1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lowell
LOWELL, a city and one of the county-seats (Cambridge being the other) of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., situated in the N.E. part of the county at the confluence of the Concord and Merrimack rivers, about 25 m. N.W. of Boston. Pop. (1890) 77,696; (1900) 94,969, of whom 40,974 were foreign-born (14,674 being French Canadian, 12,147 Irish, 4485 English Canadian, 4446 English, 1203 Greek, 1099 Scotch); (1910 census), 106,294. Lowell is served by the Boston & Maine and the New York, New Haven & Hartford railways, and by interurban electric lines. The area of Lowell is 14.1 sq. m., much the larger part of which is S. of the Merrimack. The city is irregularly laid out. Its centre is Monument Square, in Merrimack Street, where are a granite monument to the first Northerners killed in the Civil War, Luther C. Ladd and A. O. Whitney (both of Lowell), whose regiment was mobbed in Baltimore on the 19th of April 1861 while marching to Washington; and a bronze figure of Victory (after one by Rauch in the Valhalla at Ratisbon), commemorating the Northern triumph in the Civil War. The Lowell textile school, opened in 1897, offers courses in cotton manufacturing, wool manufacturing, designing, chemistry and dyeing, and textile engineering; evening drawing schools and manual training in the public schools have contributed to the high degree of technical perfection in the factories. The power gained from the Pawtucket Falls in the Merrimack river has long been found insufficient for these. A network of canals supplies from 14,000 to 24,000 h.p.; and a small amount is also furnished by the Concord river, but about 26,000 h.p. is supplied by steam. In factory output ($46,879,212 in 1905; $41,202,984 in 1900) Lowell ranked fifth in value in 1905 and fourth in 1900 among the cities of Massachusetts; more than three-tenths of the total population are factory wage-earners, and nearly 19% of the population are in the cotton mills. Formerly Lowell was called the “Spindle City” and the “Manchester of America,” but it was long ago surpassed in the manufacture of textiles by Fall River and New Bedford: in 1905 the value of the cotton product of Lowell, $19,340,925, was less than 60% of the value of cotton goods made at Fall River. Woollen goods made in Lowell in 1905 were valued at $2,579,363; hosiery and knitted goods, at $3,816,964; worsted goods, at $1,978,552. Carpets and textile machinery are allied manufactures of importance. There are other factories for machinery, patent medicines, boots and shoes, perfumery and cosmetics, hosiery and rubber heels. Lowell was the home of the inventor of rubber heels, Humphrey O'Sullivan.
The founders of Lowell were Patrick Tracy Jackson (1780-1847), Nathan Appleton (1779-1861), Paul Moody (1770-1831) and the business manager chosen by them, Kirk Boott (1790-1837). The opportunity for developing water-power by the purchase of the canal around Pawtucket Falls (chartered for navigation in 1792) led them to choose the adjacent village of East Chelmsford as the site of their projected cotton mills; they bought the Pawtucket canal, and incorporated in 1822 the Merrimack Manufacturing Company; in 1823 the first cloth was actually made, and in 1826 a separate township was formed from part of Chelmsford and was named in honour of Francis Cabot Lowell, who with Jackson had improved Cartwright's power loom, and had planned the mills at Waltham. In 1836 Lowell was chartered as a city. Lowell annexed parts of Tewksbury in 1834, 1874, 1888 and 1906, and parts of Dracut in 1851, 1874 and 1879. Up to 1840 the mill hands, with the exception of English dyers and calico printers, were New England girls. The “corporation,” as the employers were called, provided from the first for the welfare of their employees, and Lowell has always been notably free from labour disturbances.
The character of the early employees of the mills, later largely displaced by French Canadians and Irish, and by immigrants from various parts of Europe, is clearly seen in the periodical, The Lowell Offering, written and published by them in 1840-1845. This monthly magazine, organized by the Rev. Abel Charles Thomas (1807-1880), pastor of the First Universalist Church, was from October 1840 to March 1841 made up of articles prepared for some of the many improvement circles or literary societies; it then became broader in its scope, received more spontaneous contributions, and from October 1842 until December 1845 was edited by Harriot F. Curtis (1813-1889), known by her pen name, “Mina Myrtle,” and by Harriet Farley (1817-1907), who became manager and proprietor, and published selections from the Offering under the titles Shells from the Strand of the Sea of Genius (1847) and Mind among the Spindles (1849), with an introduction by Charles Knight. In 1854 she married John Intaglio Donlevy (d. 1872). Famous contributors to the Offering were Harriet Hanson (b. 1825) and Lucy Larcom (1824-1893). Harriet Hanson wrote Early Factory Labor in New England (1883) and Loom and Spindle (1898), an important contribution to the industrial and social history of Lowell. She was prominent in the anti-slavery and woman suffrage agitations in Massachusetts, and wrote Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement (1881). She married in 1848 William Stevens Robinson (1818-1876), who wrote in 1856-1876 the political essays signed “Warrington” for the Springfield Republican. Lucy Larcom, born in Beverly, came to Lowell in 1835, where her widowed mother kept a “corporation” boarding-house, and where she became a “doffer,” changing bobbins in the mills. She wrote much, especially for the Offering; became an ardent abolitionist and (in 1843) the friend of Whittier; left Lowell in 1846, and taught for several years, first in Illinois, and then in Beverly and Norton, Massachusetts. An Idyl of Work (1875) describes the life of the mills and A New England Girlhood (1889) is autobiographical; she wrote many stories and poems, of which Hannah Binding Shoes is best known.
Benjamin F. Butler was from boyhood a resident of Lowell, where he began to practise law in 1841. James McNeill Whistler was born here in 1834, and in 1907 his birthplace in Worthen Street was purchased by the Art Association to be used as its headquarters and as an art museum and gallery; it was dedicated in 1908, and in the same year a replica of Rodin's statue of Whistler was bought for the city.
See S. A. Drake, History of Middlesex County, 2, p. 53 et seq. (Boston, 1880); Illustrated History of Lowell, Massachusetts (Lowell, 1897); the books of Harriet H. Robinson and Lucy Larcom already named as bearing on the industrial conditions of the city between 1835 and 1850; and the famous description in the fourth chapter of Dickens's American Notes.
- See D. D. Addison, Lucy Larcom; Life, Letters and Diary (Boston, 1897).