Monday, July 10, 2017


One of the great misperceptions about NCCHP, and the Archives Project in general, is that the focus is on the Noble & Cooley company history. In fact, manufacturing history is only part of NCCHP's collection and focus. Community history, national events, and cultural trends all factor into the museum's mission to "keep the drumbeat of history" alive. The museum uses Noble & Cooley's company history and manufacturing equipment as a starting point for telling the much bigger story of Yankee Ingenuity, the Pioneer Valley, America, and "how we became who we are."

The Archives Project places a heavy emphasis on telling this same story through the massive amount of "non-Noble & Cooley" material consisting of over 150 years of saved books and documents. That includes manufacturing manuals and catalogs from hundreds of American companies from the 1880's to the present. In many cases we probably have the only copies in existence.

To the question raised in the title of this post (finally), the answer is a resounding, "Yes!" There are many hundreds of company letterheads that provide the names of company officers, which can help researchers identify where an ancestor works and what his or her function was at the place of employment. There are many books including original Dun reference books from the late 1800's and early 1900's. The Cooley journals from 1860 into the late 1800's provide a fascinating, daily window into farming and manufacturing life in Western Massachusetts. There are also group photos of company employees. These may have the only known photographic image of some of the people depicted. That's only the tip of the iceberg.

Closer to home, there are time and payroll books from Noble & Cooley dating from about 1889 into the 20th century. These have detailed, daily information for every employee, in many cases including pay rates. These documents have a remarkable way of almost bringing people to life; certainly their stories becomes much richer, and their lives more clear.

As an example.... Did your ancestor work at Noble & Cooley in 1914? We can tell you with reasonable certainty one way or the other. Here's an employee list from that year. And we tell you how many hours a day they worked; in many cases we can tell you what they made and how many, on a given day or week.

Click on the image below for a larger version:

Friday, July 7, 2017


“All To The Tune Of A Hickory Stick:
A Look At Education In The One Room Schoolhouse”

 Join us on Wednesday, July 19th at 6:30 PM at the NCCHP Museum at 42 Water Street in Granville, MA when Dennis Picard, in period attire and with accompanying artifacts, will share the history, legends and myths about what was called “district” school education. One room schoolhouses were the norm in New England before the adoption of the graded elementary system in the latter half of the 19th century. Don’t miss this fun presentation about what it was like to attend school in one room with students of all ages!
Can you identify anyone in this photo of local school children? It comes from a Granville family collection.
Who, when and where? (NCCHP Archives image from the Gilbert collection)
Dennis Picard, former Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield has been a museum professional in the “Living History” field for over 35 years. NCCHP is pleased to host Dennis and his program which ties into the museum’s revolving exhibit on old toys and games.

Dennis Picard ("The Republican" file photo)
Light refreshments will be served following the program. The presentation is free to NCCHP members, and donations from non-members are always welcome and appreciated. For more information visit the NCCHP website or call 413-357-6321.

The free Living History programs at the NCCHP museum are made possible in part thanks to a grant from the Granville Cultural Council and by donations from members and friends of the museum. Thank you for your continued support in 2017.

The museum is open for tours from noon – 3:00 on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month from May – October. Tours are available at other times by appointment.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


After entering World War II at the end of 1941 America immediately swung into war production mode. Materials and manufacturing capabilities were shifted to the war effort. Industries that did not have workers, skills and manufacturing capacity that could adapt to contribute to the cause faced the possibility of severe production cutbacks at best, and potential closure at worst. In fact many such businesses did not survive. But as 1942 began the stakes for the free world could not have been higher. By February the War Production Board (WPB) mandated sharply reduced use of critical materials for non-critical manufacturing, effective March 1st:

Boston News Bureau, February 19, 1942 (from the NCCHP archives collection)
Among non-critical industries were music instruments and toy manufacturers. Noble & Cooley sat squarely in the center of both industries but once again "Yankee ingenuity" prevailed and ways were found to apply drum-making skills and equipment in ways that would support the war effort, using locally sourced material.

Working with Ensign Bickford, located in nearby Simsbury, Connecticut Noble & Cooley shifted to the manufacture of spools and reels for Ensign Bickford's primer cord product (commonly referred to today as primacord). Typically used in mining operations, the explosives detonating cord was suddenly vital to the war effort:

Primer cord reels and World War II sign on display at the NCCHP museum (NCCHP photo)
 At the same time work went into finding ways to continue toy drum production using material that would not detract from the war effort. This would also provide much-needed jobs to the many Granville area families who depended on the income. Noble & Cooley came up with an ingenious use of cardboard to create drum shells and drum hoops, replacing the use of metal for these parts. Unfortunately this method did not create the most durable drums thus they are very rare today, but they brought some much needed happiness to the birthdays and holidays of many children during some very dark days for the country and the world.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


It's a perfect day to celebrate independence as the annual 4th of July parade kicks off in Granville with bright blue sky and comfortable Berkshire summer temperatures.

To mark the day on line, let's recall some of Noble & Cooley's "patriotic theme" drums, including two 100-year anniversary flashbacks to 1917. First some suitable music with great drum content:

Noble & Cooley "Continental" drum, from 1917 catalog

Noble & Cooley "Flag" drum design, flat drum shell, embossed
Noble & Cooley "Uncle Sam" drum, from 1917 catalog.
Noble & Cooley "Flag" design, flat drum shell, unembossed
We also take a moment on this holiday to express appreciation for all the patriots who fought for independence, including Silas Noble (great-grandfather of Noble & Cooley co-founder and namesake Silas Noble) who marched to Boston with other western Massachusetts Minutemen on April 20, 1775 immediately after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and died on July 11th during the Siege of Boston.