampscott

sponsors a monthly meeting to introduce

the club's serving humanity mission.

Where: Mission on the Bay, 141 Humphrey

St. Visit Swampscott Rotary Club Facebook

page for more information.

When: Wednesday, April 6, noon-2 p.m.

Bill Willis and Christine Tierney

A Day in the Life

A peek behind

the curtain into

the lives of two of

Marblehead’s top

real estate agents.

Bill Willis & Christine Tierney

Senior Vice Presidents






Rise and shine. Catch up on

overnight emails and drink

my first cup of coffee.


Walk Oscar, my Yellow Lab. I

find that getting outside early

in the morning helps me feel

most prepared to take on the

day ahead and always makes

me grateful to live in such a

beautiful place.


Make sure my youngest child

makes it to school on time!


Hit Plus Cafe for a second cup

of artisan coffee. Downtown

Marblehead has so many great

shops and restaurants, I love

supporting a local business

while also getting an extra

caffeine boost.


Head to the Compass office.

10am - 12pm

Take Zoom Meetings, collaborate

with colleagues, analyze market

trends, and prep listings for

market. As real estate agents

we are so often on the move, so

carving out time in my day to

check things off my to-do list is

a must!


Grab a quick lunch at Shubies or

Eat Well Kitchen, two of the most

delicious spots on the Northshore.

1pm - 6pm

Showing Appointments,

paperwork, and client consults.

This is why we do what we do!

Getting to meet with our clients,

understand their needs and be

a part of their journey home is a

privilege we don’t take lightly.


Dinner and Family Time.

Winding down in the evening

is crucial to making sure I am

refreshed and present in every

aspect of my life.

Bill Willis and Christine Tierney are real estate brokers affiliated with Compass, a licensed real estate broker and abide by Equal Housing Opportunity laws.

6 | 01907

Saving the planet

one light switch

at a time


Ryan Hale, the chair of the town's Renewable Energy Commission, stands behind his solar-powered home on Paradise Road.


Calling all Swampscott electricity

users! You may be helping the

planet in more ways than you


That is if you are using Swampscott

Community Power, a community-based

program under National Grid, created to

meet the town's sustainability goals, and

also hopefully help you save a few bucks.

Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) rates

(such as National Grid) fluctuate in

the summer and winter, because of the

difference in electricity needs during each

time of the year.

With Swampscott Community

Power’s long-term (28-month) pricing,

LIGHTING, page 8

A lone light iilluminates the pier at Fisherman's Beach.


8 | 01907

LIGHTING, continued from page 6

compared to National Grid’s short-term

(six-month or three-month) pricing and

fluctuating rates, Swampscott Community

Power offers stable, predictable rates for


Although savings can’t necessarily be

guaranteed because of National Grid’s

unknown future costs, savings do come

with the program.

“Looking at the published rates, I’m

saving about 10 percent at the moment

compared to current National Grid rates,”

said Swampscott resident Eric Nothnagel,

who would recommend the program to

anyone not currently using it.

Vice President of Communications &

Program Management Marlana Patton

from Peregrine Energy Group who

runs Swampscott Community Power

encourages people to check out the

program this winter, because the prices

will be competitive with National Grid.

Swampscott Community Power is

not only aimed at giving customers more

stable rates, but is also being used to meet

the town's sustainability goals. And not to

fear! Although residents are automatically

enrolled into the program, they can leave

or join whenever they please.

Participants are automatically signed up

to receive 100-percent renewable energy

with the Standard Green Plan. Under this

plan, the energy is provided by wind power

outside of New England.

“The best-kept secret in Swampscott is

that individual residents are reducing the

carbon footprint,” said Ryan Hale, chair of

the Renewable Energy Commission.

Hale said customers can ignore all that

“you-have-dirty-electricity” junk mail,

because the electricity being provided by

the program is far from it. Especially if you

upgrade to the New England Green Plan,

which also provides 100-percent renewable

energy, but right from your own backyard

— maybe not literally.

The New England Green Plan provides

energy from, you guessed it: New England!

Although a bit pricier, the perk of this

Power lines extend down Paradise Road.

plan is that it creates a market demand for

energy suppliers in the area, which will

in turn create more sustainable energy

providers in New England.

More than half of Massachusetts towns

use a community-power program, also

known as a community-choice program.

Swampscott Community Power currently

serves 4,397 community members.

“I think it's great,” said Nothnagel.


"It saves us a little bit of money and it's a

great way for the town to engage in public

policies to help curb climate change.”

So when you’re pumping that window

air-conditioning unit this summer, you

can feel a little bit better about yourself,

knowing the power is coming from an

environmentally-friendly source, and that

it will keep an extra dollar or two in

your pocket.

Historic mansion.

Seaside cottage.

Penthouse condo.

Your dream is my job.

