Interview with Benjamin F. Dutton – Part 1

The following excerpt is taken from an article in the Boston Daily Globe printed on November 9, 1913, p. 2, and gives interesting insight into Benjamin F. Dutton’s success and personality. It also inspires an amusing mental image of Houghton & Dutton customers wheeling around downtown Boston in rickshaws!

Mr. B. F. Dutton is 82 years old – going on 83 – but he comes to the store nearly every day and “boxes the compass” for “the boys,” so that there will be no mistake about the navigation of the business. He is still the captain of the ship and he lays out the course to be followed, although he had great confidence in the three other officers, his “boys,” as he calls them. There are two sons, Harry Dutton and George Conant Dutton, the vice presidents of the concern, and his son-in-law, Alexander McGregor, treasurer. He has taught all three of these to navigate the business and they can do it so well that whenever the captain goes away for a week or a month or two months he always finds on his return that the navigating officers have done their work well and perhaps have ventured into an unchartered sea with success.

When asked what he attributed the success of his business mainly to, Mr. B. F. Dutton replied:

“I guess it was due at the beginning to hard work as much as anything else. Mr. Houghton and myself were in the store early and late and looked after everything. We had no buyers at that time. He and I did all the buying. One year I did the whole of it myself. That was one of the hardest years I every put in. “Sam” Houghton was a great buyer though. One year he went on an excursion trip to San Francisco, and when he got there he decided to go to Japan. He sent home a shipload of goods, including some jinrikishas, and the people in the other stores laughed at us. We sold every bit of those goods and at a handsome profit, and we have been sending buyers to Japan ever since. I think we were the first firm to send buyers to Japan annually.”


“One great reason why department stores have, as a rule, been successful is that they have buyers. They trade very little through jobbers. The buyers go straight to the factories in Europe and buy the goods just as the jobber used to. In fact the department store has hurt the jobbing business more than any other business.”

Interviewer: “Do you think the department store has reached its limit?”

“What do you mean?”

Interviewer: “Is there any possibility of chains of department stores?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t like doing business beyond arm’s length. Sam Houghton had an idea something like that and at one time we had small stores in various parts of the city. But it never paid. I know that the chain store idea has been very successful in some lines, but I don’t believe it could be applied to the real department store. That’s big enough business for anybody just as it is.”

“There is one thing further I would like to say about our own success here. I said that at first it was due to hard work. That is always necessary, but in any business in which you are dealing directly with the public something more is necessary. You must get and retain the confidence of the buying public. That can only be secured by fair and honest dealing with the public at all times. You must be consistent in it, for the public is sensitive on that point. It is only carrying out the policy of the best country stores where all met on common footing and every man knows every other man’s business, and where common honesty and fair dealing is the rule.”

Interviewer: “How about the employees – aren’t they a factor in the success of a business of this kind?”

Yes, and a most important factor. Unless there is a spirit of sympathy and cooperation among the employees of a business of this magnitude the business is not going to be a very great success. And there is nothing that hurts an employee more than a lack of sympathy and a lack of the spirit of cooperation with the business in which he is engaged. It works both ways, it hurts the employer and it hurts the employee.”

In our business we have always been fortunate in the spirit of loyalty of our employees, and I think this is even more marked today through the length and breadth of this establishment in which we have more than 2000 employees, than ever before.”


Glen Rock Fountain, Part 2

In a comment to my January 14 post on the Glen Rock fountain, Malden neighbor Kathy Boyle recalled another picture of the fountain taken when it stood in the backyard of the owner. Marilyn Glover has forwarded me that photo, shown here (the street below with the car passing by is East Border Road):

Blog Fountain2

Kathy recounted that the statue had fallen on her when she was a girl and that she still has the scar. She and her young friend, whose family the fountain belonged to at the time, were teaching their Barbie dolls to swim in the fountain when the accident occurred!

Dating the Glen Rock Properties

I have recently made the acquaintance by email of Mr. Jack Ryan, a board member of the Malden Historical Society. He is particularly interested in the town’s architecture and asked if I had any information about architects or builders involved in the construction of the Dutton houses at Glen Rock. He noted that B.F. Dutton’s house was built in the Italianate style—an architectural style that became popular in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, and which is characterized by flat roofs, wide eaves, and large corbels, reminiscent of the villas of Renaissance Italy. While I have never seen anything about who designed or built the Glen Rock houses, Mr. Ryan indicated he had some ideas on the subject and asked if I could determine precisely when the construction of each house occurred.

B.F. Dutton’s large “mansion house” at Glen Rock was reportedly constructed about 1870 by George Lochman, from whom B.F. purchased the property in 1878. This date comes from a statement in a 1910 Boston Journal article that the house had been built 40 years before (see my book, p. 9, n. 14). Lochman, originally from Pennsylvania, resided in the Boston area for a number of years representing coal interests in his native state, but eventually returned to Philadelphia.

