WorcesterThen: late 19th century



Can you identify these men, or what they did that makes them notable?


They are, left to right, Samuel E. Staples, Franklin P. Rice, Richard O’Flynn, and John G. Smith. Does that help?  For a more substantial answer to the question please go here.    (But don’t forget to come back.)


The date of the photograph is unclear, but it is after 1875 and no later than 1892, when Mr. O’Flynn presented it to a certain organization with which their names are now associated.  Most likely it was in the 1880s.

Essays on any of the four, especially Rice and O’Flynn, would be very welcomed additions to the current store of writings on Worcester  history.  In the meantime, here are the biographies of the two by Charles Nutt (1919), and a little more:


Franklin P. Rice (1852-1919) was one of the most important figures in the history of Worcester regarding Worcester’s history, especially regarding documents which he collected,  transcribed, and published opertaining to valuable details such as birth, marriage, and death records, the records of the early town, and others.  One of his many books was The Worcester of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Eight: Fifty Years a City: A Graphic Representation of its Institutions, Industries, and Leaders, F.S. Blanchard & Company, 1899. 

Charles Nutt’s biography of Rice can be read here:  v.3  p.104.  Why the sketch is so brief is unknown, unless Rice, who was still alive at the time of aggregation of the huge volume of biographies, failed to deliver more than this small amount of  text to him.  Perhaps Mr. Rice was modest. The surprisingly brief obituary notice for Rice in the Evening Gazette is here.



Richard O’Flynn (1829-1905) was also a major figure among early historians of the city as a whole, and was known as the historian of its Irish population. He was also a book collector and seller, and a collector of Native American artifacts.  Nutt’s biographies include two separate and similar, but not identical, pieces on Mr. O’Flynn, each of which can be found in the following series of photo images. These images can be read easily by making them large enough in one’s own photo editor. (To save, right-click on the image and select “save as.”)   Also included are biographies of Richard’s son Thomas Francis O’Flynn.

                                     First bio in three parts:    v.4 p.563    v.4 p.564   v.4 p.565  

                                      The second set in two:    v.4 p.706    v.4 p.707  

                                              (Under the heading of the grandson, George B. O’Flynn, p. 705)


Thomas F. O’Flynn (1862-1932), son of Richard, was a teacher and principal in Worcester Public Schools for many years, a resident of 790 Pleasant Street in Lenox, and author of a book on Worcester history intended for students in the schools:  The Story of Worcester, Massachusetts Little, Brown & Company, 1910, which is widely available at low cost in the form of re-prints which have been done by at least four  companies. The original is long out-of-print, of course, and is in the public domain.

     Part of the 1910 book is posted on the website of the City of Worcester:  connect to it here



George B. O’Flynn (1889-__?_), son of Thomas, was also a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools for many years. In 1934 he and Albert Farnsworth, of the faculty at Worcester Acedemy, published a revised edition of the 1910 book by George’s father, with substantial additions, by the same title. As a book written for school children, it is not a critical academic work but rather a standard history of the type popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nevertheless, it is surprisingly well written and informative, and could serve as a useful first or early source on the outlines of the city’s history.  It may come as a depressing surprise to some that in the inside cover of the author’s copy (purchased long ago in a city bookstore) is a sticker announcing the book as the “Property of the School Department, City of Worcester,” at the Upsala Street School, Grade 5 (2nd term) No. 30.” 


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Don Chamberlayne, 2016