Kathleen Murphy | Global Real Estate Advisor | 781.631.1898

Uniting buyers and sellers along Boston’s North Shore

21 Central Street | Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA 01944

10 | 01907

Amber O'Shea and Tim Oviatt recently opened

Ocean House Surf and Skate in Nahant after

moving from Humphrey Street in Swampscott.


Ocean House Surf and Skate


Amber O'Shea and Tim Oviatt

have come a long way as owners

of Ocean House Surf and Skate.

The surf-and-skate shop had humble

beginnings. The business started in Salem

in 2011, with Oviatt selling gear out of his

truck and garage. One year later, Oviatt

moved his base of operations to Beverly

Port Marina, and in 2013, moved the shop

to Swampscott where he stayed until 2021.

The shop in Swampscott also had a

café, which is where O'Shea and Oviatt

connected because O’Shea was a frequent

customer. Eventually, with her experience

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working in the food industry, she helped

him run the café. O'Shea became more

involved in the business as it grew by doing

some buying for Oviatt, who also makes

custom boards at the shop.

Ocean House made its way to Nahant

just before Christmas of last year, as the

business moved into its new location at

2A Wilson Road, with construction taking

longer than Bulletin expected. Print Ad

O'Shea said the Nahant community has

been great in supporting the shop.

"Everybody has been really cool," she

said. "Two days before Christmas, all of our

branded gear and T-shirts — everybody

bought them so we ran out. Everybody

seems really stoked."

O'Shea said that Long Beach in

Nahant is a great spot for surfing due to its

long waves and shallow and sandy makeup.

This also makes it a suitable surf spot for

beginners, as well as more advanced surfers.

The pandemic has helped people step

It's simple to customize t

1. Change the document

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of the page. Consider i

abbreviated publicatio

2. Review the property in

the correct location(s)

out of their comfort zones and try some

new hobbies, especially ones that can get

them outdoors. O'Shea said that in the past

3. Double-click on the hea

change the messaging

SPRING 2022 | 11

Ocean House Surf and Skate co-owner Amber O'Shea

removes a Walden surfboard from the display at the

shop's new location in Nahant.

Surfing in the winter, says Amber O'Shea, is no

more rigorous than skiing or snowboarding.


a wave to success

two years, surfing and skating have really

blown up.

"Everybody just wants to be outside,"

she said. "We've really seen the sport blow

up lately and we have a ton of beginners

coming into the shop that are super


O'Shea also mentioned the

technological advances that have helped

the sport grow in colder areas of the planet.

"I don't think a lot of people realized

you can surf in Massachusetts," she said.

"The wetsuit technology wasn't really up

to par 20 years ago, so if you lived in a

cold-weather place or somewhere where

the waves are best in the cold weather, you

wouldn't (have) seen a lot of surfers in the

water decades ago because the technology

wasn't there."

O'Shea compared hitting the beaches

of Massachusetts to going skiing or


"If you have the right gear, you can surf

on a 20-degree day and be fine," she said.

NOMAD: Ocean House

Surf and Skate ended

up on Wilson Road

in Nahant by way of

Salem, Beverly and


12 | 01907



SPRING 2022 | 13

A peek inside

57 Puritan Road

SALE PRICE: $1,520,000

SALE DATE: November 4, 2021

LIST PRICE: $1,599,900


53 days to closing


Maria Salzillo with J. Barrett & Company


William Raye with William Raveis Real

Estate - Boston - Back Bay


VALUE: $1,007,500



LOT SIZE: .27 acres (11,761 sq ft)

LIVING AREA: 3,554 sq ft





Oceanfront home with steps to a

private beach and unobstructed views

of Boston skyline and Nahant from

multiple rooms and the infinity pool

and patio. Six bedrooms on three

floors along with 2nd level great room

with fireplace, deck and wet bar, 3rd

floor bedrooms with additional deck.

Plenty of entertainment space, plus the

ability to moor your boat just off the

private beach.

Source: MLS Property Information Network.

14 | 01907

All in the family

Vinnin Liquors is a women-run business with a half century history, originally located on Humphrey Street, before moving to Paradise Road.



As she looks back on the last year,

Vinnin Liquors President Angela Ansara

said the business is recovering from the

pandemic, but there is still a need for

quality employees.

"We're still recovering a little bit, but

it's still hard to find the employees who

want to work because of the pandemic,”

she said. “A good employee would be

someone self-motivated, eager to learn, ask

questions and show up on time. What we

ask for is pretty simple.”

During the early period of the

pandemic, Ansara said alcohol demands

were high, leading to more deliveries in

Swampscott and other communities such

as Salem, Beverly and even Boston.

“We have delivery to go anywhere

in Massachusetts,” Ansara said. “If it's

too far out, we will ship it. If it's a big

event, we will ship it. We go to places like

Rumson's Rum, based in Salem, lines a shelf at Vinnin Liquors, 371 Paradise Road.

