Little Bitz – Merrimack Valley Innovators
Dr. Moses Greeley Parker – Lowell, Massachusetts
Dr. Moses Greeley Parker (1842-1917) of Lowell graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1864. He served as a doctor in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and then returned to Lowell to establish a private practice. Parker was known for being a skilled physician and innovator in the field of medicine, but one of his most significant contributions was to the field of telecommunications. He was the initiating force behind what would become the telephone number. Parker was always interested in communications technology. One of his close friends was Alexander Graham Bell, and the good doctor became a well-known financial supporter of the Bell Telephone Company, which would later evolve into the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T). When a measles epidemic came sweeping through Lowell, Parker feared Lowell’s four operators might fall ill at the same time, paralyzing the local phone system — which at the time was connecting subscribers by name. Parker recommended a simpler, numbers-based system that would make training substitute operators much easier, and in 1880, the first phone numbers were established to serve Lowell’s 200 subscribers.
Horace Greeley – Amherst, New Hampshire
Amherst, N.H. native Horace Greeley (1811-1872) was a central figure in American publishing and politics. He founded The New Yorker in 1834, and went on to found the New York Tribune, one of the first “penny dailies,” in 1841. At the Tribune, Greeley supported serious writing that was markedly less sensational than the yellow journalism of the times. An avid reader from the time he was a boy growing up in the farmlands outside of Nashua, he published book reviews in the Tribune. Politically, Greeley supported Whig Party principles, including high protective tariffs, and was a champion of improving the plight of the working man. Greeley also supported temperance, the women’s movement, anti-slavery and westward expansion — he even traveled west on his own and reported about the experience to his Tribune readers in 1859. Greeley eventually became one of the founders of the Liberal Republican Party in 1872 and went on to run for president of the United States that same year, but before the electoral votes were counted, Greeley, exhausted from the campaign and still reeling from his wife’s recent death, died in Pleasantville, N.Y.
Leonard Bernstein – Lawrence, Massachusetts
American conductor, composer and pianist Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was born Louis Bernstein in Lawrence on Aug. 25, 1918 to Jennie and Samuel (Sam) Joseph Bernstein, both Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants. The elder Bernstein owned a bookstore in downtown Lawrence on the corner of Amesbury and Essex Streets, and although initially not a big supporter of little Louis’ love for music, he came to be one of his son’s strongest supporters. Louis Bernstein learned to play the piano at age 10, taking lessons and practicing on an old family upright given to him by his cousin, and playing symphonies to entertain his sister, Shirley. Bernstein, who changed his name to Leonard at age 16, was also a devoted student. He graduated from Harvard in 1939 with a degree in business. Following graduation, Bernstein moved to Philadelphia to study at the Curtis Institute of Music, and, after some time in New York, he continued his musical education at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer academy. His big break came in 1943, when he was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. When conductor Bruno Walter came down with the flu, Bernstein stepped in to make his conducting debut and was instantly hailed as the next great American conductor by The New York Times. As a composer, Bernstein is best known for the Broadway musical “West Side Story” (1957). His other works include “On the Town” (1944), “Wonderful Town” (1953) and “Candide” (1956). Bernstein also composed large symphonies, such as “The Age of Anxiety” (1949), and operas, including “A Quiet Place” (1983). His last performance as a conductor took place in August 1990 at Tanglewood, 50 years after his first performance there. Bernstein died in New York on October 14, 1990.