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The City of Woburn occupies 13.1 miles of the Fells Upland and is a suburban industrial city located along the upper Mystic Valley. Incorporated in 1642, Woburn became an early manufacturing center, tanning leather and making shoes. Production was large enough so that during the King Philip's Wars, town taxes were partially paid in shoes. The smallpox epidemic of 1675 cut deeply into the town's population. The Middlesex Canal from Boston opened in 1803 and the Boston and Lowell Railroad in 1835. Woburn continued to make boots and shoes and in 1855 made $280,000 in footwear, but by 1865 there had been a shift away from manufacturing shoes and toward the production of leather. In that year alone, the tanneries of Woburn shipped $1.7 million of leather and Woburn was at the head of the tanning industry in the country. Immigrants from Ireland, Nova Scotia and Canada moved to Woburn to take the jobs in the tanneries and in 1884, 26 large tanneries employed 1500 men producing $4.5 million worth of leather. Henry Thayer of Woburn originated chrome tanning, which took the place of bark tanning, in 1901. The tanyards clearly supplemented the city's subsistence farming from the earliest settlement times. By 1915 there was some diversification in the city's economy and residents were making ice cream, machine tools, mops and paper boxes among other things. Woburn developed as an early English town settlement and has a notable early burying ground. Suburban growth began in the mid-19th century and has continued. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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