February 07, 2012
So extraordinarily successful was the Ames Shovel Company that, by 1879, three-fifths of all the shovels in the world were made in North Easton, which came to be known as "Shovel Town." The mansion built by Frederick Lothrop Ames with the resulting fortune now is part of the Stonehill College campus, which also is home to the world's largest collection of shovels. Stonehill's Industrial History Collection has 783 shovels in all; shovels with 12-foot handles, "entrenching" shovels from the War of 1812, an iron potato scoop shovel, and 24 silver-plated shovels from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The oldest shovel dates from 1784.
Oliver Ames Senior, president of the Ames Shovel Company, was known as the "King of Spades." His son Oakes Ames was a congressman who pushed for the building of the transcontinental railroad-not coincidentally, hugely increasing the market for shovels. Ames, Iowa, among other places, is named for them. The Ames men also imported bulls for breeding, a hobby so expensive that the bulls were given formal burials when they died. While the gravestones are gone, the site of the world's only known bull cemetery is beside the Holy Cross Fathers residences on the Stonehill campus.
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