SPRING 2022 | 15

Gloucester, Boxford and Boston all the


Vinnin Liquors was established in the

early 1970s by Ansara’s mother, Marge,

who also commissioned the building’s

construction. The store was originally on

Humphrey Street before relocating to its

current location at 371 Paradise Road in

1975. Before starting Vinnin Liquors, she

built and founded Lynnway Liquors in

Lynn in 1964.

“Her dad — my grandfather — sold

perishables,” Ansara said. “The one piece

of advice he gave her is: ‘Don’t go into

business for things that expire.’”

Ansara said her mother broke ground

by being one of the few female owners of a

liquor store at that time, and that she faced

challenges when getting signatures to start

her business.

“It was hard times because women

owners weren’t looked at very friendly,”

Ansara said. “I remember my mother

telling me she had a petition around

Swampscott to get the dream she wanted.”

As for Ansara, she said she had been

interested in business since she was a child.

“I was always a very business-minded

person,” Ansara said. “I would always take a

cart to King’s Beach and sell lemonade.”

Ansara started working at the store in

sales after graduating from college in 1994.

She then climbed the ranks to become

president in 2012. At the age of 93, her

mother is still helping out at the store,

Joe Cesarz, manager and beer buyer at Vinnin Liquors, organizes an aisle of wine at the liquor store.

albeit less frequently.

She's a minority owner and she does

pop in a little bit less these days,” she said.

“She still tries to rule the roost the best she


Ansara said business follows her

wherever she goes, and she someday hopes

her children will follow in her footsteps.

“It comes naturally to me,” she said.

“Maybe if it was more of a mental

challenge it would be more of a stress.

I want to share what I know and teach

others and do business and marketing.”

For those pursuing entrepreneurship,

Ansara has a piece of advice: “Anything is


Vinnin Liquors front-end manager Calvin Carter

checks out a customer.

16 | 01907

A zest for the best


Ranging from ham-and-swiss hand pies,

rosemary-and-lemon cookies, all the way

to chartreuse cocktails and pomegranate

martinis, there is something delicious for just

about anyone at Zestfriendz, a bakery/smallbites

bar in Swampscott.

Owned and operated by two “zest

friendz,” Margie Peterson and Trudi

Fagerlund, this bakery by day and small-bites

bar by night prides itself on unique flavor

pairings and a focus on bringing people

together. Zestfriendz coined its name from

the pair’s zest for life, powerful flavors in the

kitchen, and their 23-year-long friendship.

“She’s (Peterson) had a lifelong dream

to have the bakery side, and I always just

wanted a bar. So we thought let’s just form

the concepts into one business rather than

separating them, and let’s leverage the upside

of both,” said Fagerlund.

Peterson runs the bakery side, and about

90 percent of the baked goods are from her

own recipes. She crafted the idea for the

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Zestfriendz owners Trudi Fagerlund, left, and Margie Peterson toast their business' success.


Zestfriendz signature rosemary-lemon cookie

during her time running an at-home bakery

business, Delicious Designs. Although the

rosemary-lemon cookie is a staple for the

990 Paradise Rd, Suite 3A

Swampscott, MA


2 First Ave, Suite 127-1

Peabody, MA


bakery, Peterson’s scones are pushing for


“You’re never going to taste a better

scone,” Fagerlund added. “I would throw

anyone down on a scone,” said Peterson.

Peterson scratch bakes a batch of citrus

scones every morning.

“I always have a citrus scone, and that’s

the whole lemon-lime thing; it goes with the

zest again,” she said.

Rumor has it, Gov. Charlie Baker is

“infatuated” with the scone as well.

“People on social media are like ‘I was

fighting over the last citrus scone today,'

or they’re like, ‘am I too late for the citrus

scones?'” said Peterson.

Her other flavors of scones change daily,

ranging from cheddar-scallion, honeylavender,

maple-oatmeal, orange-cranberry

and cinnamon-raisin scones.

Another crowd favorite is their hand

pies. Due to their small kitchen and

inventory space, Peterson didn’t want to

have sandwiches on the menu, but needed

a savory grab-and-go option — hence the

creation of a hand pie, a pastry creatively

named because of its pie-dough crust and it’s

hand-holdability. These delectable treats have

people coming back for more than just one


“People come in and are like ‘oh, can I

have five of the ham-and-cheese hand pies?'”

Peterson said, and explained they are the

most surprising success of the bakery. Along

with the ham-and-cheese hand pie, they offer

a tomato-and-dill-havarti hand pie as well.


18 | 01907

A 23-year friendship forged Trudi Fagerlund's and Margie Peterson's commitment to start their

Humphrey Street business.

Carmelized Brussel sprouts topped with kimchi, roasted

garlic aioli, and cilantro is one of the many small-bites

options Zestfriendz offers for dinner service.

Zestfriendz' strawberry-jam-filled sugar cookie dusted

with powdered sugar.

Zestfriendz chef Ryan McGovern dollops garlic aioli on top of a plate of carmelized Brussel sprouts

before serving.

