American History and Genealogy Project

Lowell City, MA

Lowell, city, and semi-capital of Middlesex co., Mass., 25 n. N. w. Boston, 444 W., in the rapidity of its growth, and the extent of its population and manufactures, is a remarkable place, and well deserves the appellation. "the Manchester of America." An example of an equally rapid growth has never else been exhibited in the United States. It lies on the s. side of the Merrimac, below Pawtucket falls, and at the junction of Concord r. with the Merrimac. In 1820 it constituted a part of Chelmsford, and the present territory of Lowell then contained less than 200 inhabitants, and the valuation of property did not exceed $100,000. In 1826 it was incorporated as a town; and having received a small addition from Tewksbury, it obtained, in 1836, the charter of a city. The population in 1830 was 6,474; in 1840, 20,796, showing an increase in 10 years of 14,322. The assessors' valuation of property in 1840 was $12,400,000.

The water power at this place is very extensive and easily available. It is produced by a canal 60 feet wide, 8 feet deep, and a mile and a half in length, commencing at the head of Pawtucket falls, and extending to Concord river. By locks at its outlet into Concord r., it forms a boatable passage around the falls in the Merrimac. From the main canal, the water is carried by lateral canals to mills and manufactories, where it is needed, and is then discharged, either into the Merrimac or the Concord. The entire fall is 30 feet. Before the project was entertained of using this water for hydraulic purposes, a canal existed, made by a corporation created in 1792, for the transportation of "boats, rafts, and masts around the falls." About the year 1820, this canal was purchased by a company, who, under the original charter and name of "Proprietors of locks and canals on Merrimac river," in 1822 commenced enlarging and deepening the canal, and putting it in a suitable condition to supply such manufactories as might be erected. They are the bottom corporation, or root, of nearly all the manufacturing establishments in Lowell. They own the Pawtucket canal, which supplies all the water power, and have purchased all the lands adjoining the river on both sides of the falls. The company is landlord and grantor of nearly all the other corporations. They have an extensive machine shop, of brick, 5 stories high, and 250 feet long; an iron foundry, a saw mill, a planing machine, with ample workshops, furnaces, and outbuildings. They give constant employment to the most skillful mechanics, who manufacture the machinery for the mills, and cars and locomotives for railroads, which are sent to every part of the Union. When a new company is formed, it contracts with the "Proprietors of Locks and Canals," for land and for water power, sufficient to drive the contemplated number of spindles; for which an annual rent is paid. They then contract with the Proprietors to erect the desired number of mills, and to fill them with machinery ready for running; and to erect counting, ware, and boarding houses, sufficient for all operatives to be employed in the mills. For the whole, a gross sum is paid; and the new company has little concern in the matter, excepting to see that everything is done according to contract, until the first mill is ready to run. This arrangement is found advantageous to both parties. The machine shop can furnish machinery complete for a mill of 5,000 spindles, in 4 months. All the mills, ware, counting, and boarding houses, excepting the boarding houses of the oldest company, are of brick, neatly and substantially built.

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Eleven incorporated manufacturing companies in this city, with an aggregate capital of $10,500,000, are supplied with water by the Pawtucket canal, from the original company, above named. The whole number of mills which belong to the 11 corporations, exclusive of print works, is 32; the number of spindles, 166,044; and 5,183 looms. Females employed, 6,430; males, 2,077. Very few children are employed, probably not 200, under 15 years of age. The companies produce 58,263,000 yards of cloth annually. They consume 19,255,000 pounds of cotton, or 53,340 bales a year. Two companies have print works and dye houses, and together produce 13,780,000 yards of dyed and printed cloth annually.

The goods manufactured at Lowell are sheetings, flannels, drillings, prints, shirtings, negro-cloth, carpets, rugs, broadcloths, waterproof woolens, and cassimere.

For manufacturing purposes, 200 caldrons of smiths' coal are consumed in a year; 11,460 tons of anthracite coal; 500,000 bushels of charcoal; 3,510 cords of wood; 3,000 barrels of flour for starch; 600,000 pounds of starch; 65,289 gallons of oil, of which 5,000 gallons are olive oil.

Besides the above named companies, there are in the city, the Lowell Bleachery, with a capital of $50,000; Whitney Mills, capital $100,000, for the manufacture of milled blankets; and extensive powder mills, which make superior gunpowder. There are also various mills and manufactories, owned by individuals. New companies and manufactories are continually springing up; and much water power is unimproved.

The average wages of female operatives, exclusive of board, is 2 dollars a week, but some of them earn double that; the males, on an average, 80 cents a day, exclusive of board. All the corporations and private companies pay off their hands once a month, but on different days. The whole amount of wages paid to operatives in each month is $160,000 an average; a very considerable portion of which is deposited by the receivers in the "Lowell Savings Institution."

A railroad from Lowell to Boston, 26 miles, was completed in 1835, which is very thoroughly constructed. Andover Branch railroad extends from it, 10 miles from the city, and goes to Dover, New Hampshire. The Lowell and Nashua railroad extends 9 ms. to New Hampshire line. The Merrimac canal leaves the Merrimac, 2 miles above Lowell, and proceeds to Boston harbor.

Among the literary institutions, the lyceum, for procuring courses of lectures, and for debate, has existed a number of years; and more recently, the Lowell Institute has been formed, for similar purposes. But the most remarkable institution is the Mechanics' