Frederick Blanchard was born in Holbrook, Massachusetts in 1861, the son of Stephen A. Blanchard, a bootmaker, and his wife Rhoda, who died when Frederick was 13 years old. Though Stephen had little education or wealth, his children showed a strong desire for self—improvement by taking Chatauqua courses and by reading extensively. Frederick was especially ambitions and talented and wanted very much to become a mechanical engineer. Unable to attend college, he studied drafting books on his own.
In January, 1890, Frederick decided to quit his job as a clerk in the corner grocery in Holbrook to seek employment in Fort Payne, a town in which many Massachusetts citizens were investing heavily. While he was there, a steady stream of letters flowed to and from his home. These were saved and stored in a barn, where they were salvaged in poor condition after Blanchard’s death in 1947. Copies were sent to the DeKalb County Library by Frank A. Polkinghorn, of Bloomfield, New Jersey.
The letters from Fort Payne depict the interesting reactions of a New England country boy from an intensely religious family to his experiences on his first major trip away form home. They also provide new insight into life in Fort payne during the boom period.
After returning to Massachusetts in June, 1891, Blanchard was employed as a draftsman and machine designer in the Boston area for nearly 30 years, working on printing presses, early automobiles, and some of the first airplane engines. However, after World War I, he found it difficult to compete with college graduates and took a position as treasurer of the Holbrook Cooperative Bank, which he held until he was about 80 years old. He continued to live in Holbrook and took an active part in civic and church affairs until his death at the age of 86. He was never married.
Blanchard’s letters have been edited to delete personal and irrelevant matters, leaving his statements and observations which might be of importance to those interested in their historical significance. The words in this article are those of the young Massachusetts draftsman, just as he wrote them——and just as they might have appeared if the ambitious boom period worker had actually kept a journal or diary.
Two parts of this long series of letters have been translated to the internet. Other sections will be completed soon. They are being taken from the Landmarks publication, “The DeKalb Legend”, published in 1977 and 1978.