ZESTFRIENDZ, continued from page 16

The two friends are really excited for

what's to come in the warmer months — in

particular the outdoor dining right on the

water which will seat up to 20 customers on a

shaded painted patio.

“You can come in in your flip flops and

you don’t have to care that you have sand,”

said Peterson.

Some menu ideas for the warmer seasons

include an outdoor oyster bar, gourmet

ice-cream sandwiches with unique flavor

pairings, and to-go items for people to pick

up and take out onto their boat or to the


“And obviously we want to have some

fun, light cocktails,” said Peterson.

Speaking of cocktails, Fagerlund is

shaking up some absolutely delicious drinks

on the bar side.

Fagerlund recommends trying the “Hair

of the Frog” cocktail — a 110-percent proof,

green French-liquor, gin, and lime.

“It’s (chartreuse) a green, expensive,

herbal, high-octane alcohol. None of us had

tried it. So I bought a bottle, we sat around

and we were like, what do we put with this?

We looked up a few recipes that were with

chartreuse and we were like OK, let’s do a

little of this, a little of this, a little of this, and

then we wrote it down somewhere,” said


Another popular drink the two love is

their pomegranate martini.

“We actually started drinking

(pomegranate martinis) in Boston, and they

have many, many stories, but we’ve brought

that with us here,” said Fagerlund. Although

many Zestfriendz-goers fear the sweetness of

the drink, once they take a sip they’re already

ordering the next one.

Along with cocktails, an eclectic

small-plates menu is offered, prepared in

the kitchen by Chef Ryan McGovern. His

favorite menu item to make is the mussels,

flavored with a thai green curry for some

heat, and garnished with thai basil, cilantro,

and grilled bread.

With many gluten-free and vegetarian

options, Zestfriendz wants to be inclusive

for everyone, and Fagerlund said that if you

take the bread out of most dishes, they will be

gluten free.

McGovern has been working as a

chef since the late 1990s, and worked in

restaurants in Martha’s Vineyard, Florida and

throughout the North Shore.

He is looking forward to the new flavors

the warmer seasons bring as well.

“We try to cook and flow with the

seasons and what’s available. As spring

hopefully comes sooner than later, peas

will be around the corner, asparagus, greens

hopefully, so you’ll start to see a shift in the

menu from heavier comfort food to lighter

foods,” McGovern said.

The owners have a few hopes for the

future of their restaurant, one of them being

for the bakery. Peterson hopes to one day

have dessert cakes in the evenings that

customers can stop by to pick up on their

way to dinner or for someone's birthday. They

also hope to be able to expand their team and

bring in more help.

For those of you interested in opening up

your own restaurant, these friends have a few

words of advice: “Sleep ahead of time. You

probably should be prepared to sleep your

whole life ahead of doing it.”

Zestfriendz is located at 286 Humphrey St.

in Swampscott. For more information, visit their

website at https://www.zestfriendz.com/.

SPRING 2022 | 19

Who was Elihu Thomson?


Elihu Thomson demonstrates the Electric Welding Transformer, one of the many inventions by the one-time Swampscott resident.


Can you imagine a boy who wants

to attend high school at 11 years

old being told that he has to wait

until he is 13? Can you imagine that boy

being told he is not allowed to have books

for two years? Imagine that 11-year-old boy

saying, “If you do that, you might as well kill

me now, cause I’ve got to have my books!”

This was Elihu Thomson, future great

American inventor and prominent resident

of Swampscott. He used those two years free

of formal schooling to study "The Magician’s

Own" book, which contained tricks and

puzzles, but also experiments in electricity

and chemistry.

“The electrical chapter was what struck

me at once,” recalled Thomson.

The book explained how to make an

electrical machine out of a wine bottle.

Young Thomson, made the machine and was

able to get his first electrical sparks out of it.

“My father rather poo-pooed the

magnitude of my efforts and I thought I

had to get even with him somehow,” said

Thomson in a 1932 interview with Edwin

W. Rice Jr., his student, assistant, and

ultimately the president of the General

Electric (GE) Company, in the collection of

the Schenectady Invention & Technology


Thomson made a bigger battery for his

wine-bottle device, which shocked his father

when Elihu prompted him to touch it.

Thomson was born on March 29,

1853, in Manchester, England. He was the

second-eldest child of a Scottish father,

Daniel, and an English mother, Mary

Rhodes, who had 11 children — six boys

and five girls. Four of the children died in

their early youth.

In 1858, his parents decided to emigrate

to America due to scarcity of work. They

settled in Philadelphia, the second-largest

industrial center in the U.S. at the time.

Thomson’s father was a skillful mechanic,

who traveled to Cuba and other places to

set up sugar-refining machinery. However,

he struggled to support such a large family.

