Nearly 370 years ago, in 1629, some settlers from nearby Salem wanted to find a less crowded area with greener pastures. They bargained with the Indians for some land known as Saugus, the place where the local Indian chiefs, the Sagamores, lived. This land originally included what are now the separate towns of Swampscott, Nahant, Saugus, and Lynnfield. In 1630, that land was incorporated as the Town of Saugus, one year after it was founded.
When the first official minister, Samuel Whiting, arrived from King’s Lynn, England, the new settlers were so excited that they changed the name of their community to Lynn in 1637 in honor of him. Early settlers relied primarily on family farming and shellfishing although an ironworks was established in the city in 1643.
Although mostly an agricultural community, Lynn people were skilled in making leather shoes that were used to purchase the other necessities of life. A Quaker named Ebineezer Breed persuaded other Europeans to settle in Lynn to make the town an important shoe center of the new world. Breed was also successful in convincing Congress to place a protective tariff on the shoes made in Lynn, which helped to make the town the ladies’ shoe center of the world. Lynn became a city in 1850, as her population exploded. In 1892, the Lynn-based Thomson-Houston Electric Company merged with the Edison General Electric Company to form the General Electric Company.
Throughout the 19th century, Lynn was the center for religious and social change. Lynn is also known as the City of Firsts. Among the many “firsts” In 1629, the first Tannery in the US began operations in Lynn. Lynn Astronomer Maria Mitchell was the first woman inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences. Lydia Pinkham, a Lynn resident, was the first woman to use her image to sell a product. The Lydia Pinkham Vegetable Compound. The first Electric Trolley in the state ran from Lynn in 1888, On May 30, 1912, the first Airmail Delivery in New England flew from Saugus to Lynn, The first Jet Airplane Engine in the U.S. was built at Lynn’s General Electric plant in 1942.
Leather tanning became a major industry very early on and by 1775 there were a string of tanneries along Black Marsh Brook, called Tanney Brook, to the harbor. When the Eastern Railroad was extended from Boston to Salem in 1837, it went through Lynn, encouraging growth in the shoe industry and a factory district was created as well as shoe workers’ neighborhoods of boardinghouses. The Civil War brought great prosperity to the city and further growth of the shoe factories. Even the fires of 1869 and 1889, which destroyed much of the central business district from Central Square to Broad Street, didn’t stop expansion. The gutted buildings were simply replaced by five and six-story shoe factories.