John Boynton was born in 1791, the son of a New Hampshire farmer. He made his fortune in the manufacture and sale of tinware, starting the business in New Hampshire and later moving to Templeton, Massachusetts. His tin products were sold by peddlers who traveled throughout New England in carts laden with all manner of housewares. Boynton was a quiet, honest man who, though married twice, died with no heirs. His vision was to use his fortune to establish a school where young men could learn scientific basics and then go into careers in the many growing industries of New England. When Worcester was chosen as the site of the school, advisors conceived of the idea of combining Boynton's and Washburn's proposed gifts to found a school which combined academics with hands-on training--the foundation still being carried on through the WPI Plan.
John Boynton did not live to see the two original buildings of the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science completed in 1868. Although his gift of $100,000 was given anonymously, Boynton Hall was named for him after his death in 1867.
Boynton's tradition lives on:
The name of Waldo Street was changed to Boynton Street in the early years of the Institute. The president and many faculty members lived on Boynton Street, called "Faculty Row" in the early years.
In this photograph from the 1870s (below), the president's house can be seen on the left, the present site of Founders Hall. The dirt road intersecting Boynton Street is Institute Road, then called Jo Bill Road.
Through the years, the name of John Boynton has been revived in the class book. In 1928, the name of the yearbook was changed from The Aftermath to The Peddler, the name it still bears.
John Boynton - Farmer to Founder
Charles Gammal of the WPI Class of 2008 wrote a biography of Boynton in 2006 for his Sufficiency Project, advised by Professor David Rawson. Below are some of the sections.
- Title and Table of Contents (.pdf)
- Appendix A: A Chronology of Events (.pdf)
- Appendix E: Bibliography (.pdf)
John Boynton Photos
Boynton Hall, named after the Institute's first donor, was the original academic building and included classrooms, laboratories, and offices.
The president and many faculty members lived on what is now Boynton St. This photo shows the president's house (left), now the site of Founders Hall.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, WPI's popular jazz orchestra was called the Boyntonians. They are seen here in 1937 in Riley Commons.