When Thomson finished high school, the

family could not afford to send him to


Thomson showed curiosity and

extraordinary abilities for a child from a

young age. His mother discovered that he

knew the alphabet and could recite it both

forwards and backwards at 5 years old.

Young Thomson taught himself.

He was highly influenced by his father’s

work as an engineer and machinist as

well. By his own account, he was able to

visit various industrial establishments and

witness the industrial processes going

on, both in chemical work and also in

mechanical constructions. He actively

studied the two volumes of the "Imperial

Journal of Arts, Sciences and Engineering,"

which his family had at home.

“I was always interested in what was

going on around me, such as the laying of

water pipes and gas pipes in the streets, the

building of sewers, etc., and spending hours

watching the operations,” said Thomson.

When he was 10 or 11 years old,

he constructed a small model of cupola

furnaces with fan blowers and succeeded in

20 | 01907

melting cast iron; however, the iron that was

melted was not sufficient enough to run into

a mold, which was Thomson’s ultimate goal.

He also had a great interest in

astronomy. In the summer of 1858, when he

was 5 years old, Thomson saw the Donati’s

comet, and in 1867 he witnessed spectacular

meteor showers. In 1878, he published

an account of a method of grinding and

polishing glass specula, and in 1899 he

began the construction of a telescope for his

private observatory, including making the

optical parts for the 10-inch reflector. The

observatory was located on the lawn near

his house, which is now the Swampscott

Town Hall, but later removed and donated

to the American Philosophical Society in


Thomson attended the boys’ Central

High School in Philadelphia. He graduated

with honors and accepted employment in

a commercial laboratory which analyzed

iron ore and other minerals. After about

six months, he returned to Central High

School with a title of adjunct professor to

the Department of Chemistry and a salary

of $500 per year (about $10,730 in today’s


Student Edwin Rice was 14 when he

You can't read General Electric Company's history

without reading about Elihu Thomson.

met 23-year-old professor Thomson at

Central High School, who was keen to

teach the eager student.

“To me he has been ‘my professor’ ever

since I first met him,” Rice said. “It is my

recollection that there was no question

that I asked to which I failed to obtain a

satisfactory reply, expressed in language that

I could understand.”

One of the senior professors whom

Thomson assisted at Central High School

was Edwin J. Houston, who held the

chair of Physical Geography and Natural

Philosophy. The two soon started to

collaborate in the evenings on investigations

and formed a long partnership, inventing

devices, especially in electricity.

“Not infrequently I would leave home

after breakfast and not eat or drink anything

until I got home again at 11 in the evening,”

wrote Thomson. “I’ve always believed in long

hours. It’s the only way to get things done."

In 1876-77, Thomson gave lectures

on electricity at the Franklin Institute,

an important center of American science

and technology in the 19th century. The

following year, he and Houston tested

dynamos of different types at the institute,

which prompted Thomson to design and

build a dynamo for a single-arc light.

That formed the basis of the later

development of the Thomson-Houston

arc-light system that involved several unique

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SPRING 2022 | 21

features, including three-phase winding and

the automatic regulating system, which kept

the current in the light circuit at an even

value, no matter how many lights were on

that circuit.

Next, they invented an air-blast

method to extinguish an arc, the magnetic

blowout which employs a magnetic field to

extinguish an arc and a lightning arrester.

Thomson and Houston were able to get

business backers to market their lighting

system. They created a lighting system for a

bakery that was open all night long and for

a brewery.

In 1880, Thomson was approached

by Frederick Churchill, a young lawyer

from New Britain, Conn., who had just

organized the American Electric Company.

The American Electric Company bought

control over the Thomson-Houston patents

and Thomson resigned from Central High

School to become an “electrician” at the


When he left Philadelphia for

Connecticut, Thomson took Rice with

him. In New Britain, Thomson focused on

improving the arc-lighting system but since

the market for commercial electric-lighting

systems didn’t exist yet, the company was

Elihu Thomson built his Georgian Revival-style home — now Town Hall — in 1889 and outfitted it with the organ

he constructed as a teenager.


Meanwhile, in Lynn, a group of

investors, including Silas Barton, Henry

Pevear, and shoe-manufacturer Charles

Coffin, were looking to invest. Electrical

lighting looked like a promising new

industry for them.

THOMSON, page 23




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THOMSON, continued from page 21

In 1882, Barton and Pavear went to

Boston to examine an electric-lighting

system that had been installed in a shop

on Tremont Street. They slipped down the

back stairs to the dynamo that was powering

the system and located a brass plate that

read “American Electric, New Britain,


The next day, they traveled to New

Britain, where they met Thomson and his

associates. They convinced Thomson to let

them buy the American Electric Company,

leave New Britain and form a new company

with them in Lynn.

Coffin became the president of the new

company. With Coffin assuming the burden

of finance and management, Thomson was

free to give undivided attention to research

and technical development, and for the first

time he was able to surround himself with

competent assistants.

