Today is the birthday of Roger Babson, a man whose name is often accompanied by the phrase “eccentric millionaire.”
Why? Because Babson once hired stonecutters to carve giant motivational slogans into a series of boulders in Massachusetts.
He was from an area known as Dogtown, or earlier, the Common Settlement, between Gloucester and Rockport.
The area had an eccentric reputation, which in a sense fit Babson perfectly.
While he was a wealthy investment banker and former assistant secretary of commerce who had predicted the stock market crash that launched Great Depression, he also did things like building a small log cabin in the wilderness and living there.
Nonetheless, it’s said he wanted to do something to tamp down Dogtown’s oddball character.
Which is when he paid the out of work stonecutters to carve slogans into the rocks.
Babson believed in positivity; he even wrote a book during the Depression called “Cheer Up! Better Times Ahead!”
He figured he might help the community by surrounding it with words of encouragement and education.
There were slogans like “Never Try/Never Win,” “Help Mother” and “Prosperity Follows Service.”
Others were more direct, like “Get A Job,” and some were just one word, like “Courage” or “Integrity.”
These were not always received positively, especially when one of the masons carved a rock on a neighbor’s property without permission.
“Whoever heard of such foolish notions?” the neighbor, Leila Webster Adams, told reporters of the sayings on the rocks.
Babson would later run for president, finishing fourth in the 1940 election behind Franklin Roosevelt.
But he’s best known today as the man behind the boulders, which you can still see today if you’re in and around Dogtown.
A research team from Harvard and MIT has announced a new high-tech face mask with disease-spotting biosensors.
It can detect all kinds of communicable pathogens and viruses, including the one we’ve all been trying to avoid for the last 15 months.
Even after 2020 I didn’t expect real-time germ tracking.
Babson’s Boulders: A Millionaire’s Odd Dogtown Legacy (New England Historical Society)
Face masks that can diagnose COVID-19 (Harvard)