Set in Stone: the Babson Boulders

Carved into giant granite boulders by unemployed stonecutters in the 1930s, the 23 inspirational messages of the Babson Boulders are a unique work of graphic design

Carved into giant granite boulders by unemployed stonecutters in the 1930s, the 23 inspirational messages of the Babson Boulders are a unique work of graphic design


Dogtown Common is an area of dense woodland in the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts. It was originally home to one of America’s first settler colonies (you can still see remains of their houses, half-buried in the undergrowth) but has long since been abandoned and is now the domain of wildlife and walkers. Many of those walkers come in search of Dogtown’s most famous feature – a series of mottoes and inspirational messages carved into some of the massive granite boulders which litter the area.



The Babson Boulders are named after millionaire philanthropist and entrepeneur Roger Babson who commissioned unemployed local stonecutters to create them in the 1930s. “My family says that I am defacing the boulders and disgracing the family with these inscriptions, but the work gives me a lot of satisfaction, fresh air, exercise and sunshine,” Babson said of the project. “I am really trying to write a simple book with words carved in stone instead of printed paper.”


Contemporary images of the boulders from when they were first carved in the 30s (seen at


Most of the mottoes (which are carved in leters around ten inches high) are worthy calls to action, redolent of the Great Depression during which they were carved. They urge those who come across them to “Keep out of debt”, “Help Mother” and “Be on time”.

Others simply state admirable qualities such as “Courage” and “Intelligence”.




Rough maps are available to the location of most of the boulders but, as I found while on holiday there recently, there is much enjoyment to be found in just stumbling upon them. has a complete list of the mottoes with images


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