The Thomson-Houston Electric

Company installed street lighting at 166

Market St. in Lynn, and the merchants in

the area began to subscribe to their service.

Market Street became the first street with

commercial lighting in New England.

The firm grew rapidly. In 1884, it

employed 184 workers. By 1892, when it

merged with its competitor, the Edison

General Electric Company of Schenectady,

N.Y., the number had grown to 4,000

employees. The result of the merger was the

General Electric Company, with Coffin as

president and Rice, who had been manager

of the Lynn plant, as vice president and

technical director.

Thomson's contributions to the success

of this great industrial organization was in

industrial research.

Thomson married his first wife, Miss

Mary Louise Peck, in 1884. Together they

had four sons — Stuart, Roland, Malcolm

and Donald. They lived in Lynn until 1889,

when Thomson purchased a prime piece of

land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from

the Swampscott Land Trust.

The Thomson house was designed by

architect James T. Kelly in the Georgian

Revival-style and was built in 1889.

Thomson designed and built a steam boiler

to heat the house, installed his electriclighting

system, but also included eight

fireplaces in the house.

The second floor of the carriage house

was designed and built to accommodate a

laboratory for his work.

He also installed a pipe organ — the one

that he built as a teenager, which he had

brought to Swampscott from Philadelphia.

The Thomson-Houston Electric Company was a precursor to the General Electric Company.


The pipes were installed in a grid above the

second-floor ceiling.

He also built a miniature railroad of

about 100 yards for his sons.

He donated the land next to his home to

the Town of Swampscott for a town library

to be built.

One might think that a scientist of his

intellect and intense work ethic would be

reserved and strict. But Thomson lived a

rich family life, actively engaged with his

sons, and went camping and hiking in the

Adirondacks and Catskills.

There is old video footage showing him

playing with his grandchildren in the large

front yard of his Swampscott home and

reading to them.

The Thomson’s house was always open

to visitors, including other outstanding

scientists of the time, including Nikola


Thomson’s friend and MIT president

from 1909-20, Dr. Richard C. Maclaurin,

said that Thomson showed an intense desire

to help all who were struggling earnestly

with scientific problems. Many engineers

came to him with their secret projects.

“They have done this, knowing that

they had only to ask in order to get the full

benefit of his imagination and his power,

and that they need have no misgivings

that he would take any advantage of their

confidence or any credit for their work, for

he has no touch of selfishness,” Maclaurin


Thomson was asked to become the

MIT president as well, but declined the

offer because he felt that the research he

wanted to do would be hindered by the

administrative work the position would

require. Still, in 1920-23, he was convinced

to assume the obligations of the acting

president because the president of MIT at

the time became ill.

After 32 years of a happy marriage,

Thomson’s wife died in 1916. In 1923, at

70 years old, Thomson married again to

Clarissa Hovey of Boston. Together they

began to travel a lot.

The prominence of Thomson is

indisputable. He holds a prominent place

among the brilliant group of scientists

who worked on solving the problem of

generating adequate current, including

Brush, Edison, Siemens, Stanley, Tesla, Van

Depoele, Weston, and others.

Over his inventor’s career, Thomson

patented almost 700 inventions. He is

still one of the leading patent holders in


His awards include the Franklin Medal,

the Faraday Medal, the Hughes Medal of

the Royal Society, the Edison Medal from

the Institute of Electrical and Electronics

Engineers (IEEE), the Rumford Medal,

and the 1889 Great Prize from the Paris


Thomson died at 84 on March 13, 1937.

His home was partially donated to the town

by his heirs in 1944.

An ongoing exhibition of the artifacts

of the inventor’s career and life, “Elihu

Thomson’s Inventive Life,” can be viewed

until April at the Swampscott’s Town Hall

during normal business hours.

24 | 01907

The play's the thing


CURTAIN HALL: Actress, writer and town library

employee Julie Butters saw room on Zoom to stage a

theatrical adaption of "Jane Eyre."


Two years ago in pre-COVID

times, many of us didn’t even

know about Zoom — a cloudbased

communications app. Although it

provided convenience and changed the way

we work and connect, some say that they

are tired of virtual meetings.

Still, it is undeniable that Zoom has

been instrumental over these two years,

not only in supporting 9-to-5 jobs and

our personal lives, but also in furthering

the reach of the arts. One such example is

a "Jane Eyre" play that was adapted by a

local actress and writer Julie Butters and

produced by Connecticut-based nonprofit

Flock Theater.

Butters, who works as a part-time

circulation aide at the Swampscott Public

Library, has been acting since she was little,

primarily on a volunteer basis. She was

involved with children's theater when she

was younger and participated in a lot of

plays while studying English at Harvard in

her college years.

In 2019, Butters adapted the "Jane

Eyre" novel by English writer Charlotte

Brontë into a script for a theater play. She

worked with a nonprofit Flock Theater in

New London, Conn., for many years in the

past and they were interested in staging the


“Jane Eyre was actually sort of my reentry

into theater after a long time,” said

Butters. “The first major project I had done

in quite a few years.”

