Historical Figures

Notable Historical Figures in Worcester

  • Harvey Ball, inventor of the smiley face
  • George Bancroft, 17th U.S. Secretary of the Navy
  • Timothy Bigelow, Revolutionary War Patriot
  • Elizabeth Bishop, writer
  • Elbridge Boyden, architect
  • Loring Coes, inventor of the monkey wrench
  • Dorothea Dix, mental health reformer
  • Esther Forbes, writer
  • Abby Kelley Foster, abolitionist and suffragist
  • Robert Goddard, rocket engineer
  • Emma Goldman, anarchist
  • George Frisbie Hoar, lawyer and politician
  • Thomas Wentworth Higginson, abolitionist and editor of the Atlantic Monthly
  • Abbie Hoffman, civil rights activist
  • Esther Howland, first American manufacturer of Valentine’s Day cards
  • Levi Lincoln Jr., governor of Massachusetts
  • Stephen Salisbury III, philanthropist and founder of the Worcester Art Museum
  • Lucy Stone, abolitionist
  • Major Taylor, track cycling champion
  • Eli Thayer, abolitionist
  • Isaiah Thomas, publisher of the Worcester Spy and founder of the American Antiquarian Society
  • Bethany Veney, former slave and author
  • Ichabod Washburn, industrialist and philanthropist
  • Daniel B. Wesson, gunsmith and co-founder of Smith & Wesson
  • Dr. Samuel B. Woodward, first superintendent of the Worcester State Hospital

Finding Aids

Personal Papers

Family Collections

Diaries and Journals

Online Resources


  • Chase, Charles Augustus (1892). William Lincoln. Worcester, Mass.: C. Hamilton.
  • Erskine, Margaret (1976). Esther Forbes. Worcester, Mass.: Worcester Bicentennial Commission.
  • Kralyevich, Vincent (1994). “A moon man from Massachusetts: The Robert Goddard story.” VHS tape. Charles Grinker Productions.
  • Kranish, Michael (2019). The World’s Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America’s First Black Sports Hero. New York: Scribner.
  • Menides, Laura Jehn and Angela G. Dorenkamp (1999). In Worcester, Massachusetts: Essays on Elizabeth Bishop, from the 1997 Elizabeth Bishop Conference. New York: P. Lang.

Biographies and Diaries

  • Thomas, Isaiah (1909). The Diary of Isaiah Thomas, 1805-1828. Worcester, Mass.: The Society.
  • Thompson, John (2011). The Life of John Thompson, A Fugitive Slave: Containing His History of 25 Years in Bondage, and His Providential Escape. London: Penguin.
  • Washburn, Ichabod and Henry T. Cheever (1878). Autobiography and Memorials of Ichabod Washburn: Showing How a Great Business Was Developed and Large Wealth Acquired for the Uses of Benevolence. Boston: D. Lothrop and Co.
  • Webber, Amos (1997). We All Got History: The Memory Books of Amos Webber. New York: Vintage Books.

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