Henry L. Pierce

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Henry Lillie Pierce
Henry L. Pierce - Brady-Handy.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd district
In office
December 1, 1873 – March 3, 1877
Preceded by William Whiting
Succeeded by Walbridge A. Field
22nd & 26th Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts
In office
1873 – 1873
1878 – 1878
Preceded by William Gaston
Frederick O. Prince
Succeeded by Leonard R. Cutter
Frederick O. Prince
Personal details
Born August 23, 1825
Stoughton, Massachusetts
Died December 17, 1896(1896-12-17) (aged 71)
Boston, Massachusetts
Resting place Dorchester Burying Ground
Political party Republican

Henry Lillie Pierce (August 23, 1825 – December 17, 1896) was a United States Representative from Massachusetts. He was born in Stoughton on August 23, 1825. He pursued classical studies, attended the State normal school at Bridgewater, and engaged in manufacturing. He was elected a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a member of the Boston Board of Aldermen, and served as Mayor of Boston. Pierce was elected as a Republican to the Forty-third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of William Whiting. He was reelected to the Forty-fourth Congress and served from December 1, 1873, to March 3, 1877. He declined to be a candidate for renomination, was again Mayor of Boston in 1878, and died in that city on December 17, 1896. His interment was in Dorchester South Burying Ground on Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester Lower Mills.

In 1896, the City of Boston named the intersection of Dorchester Avenue and Washington and Adams Streets in Dorchester Lower Mills “Pierce Square” in memory of Henry Lillie Pierce. Today, few residents of the area know that this is the official name of the Lower Mills intersection, nor are they familiar with the myriad accomplishments of the man for whom it was named.

Henry Lillie Pierce (1825–1896) was the son of Colonel Jesse Pierce (1788–1856) and Elizabeth Vose Lillie Pierce (1786–1871) of Stoughton, Massachusetts. His father had been an educator at Milton Academy and later served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As a gentleman farmer, he maintained a large farm in Stoughton (formerly a part of Dorchester) until he moved, in 1849, to Washington Street in the Lower Mills of Dorchester with his wife and two sons. Edward Lillie Pierce was then attending Brown University, while Henry Lillie Pierce was at Milton Academy and was to later attend the Bridgewater Normal School. In 1849, Henry L. Pierce was hired to work as a clerk at the Baker Chocolate Company. Walter Baker, the owner of the chocolate company and stepbrother of Pierce’s mother, hired him at a salary of three dollars per week. However, as their political views invariably clashed and caused tremendous animosity (Pierce was a vociferous and deeply opinionated Free-Soiler), Pierce left after only a year of politically tinged employment to take up newspaper work in the Midwest. At the request of Sydney Williams, brother-in-law of Baker and managing director of the chocolate mill, Pierce returned to Boston after a year and was appointed manager of the Walter Baker Counting House at 32 South Market Street in Boston (now a part of the Quincy Market retail area). Pierce was obviously a hard worker, for after the deaths of both Walter Baker (in 1852) and Sydney Williams (in 1854), he was permitted to lease the chocolate business from the trustees of the Baker Estate.

The trustees of the Baker Estate, fully aware that Pierce had only been with the company for five years, leased the business to him for a two-year probationary period, “subject to a life interest payable annually to Mrs. Baker,” widow of the owner and step-aunt to Pierce, until her death in 1891. He began manufacturing under the name and style of Walter Baker & Company. He was obviously successful, for in 1856 the trustees extended the lease a further eight years, during which time Pierce began an expansion that would eventually absorb his competitive chocolate manufacturers in the Lower Mills. The trustees continued the ten-year lease until 1884, when “all terms under the Walter Baker will having been satisfied, the entire property is conveyed by the Trustees to Henry L. Pierce.” In 1860, Pierce bought the Preston Chocolate Mill from Henry D. Chapin, to whom it had been sold the previous year, and in 1881, Josiah Webb sold his chocolate mill to Pierce. In 1864, the trustees of the Baker Estate renewed the lease for a second decade. This decade was decisive for Pierce, as he began to enter his chocolate in competitive exhibitions both in this country and abroad. In 1867, Baker’s Chocolate and Cocoa won an award in the Paris Exhibition for the quality of the product. In 1873, the company won the highest awards at the Vienna Exhibition, and in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial, Walter Baker chocolate and cocoa won the highest awards. With mill managers and mill employees, Pierce was able to expand the chocolate business and build new mills. In 1894, these were equipped with chocolate-making machines, most of which were imported from Germany, that saved power and were easy to attend.