The theater began rehearsing "Jane

Eyre" with Butters in the main role in

March 2020. However, they managed to

hold only a few in-person rehearsals in

Connecticut before everyone’s lives got

halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And so at first, I remember those

rehearsals; we had some hand sanitizer on

the tables. And we were careful to use that

before interacting with each other,” Butters

said. “None of us really anticipated it would

become the huge pandemic that it is now.”

Soon the schools started to shut down.


SPRING 2022 | 25

Charlotte Brontë's timeless novel "Jane Eyre" sits on

a table in the Swampscott library among biographies

of the Brontë sisters.

As things with COVID-19 got worse, the

director of the play, Derron Wood, made a

decision to continue the production online

over Zoom.

“Initially, I was skeptical of the idea of

doing a Zoom presentation of this play. It

was a new thing, and I wasn't sure how it

would work,” said Butters. “Our director

took a leap of faith with it. And I am so

grateful to him for that because it was

amazing to still find a way to act and be

creative and connect with other artists and

performers to create something to share

with the community.”

The production involved 18 people

playing various roles. To create a more

consistent look, all actors were asked to use

a black background and wear light clothes.

Butters used a spare room in her condo.

Her husband helped her set up some

wooden boards propped up against chairs

with a black material draped over them. She

put her iPad against shoe boxes and books

stacked on a desk.

“I really had only a little more than

maybe a foot of playing space between the

backdrop and my desk,” said Butters.

To light the scene, she blocked the

window light with some fabric and put

shading over lamps to soften the fluorescent

light. For some of the night scenes, they

decided to use handheld electric candles to

create the ambience and atmosphere of a

Julie Butters calls her Zoom staging of a theatrical version "Jane Eyre" a "leap of faith."

gothic novel.

“You obviously can't tell from watching

the program that that's what the setup was.

But it was definitely a challenge I had not

experienced in acting before,” Butters said.

All the actors were used to performing

in the same space with each other and

having a very personal interaction. Instead,

they found themselves isolated in their own

locations, performing via the screens of

their devices.

“That was very different for us,” Butters

said. “But there were some advantages to

that as well.”

She found the fact that she wasn't

worried about a sudden block or the

physical movements or dealing too much

with props interesting and rewarding.

Without an audience in the room, Butters

was able to focus solely on the face on

the other side of the screen — her scene

partner. She looked at their face and saw

what they were expressing, focused on their

eyes and what they were saying in a very

intense way.

“I tried to use the challenges of the

medium as an opportunity to enjoy that

intimacy between performers,” said Butters.

The director and assistant director were

recording over Zoom, as the actors were

giving their performances from their homes.

However, filming over the internet had

its technical challenges. Not everyone in the

cast was familiar with Zoom at that point

in time. Sometimes the internet connection

would lag and people would freeze on


“If someone's screen froze, we would

have to stop and then do another take,” said


She believes that the production turned

into a wonderful project and a wonderful

experience for everybody.

“It was not something that we had

traditionally done, but I give (the director)

credit for being forward thinking,” Butters


The filming was finished in the spring

of 2020. The Flock Theater staff moved

on to editing and recording the shadowpuppetry

scenes, which formed a big part

of the project and took quite a bit of effort,

time and ingenuity, Butters said. To film

the shadow puppetry, give it depth and

create different effects, the crew used a DIY

multiplane-camera setup.

The film was released on Nov. 6, 2020,

on YouTube.

“In person, we would have, of course,

reached the local community,” Butters said.

“But because the pandemic forced us to find

another creative way (to make) and present

the film, we ended up having a much larger

audience than we would have had.”

To date, the almost two-hour video

BUTTERS, page 27

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SPRING 2022 | 27

Stage it.

Sell it.

Intersecting Zoom and the theater garnered

international attention for writer Julie Butters.

BUTTERS, continued from page 25

has been watched more than 4,200 times.

Butters reached out to a lot of Brontë

appreciation associations around the

world. The Brontë Society in England

posted a note about the project on its blog.

The Italian Brontë Society posted about

it on its Facebook page. The Australian

Brontë Society shared information with its

members and posted a review in one of its


There were also a few virtual screenings

and a presentation for a group of

international scholars who are members of

the International Gothic Association.

“We are still hoping and planning to

perform the actual stage production at

some point,” said Butters. “Theaters are still

struggling with COVID right now. Some

of them have done in-person performances,

but it is always risky.”

Even though the pandemic continues

to be a challenge, Butters said, it has also

offered new ways to come together and her

experience with "Jane Eyre" is an example

of that.

“This project has been, and continues to

be, for me, very joyful, fun, creative and just

a soul-filling project,” Butters said. “I love

the story so much and playing Jane and

being involved with this project has been a

dream come true.”