In 1880, two years after purchasing the Glen Rock property, we find B.F. Dutton and his family neatly enumerated in the U.S. Federal Census (click on the image to see an enlargement):

1880 Census

At this early date, B.F. Dutton’s house was still the only residence on the Glen Rock property. All of his children, except Harry, were as yet unmarried and living at home. (And yes, son Frank was called “daughter” by the census taker.) Harry Dutton, married three years earlier, was living in 1880 with his Houghton in-laws in the neighboring town of Melrose.

A fire in Washington in 1921 destroyed the original copies of the 1890 census, so our next census look of the family does not become available until 1900, as shown here:

1900 Census combined

At this time in 1900 the family was living in four distinct households at Glen Rock:

1. The B.F. Dutton household, consisting of himself, his wife Harriet, son George C. Dutton, daughter-in-law Gertrude (Stevens) Dutton, daughter Nina, and father-in-law George Conant.

2. The Alexander McGregor household with wife Claire, two children, and four servants.

3. The John W. Little household with wife Cora (Dutton) Little and son John D. Little.

4. The Joseph B. Claus household (further down the page) with wife Ellen (Dutton) Claus.

(The Roush, Davis, and Connors households, listed between the Little and Claus entries, were all headed by persons working for B.F. Dutton in his stable: Roush was a hostler [a handler of horses], Davis was a coachman, and Connors was a horse trainer.)

While this census entry shows that three additional houses had been built by 1900 for Ellen, Claire, and Cora, it does not help us date when they were built.

My grandmother reported that when each of his children married, B.F. Dutton offered to build them a house at Glen Rock. Of those who accepted, Ellen married Joseph Claus in 1883, Cora married John W. Little in 1886, Claire married Alexander McGregor in 1895, and George married Gertrude Stevens in 1897. While this would suggest approximate construction dates for their houses, confirmation of the dates would require additional records. We know from the census that George and Gertrude were still living with B.F. Dutton in 1900, three years after their marriage, so the marriage dates are not necessarily good guideposts as to when the houses were built.

Although we do not have additional census records to illuminate the twenty years between the 1880 and 1900 enumerations shown above, we do have a very valuable census substitute—Malden city directories—that we can use to try to zero in on exactly when each of the houses was built. Most Massachusetts towns in the latter part of the nineteenth century regularly produced city directories, naming all of the heads of household and businesses in town and often providing other valuable information. For Malden there is good run of directories available online, starting in 1868, published approximately every two years through the 1960s.

B.F. Dutton first appears in the Malden city directories in 1880, his entry indicating he was in the “dry and fancy goods” business located at 55 Tremont Street in Boston. His house at Glen Rock was described as being located at the “head of Summer” Street in Malden:

Dutton Benj. F., dry and fancy goods (55 Tremont, B[oston]), house head of Summer [St.]

Four years later, in the 1884 directory, we find two entries of interest:

Dutton Benjamin F., dry and fancy goods (55 Tremont, B[oston]), house head of Summer [St.]
Claus Joseph B., prof. of music (N.E. Conservatory, B[oston]), h[ouse] Glen Rock cottage

Ellen Dutton, who had married Prof. Claus in 1883, was therefore already living by 1884 in the small house that her father built for her on the property. In directory entries in later years, the Clauses’ residence was consistently called “Glen Rock cottage.” So their house was the first to be built on the property for the children, undoubtedly in the period 1883–84. [Note that this contradicts my grandmother’s account in the book that Cora’s house was the first built.] In their 1891 directory entry, Prof. Claus’s two sons from his first marriage were shown as living with them. The younger son, Henry E. Claus, was described as a “teamster” [a person who drives a team or a truck for hauling] and working at 55 Tremont Street in Boston, which was the address of the Houghton & Dutton store. B.F. Dutton was always willing to employ any member of his extended family who wanted to work in the store, and this is another example of that.

Cora Dutton was the next of B.F. Dutton’s children to marry. She and John W. Little were married in the fall of 1886, so it is not surprising to find in the 1886 directory that John W. Little was still listed as living with his parents at 48 Cross Street in Malden (the directory being published before the marriage). His occupation that year was given as “clerk” and his business address was 55 Tremont Street in Boston, showing that he too was employed by the Houghton & Dutton store.

Two years later, in the 1888 directory, his entry is:

Little John W., clerk (55 Tremont St.), boards Glen Rock, Summer [St.]

Although he had now moved from town to the Glen Rock estate, he is described as a boarder, which probably indicates that he and Cora were not yet living in a separate house of their own. That would happen, however, by the time the 1891 directory was published:

Little John W., salesman (55 Tremont St.), house, head of Summer [St.].

Therefore, Cora’s house was the second one built for B.F. Dutton’s children, constructed between 1888 and 1891. John Little would continue to be shown as working for Houghton & Dutton through 1900, when he was listed as an assistant supervisor in the store.

In the period 1900–1902, Cora and John W. Little separated and eventually divorced, and she would marry her second husband, Albert B. Lounsbery, in 1904. When she and John Little separated, it appears that he quit working for Houghton & Dutton and became a full-time musician. In the 1904 directory, they are found under separate entries:

Little Cora Mrs. boards B.F. Dutton’s
Little John W., musician, 126 Cross [St.], b[oar]ds.

