Swampscott Historical Commission Announces the Opening of the Inaugural Exhibit of Treasures from Historical Archives

Swampscott Historical Commission is pleased to announce the opening of the Inaugural Exhibit of Treasures from Historical Archives: “Elihu Thomson’s Inventive Life,” Friday, November 19 from 5:00-6:00 p.m.

If someone asked you who discovered electricity, the first person to come to mind would likely be Thomas Edison.  Edison became internationally famous for his work with electricity and electrical inventions.  His name was associated with local electric companies, including Boston Edison, until a series of mergers beginning around 1999 finally dropped the Edison name.  While Edison spent his early days developing Direct Current (DC), a lesser-known electrical engineer, Elihu Thomson, was working with Alternating Current (AC), the form of electricity that has proven to be most useful, even today.

Thomson, it turns out, lived most of his adult life in Swampscott, Massachusetts in a home that was later to become Swampscott Town Hall.  His early company, Thomson-Houston Electric, merged with Edison’s company to form “General Electric,” with a local plant in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Thomson shunned fame and preferred scientific research in a laboratory to running big corporations and other large institutions.  As a result, few people know him by name, yet before he died, he was granted almost 700 patents for inventions that he developed over the course of five decades.

Now, nearly 100 years after his inventive life, the Swampscott Historical Commission is delighted to introduce you to Elihu Thomson, his family and a few of his innovations!

The Swampscott Historical Commission, established by Town Meeting in 1984, is responsible for the protection and preservation of the historical heritage and resources of this town, including the preservation of historically significant buildings.

The Commission also maintains the archives for the Town of Swampscott at 86 Burrill Street, the former police station.  Our Inaugural Exhibit on Elihu Thomson is installed in the former Card Room/Living Room of Thomson’s home, which has served until recently as the Selectmen’s Room of Swampscott Town Hall.

This exhibit will introduce you to the Thomson family through pictures and artifacts, including clips from home movies that were made almost a century ago; Thomson’s movies were shot around the time that Eastman Kodak was developing safety film and Thomson was an early adopter.  The clips show his home, Monument Avenue, and Humphrey Street as they appeared after the turn of the twentieth century.  Surprisingly, there was a lot of traffic back then as well!

The Swampscott Historical Commission will continue to curate new exhibits on a rotating basis of Swampscott’s people, places, and events.  We believe that by sharing artifacts from the Swampscott archives, we will provide citizens with a better understanding of the importance of historic preservation.

Please join us at this exciting event which is open to the public.  The exhibit can also be viewed during normal business hours at Town Hall.