Since finishing the project, Butters has

participated in other theatrical projects

over Zoom. She continues to write for

Flock Theater and is looking forward to

finding more ways to act, whether over

Zoom or in person.

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28 | 01907

A town tableau

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then digitally enhancing his work.

SPRING 2022 | 29


the ends

to the



Bob Scheier of Swampscott is the co-chair of the New England Chapter of the Braver Angels, an organization commited to getting progressives and conservatives around a

table sharing their views.


The political spectrum is

broader than ever with

conservatives on one end and

liberal Democrats like Bob Scheier on

the other. Scheier wants both ends to

meet in the middle.

Scheier thinks he has a way to soar

above the social and mainstream-media

storm swirling around former president

Donald Trump and fueled by the

COVID-19 pandemic.

The Swampscott resident is co-chair

of the New England chapter of Braver

Angels, a national group consisting of

more than 11,000 members formed

after Trump's 2016 election as a way

for people in opposing parties to learn

to hear each other out and respect each

other's differing views in a civil way.

Scheier's co-chair is state Rep. Lenny

Mirra, a Georgetown Republican,

who stands at the other end of the

political spectrum from Scheier. Braver

Angels strives for an equal liberal and

conservative membership, as well as

leadership structure, to offer views and

opinions from both sides of the political


"Many Braver Angels groups around

the country are predominantly blue, or

liberal leaning, and we really need many

more strong conservatives so that we

can have the genuinely challenging but

rewarding conversations that we need,"

Scheier said.

The Angels' mission is to reach out

30 | 01907

CONVERSATION STARTER: Town resident Bob Scheier thinks talking can bridge America's yawning political chasm.

to groups that are more conservative,

with a promise their members won't

be shouted down, shamed, or attacked

during political discourse.

The group's monthly meetings

commence with a reaffirmation by

participants to confirm that they will

engage in respectful, curious listening.

The penalty for noncompliance? A polite

request to leave the meeting.

"We guarantee everyone a respectful

hearing if they come in and we

encourage them to live up to the Braver

Angels name," Scheier said. "It's called

Braver Angels because it takes courage

to reach out to the other side and to take

the risk of being heard by the other side,

but it's very rewarding."

As co-chair, Scheier is responsible for

helping volunteers create, schedule, and

run the monthly meetings, which occur

on the third Monday of each month.

Each monthly meeting features a

different topic. Prior to the meeting,

news articles are sent out for people to

review and be prepared to discuss in the


Braver Angels was founded by a

family therapist and uses therapeuticlike

techniques to facilitate respectful

conversations with both political sides.

"We don't try to convince each other;

there is no interruption; there is no

attempt to convince allowed," Scheier

said. "The idea is that we form human

relationships with people on the other

side and we listen and be curious about

how they think and the same in return."

Of course, COVID-19 restrictions,

vaccinations, and masking occupied

a meeting discussion. Scheier is provaccine

and pro-masking, but other

discussion participants voiced strong,

opposing views.

"I found that by listening and trying

to understand their views, I was able

to see that these folks weren't living in

some other reality from me," Scheier

said. "They had some very heartfelt

concerns, not concerns that I shared, but

were coming from a different perspective

and were skeptical about what the

government and drug companies were

trying to do and the quality of the


Scheier said his views were welcomed

and respectfully listened to by meeting


"How often do you have a

conversation like that about a heated

topic, and the other side asks you to tell

you what you think?" Scheier said. "I felt

SPRING 2022 | 31

like him and I could sit down and come

to a mutual solution on something like

the COVID issue after that."

In an effort to broaden their

conversations, the New England chapter

of Braver Angels has reached out to

local colleges in an effort to provide

information and awareness of the group.

"They're the ones who will have to

live in the society that we are hoping to

improve," Scheier said.

Scheier said he has one overriding

reason for taking part in Braver Angels:

This isn't the country that he grew up

in, and it isn't the country he wants to

leave to his children and grandchildren.

He wants to be more involved in

changing the trajectory of the country's

political divide, and he wants to

understand how people on the other side

— Republicans — think the way they

do, and to see if there is a way to have a

respectful conversation with them.

"I don't know exactly how I stumbled

across Braver Angels but when I saw

their approach, I was very impressed

with it," Scheier said. "It works… It's

one small step towards healing the

divides in our country."

Engaging in these kinds of civil

conversations has led Scheier to having

more respect and understanding in

similar political conversations with

friends and family outside of the group.

"I became more involved in the past

year as I became concerned about the

breakdown of civility in society and the

very sharp splits between the quote ‘red

and blue sides,’" Scheier said. "I feel like

our democracy is really in danger if we

can't at least speak respectfully to each

other, if we can't even agree on the same

set of facts, and if people on both sides

of the political divide are dehumanizing

each other."

Braver Angels is open to everyone

regardless of age, sex, race, religion,

culture and sexual identification.

To learn more or to join the New

England Chapter of Braver Angels, visit


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