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The Town of Needham is located on rocky uplands within a loop of the Charles River, almost isolated from the surrounding countryside. Though the area was used for some grazing by Dedham residents and some land grants were made, the river served as an effective barrier and the town was slow to develop. Early settlers relied primarily on agriculture and grazing plus some winter lumbering with orchards and tanneries as supplements. Saw mills and grist mills were opened by a number of settlers along the Charles through the 18th century. Extension of the railroad and land speculation encouraged settlement, and the town saw the growth of industrial employment and production at the same time during the mid-19th century. Needham manufacturers made knit goods, underwear, hats, shoes and silk, although attempts to cultivate silk worms were short-lived. Land speculation, housing development and knitted underwear continued to be the foundation of Needham's economy into the 20th century, with the famous William Carter Corporation prominent in the children's knitwear industry. The construction of Route 128 in 1931 opened portions of the town to development as part of the hi-tech highway in the post-World War II electronic industrial boom. Modern Needham remains a pleasant heavily suburban community with good access to Boston for commuters and a significant number of local job slots. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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