Your Town, Your Life: Attleboro

 By Mike LaCrosse

mlacrosse@abc6.com

Attleboro like many New England communities was settled back in the early 1600s.  It was some 200 years later that it started on its path to being the “Jewelry Capitol of the World” with the production of buttons.

“The jewelry industry came here I think because of the people, because of the skilled people,” said Carleton Legg, Attleboro Area Industrial Museum.

By the 1930s there were 139 companies creating jewelry or supporting the industry bringing in roughly $29 million, according to Legg.

Legg says one of the most notable companies making jewelry was L.G. Balfour, which is still known today as a high school and college ring manufacturer.

“He went out to colleges and pedaled his fraternity pins and his you know the saying; I’m gonna pin my girl.  He made those pins,” said Legg.

Charles Thomae and Son was one of the last remaining jewelry companies in the city.  It was recently sold and now operates under a new name. 

Owner Charles Thomae has countless memories of making pieces from more than 60 years on the job.  He says Tiffany & Co. was their biggest customer.  Their work for the New York luxury jeweler included working on the trophies for the Super Bowl & NBA Championship.  Thomae even remembers helping them make a platinum album for Mariah Carey.

“It used to be fun to make something like this because you made a thing of beauty.  It was kind of interesting to know who it was going to,” said Legg.

But what happened to the industry and why did it loose it’s title?

“That’s probably the most common question I get … and I say a lot of reasons or factors,” said Legg.

He says the city is doing fine as new businesses move in to fill those empty spaces.

“There has always been something here.   I haven’t figured out why maybe there is you know that creative gem here somewhere, that life,” said Legg.

The Attleboro Area Industrial Museum is located at 42 Union Street.  It’s open Thursday & Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday from 10 am. to 3 pm.

For more info check out their website – http://www.industrialmuseum.com

(C) WLNE-TV 2014