The information below provides additional history about one of the sixteen points of interest along the tour. Visit Essex, Massachusetts and enjoy our self-guided tour to learn more about each historic Essex location on the interpretive signs.
ESSEX RIVER AND CLAM FLATS
CLAMMING IN ESSEX DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION
A personal account and harrowing story from 83-year old John Matheson (in 2014)
In this 7 minute audio story, John Matheson describes his life in Essex during the Great Depression. At that time, his father and uncle took up clamming in the Essex River. He tells a harrowing story that took place on May 10, 1939 and involves a can of peaches.
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John became the youngest Selectmen in Essex elected in 1952 at age 21 and went on to serve the Town of Essex as Chairman of the Finance Committee and Chairman of the Planning Board.
Inventor John Haven “Jack” Emerson refined Phillip Drinker and Louis Agassiz Shaw’s original 1927 invention: the Drinker Respirator, designed to treat polio. Emerson’s company made the blue iron lung or Emerson Negative Pressure Ventilator. It was more efficient, lighter, quieter and half the cost at $1,000. The blue iron lung was first used on a polio patient in 1931. After using the device, many polio patients were able to breathe on their own again. A few remained dependent upon the machines.
(Map circa 1910) The narrows, where the harrowing event took place, is the waterway between Conomo Point and Chebacco Island (later named Cross Island and owned by the Emerson family). Billy Haskell's residence on Robbins Island is highlighted in yellow.