Pierce followed in his father’s footsteps and was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1860 to 1862, and again in 1866; he also served in the Forty-third and Forty-fourth Congresses from 1873 to 1877. His interest in not only his employees but also the voters of Dorchester made him a very popular choice. After Dorchester was annexed to the city of Boston on January 4, 1870, Pierce was nominated and elected mayor of Boston in 1872 and 1877. It was during his terms as mayor that Pierce’s business began an extensive marketing and public relations campaign to make Walter Baker & Company a household name or, better, the household choice for chocolate and cocoa. In 1883, the company formally adopted the trademark La Belle Chocolatiere as its logo. Used earlier in the company’s history, this famous design was copied from the pastel portrait of Das Schokoladenmadchen by Jean-Etienne Liotard, an 18th-century Swiss painter. The chocolate girl was to become as famous as the company she promoted. It was not until 1884 that the trustees of the Baker Estate allowed Pierce to purchase the company outright. Once done, it was incorporated as Walter Baker & Company, Ltd.

Pierce was honored by the City of Boston when the school committee voted in 1892 to name the new grammar school just south of Codman Square in his honor. The school was designed by Boston city architect Harrison H. Atwood (1863–1954) and was an enormous hammered granite building at the corner of Washington Street and Welles Avenue (now the site of the Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library). It was considered one of the most advanced schools in the Boston public school system, and after the Great Depression, its focus became that of a “Baking School,” which offered trade classes.

During Pierce’s ownership of Baker Chocolate Company, from 1854 to 1896, he was to increase business greatly, so much so that he created an urban mill village with modern chocolate mills along the Neponset River. His budget for advertising and marketing was tremendous, but none was more important than the adoption of La Belle Chocolatiere as his trademark. He employed women to dress as the trademark come to life in silk gowns, with crisply starched white lawn aprons, caps and cuffs. They would act as demonstrators at exhibitions and fairs, where they offered samples of Baker’s Chocolate to those in attendance. These demonstrators, with comely faces and ready smiles, were an important and appropriate way to advertise his product. An article in the New York Times on October 21, 1892, reports that these demonstrators were at an exhibition at the Madison Square Garden in New York City, where it was said that the “taste of the chocolate is its own sufficient advertisement, but the combination of chocolate and girl is particularly effective.” The article went on to say that at this food show,one of the most noticeable exhibits of this sort is made by Walter Baker & Co., who occupy a conspicuous place just opposite the main entrance to the amphitheatre. Under a silken canopy, disposed as was the canopy at old Ashby, wherein Lady Rowena watched the conquering arms of the young King Ivanhoe, a cluster of pleasing damsels dispenses the soothing “tap” of Baker. All are dressed in the costume of “La Belle Chocolatiere” of Liotard’s painting in the Dresden Gallery, made familiar to everybody as the trademark of this old established firm. The soft draperies of the canopy are a pleasing frame for the quaint costumes and brilliant complexions of the chocolate girls, and even rival exhibitors praise the taste shown by the firm in displaying its wares so attractively.

These comely demonstrators, who elicited the praise of even the rival exhibitors at an exhibition, were only one aspect of Henry Lillie Pierce’s astute ability to attract attention to his products. In her book Crowding Memories, Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, widow of the former editor of the Atlantic Monthly, wrote of Pierce as a close friend to her and her husband. She said that for “nearly twenty-five years…[he had] been one of the most loved of guests at our fireside.” Pierce’s “deep and unaffected friendship” for the Aldriches was sincere, and they, like many others, benefited from his estate, inheriting his farm at Ponkapoag in Canton, Massachusetts. Mrs. Aldrich summed up his character, saying that he was in all ways a strong man. Strong in will even to obstinacy, strong in his sense of honor, strong in his love for his friends, strong in his sympathies, strong in his patriotism, strong in his likes and dislikes. To those who knew him best there was a certain charming simplicity in his character because it was the clear and direct product of his nature, unhelped by outside influences.Upon his death, Henry Lillie Pierce remembered each and every one of his employees with a gift of $100. His public bequests included one to Harvard that, at the time, was the largest such gift the college had ever received. Pierce also left equal sums to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Homeopathic Hospital, and it was said that “not in a long time has there been known such generous remembrances of public institutions and charities as in the provisions of his will.”

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Preceded by
William Gaston
Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts
1873
Succeeded by
Leonard R. Cutter
Preceded by
William Whiting
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district

December 1, 1873 – March 3, 1877
Succeeded by
Walbridge A. Field
Preceded by
Frederick O. Prince
Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts
1878
Succeeded by
Frederick O. Prince