According to my grandmother, “soon after [Cora] and Uncle John Little were divorced, [their house] was sold to some people named Sawyer, and they lived there for many years.” By 1908 the Malden directory shows Frederick R. Sawyer living there, his residence described as “house Glen rd head of Summer [St.].”

B.F. Dutton’s daughter Claire married Alexander McGregor in 1895 and their house was built between then and 1897, when we find in the directory:

McGregor, Alexander, ins. agt., house Glen Rock, head of Summer [St.]

The George Dutton house was the last of the children’s houses to be constructed at Glen Rock. Though he and Gertrude were married in 1897, they were still listed as living in B.F. Dutton’s household at the time of the 1900 census, and he was described as a “boarder” in B.F. Dutton’s house in the 1902 directory. Two years later in 1904, George was living at 50 Dexter Street in Malden, a short distance from the Glen Rock property. It would appear his house was built between 1904 and 1906, as in the latter year he was described as living in his house at “Glen Rock head [of] Summer [St.].”

By the time of the 1910 census, we find all five of the Glen Rock houses listed together (shown as numbers 3–7 on the census sheet below) with their current household members—and nearly as many servants!

1910 Census

Glen Rock Then and Now

One hundred years ago, the Glen Rock estate was made up of B.F. Dutton’s large house, the barn, and the houses that were built for his children. The children who lived on the property after they married were Ellen (Dutton) Claus, Cora (Dutton) Little, George C. Dutton, and Clara (Dutton) McGregor. These properties are all visible on the map that was drawn up in June 1915 by A. F. Sargent, surveyor, as part of B.F. Dutton’s estate proceedings, as shown here.

Blog Glen Rock then

Today, all of the Dutton properties are gone and the original estate has been split into smaller plots with many new houses having been constructed. An aerial view of the area shows the Glen Rock estate as it is today.

Blog Glen Rock now

The photograph shows that most of the roads and the circular driveway that existed back in B.F. Dutton’s times are still in place, although a close look reveals that the driveway circle has been somewhat elongated.

By carefully sizing and aligning the surveyor’s drawing with the aerial view, I am able to determine the exact location of the Dutton houses on the property today, and this is shown here with the Dutton houses being superimposed in yellow on the photograph.

Blog superimposed

B.F. Dutton’s house was located just between the two houses now standing on the right side of the circle. New houses have been built on the sites of the McGregor house and the Cora Dutton house, while there is no structure where the George Dutton and Claus houses stood. The site of the barn has been totally reclaimed by the woods, although some ruins of it remain and this will be addressed in a future blog post. The large rocky outcrop to the left of the barn and behind and to the left of the George Dutton house is what was called Tea Rock (now called Pinnacle Rock), and we will take a tour to Tea Rock’s summit also in a future post.

And in case anyone is wondering, the original location of the fountain, described in my previous post, is shown here.

Blog Fountain

The Glen Rock Fountain

Granpa's House2
Although B.F. Dutton’s house at Glen Rock was torn down in the 1930s, the fountain that stood on the front lawn (see foreground of the photo above) miraculously survives. One of the Glen Rock neighbors has the fountain today, and it was on her parents’ property when they bought their house in the fifties. Their house was located on top of the hillock where the flagpole was in the Dutton days. The base was used as a planter by this neighbor when she moved into a newer house across the way from her family home after she married. Her family home was sold; but she kept the fountain, which she said took five men to move. It’s now in her cellar.

Fountain Base
If any reader would like to purchase the fountain and preserve this bit of family history, maybe the present owner would entertain an offer, though I doubt shipping would be included!

These photographs are courtesy of Marilyn Glover, who lives across the street from the main Glen Rock entrance on East Border Road and about whom you will hear more in future posts.

Welcome Dutton Descendants!

After five years of meticulous research, thoughtful writing, and painstaking editing, my father, Joseph Crook Anderson II, has published a wonderful book on the Duttons of Glen Rock. It’s been a privilege along the way to hear his entertaining discoveries (such as the Samose ad on page 44 that teaches customers how to get fat) and his supplements to my great-grandmother’s anecdotes about Houghton & Dutton–the first large department store in Boston–wild family adventures and expenditures including dozens of transatlantic crossings, newspaper articles on the family’s happenings and whereabouts [definitely would have been featured in Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous], lavish properties with innumerable buildings, and countless other amusing and insightful episodes. I had no idea we had such an array of colorful ancestors, and I’m very grateful to my dad and great-grandmother for committing this great history to writing.

Since there are so many Dutton descendants around the world, Dad wants to ensure everyone is accounted for (while tightening up the family genealogy, of course), so, aside from showering Pops with praise, the comment section below is for submitting corrections and information on family members missing from the book. Also, if you want to request books, you can email with details, and please pass along the email address to anyone who might be interested. In addition, we plan to update this blog with photos, some that weren’t included in the book, so if you’d like to send us your own Dutton pictures, we’d be very happy to upload them here.

I hope to get a Facebook page up soon to increase connections–did you know your 8th cousin lived down the street from you?–but that will take a bit longer. In the meantime, you can “follow” the blog [see left column] to receive alerts on new posts, but first thing’s first: happy reading!