Caption: William Rich (left), 5th Armored Division, European Theater.
Loaned by the family of Arthur Rich, Dedham.

World War II: A Community Shares Its History

Opening November 16th, 2022 through May 2023

The United States became involved in WWII with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941. American forces were actively engaged until the surrender of Japan on September 2nd, 1945 and for several years thereafter as peacekeeping forces. 

What was Dedham’s role in the War? 

With this exhibit, the Museum asked community members to share stories and material from their family members who served abroad or on the home front. More than forty families have loaned personal items that belonged to service members who were active in numerous branches of the military. These include letters, memorabilia, uniforms, medals, scrap books, trinkets, “war trophies,” and more. These items, along with printed material and photographs, tell the stories of Dedham families during WWII.

We are honored to be able to share the history of Dedham’s Greatest Generation. 

Recording of 100-year-old WWII Veteran
To hear the WWII experience of Wendell Putney of Dedham, who served on a destroyer facing the Japanese around the Aleutian Islands and later in the Pacific Theater, click here. The interview was conducted on January 2014 for Bay State Heroes on DedhamTV.  Mr. Putnam turned 100 years of age on Janaruy 3, 2023.


Please join us in thanking the following supporters of this exhibit:

Needham Bank
Francis Walley Insurance, a division of C&S Insurance
Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club
Mocha Java/Blue Bunny, Dedham
Roche Brothers, Westwood
Wegmans, Westwood
Whole Foods, Dedham
Anonymous Donors

The DM&A also thanks John Kelly Painting for donating materials and time for the following: building and painting the main exhibit display and support systems for various items, and improving existing structures for the exhibit.

Past Exhibits

Caption: Letter, dated March 7, 1820, from Edward Dowse to his wife, where he expresses deep regret at Congress allowing the continuation of slavery. Dowse resigned shortly after writing the letter.

“We had it in our power to stop the extension of Slavery, and we chose to let it let it go on.”

On view are materials drawn from the museum’s important archival collections relevant to slavery, including 18th-century records, educator Horace Mann’s passionate arguments in favor of abolitionism, and contributions made by African Americans living in Dedham. Among the items is a letter written by Edward Dowse (1756-1828), a merchant and Congressman from Dedham who argued strongly against the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (the bill that maintained the balance of power between the North and the South in the U. S. Senate by admitting Missouri to the nation as a slave state alongside Maine as a free state). An excerpt of the letter is illustrated here, with Dowse’s poignant line: “We had it in our power to stop the extension of Slavery, and we chose to let it let it go on.”

Tavern Signs Installed
Two early 19th-century tavern signs have been installed in the main exhibition gallery. Visit DHSM to see them in person. 

Moses Gragg’s 1828 Tavern Sign
An extraordinary sign with different images on each side.
Dedham’s first tavern was opened in the 1640s, a few years after the town’s founding. By the time Moses Gragg opened his Norfolk Hotel in 1818, there were numerous Public Houses in Dedham offering guests accommodations, food, and entertainment, with many lodgers residing at the inns for months at a time while court was in session.

Accounts state that Gragg had a sign made (whereabouts now unknown) that depicted a bust of George Washington and “Norfolk Hotel, 1822”. The Norfolk Hotel, which still stands at 19 Court Street, was a central location for meetings and social gatherings, with luminaries including General Lafayette among its guests.

By 1821, Gragg’s partner sold his interest in the inn and became landlord of the Dedham Hotel (corner of Washington and High Streets). In 1828, Gragg sold the hotel back to his partner, moved to Milton and opened an inn on the “Canton Turnpike” at the junction of Blue Hill Avenue and Brush Hill Road. Gragg’s interest in announcing his new establishment is evident in this tavern sign owned by the DHSM. The imagery on one side promotes his hospitality (complete with wine and pineapple), while the other
identifies local landmarks—the “great oak” opposite Brush Hill, and “Lookout Tower.” 

Water in Dedham: Dedham’s Boat Clubs and Canoe Houses

This mini exhibit is one of six held at locations in Dedham. The exhibits were inspired by the Water in Dedham: Past, Present and Future symposium held at the Society on May 4, 2019 (see past events for more details). Each exhibit has a different theme related to water in Dedham. The HIstorical Society’s theme is boat houses and canoe houses. The Charles River is at Dedham Community House; the mills at Motherbrook Art & Community Center; floods at Endicott library; bridges at the library main branch; and recreation at the Dedham Commuminity Theater. 

Native American Stone Tools


A display of tools that date from thousands of years ago to the 17th century that were found in Dedham and the surrounding area. The items on display were used in farming, hunting, and felling trees. Also on view are important land deeds between Native Americans and the English settlers.

Cycling in Dedham

Spring is here and Summer is right around the corner. What better time than to take out your bike and go for a ride? Get into the zone by first visiting the DHSM to see materials relating to the Dedham Cycle Club and other biking materials as well as historic photographs of local enthusiasts enjoying being on two wheels.

Image: Dedham Cycle Club, ca. 1894.


Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!

Step on over to DHSM to see a selection of shoes from the museum’s collection, ranging from red brocade slippers from a 1747 Fairbanks wedding, high-heel pumps with silver bead trim from the roaring 1920s, children’s shoes, skates, and a rare shoe from an African American shoe shop brought north after the Civil War. Photographs of Dedham residents, and their shoes, from the 19th and 20th centuries accompany the exhibit.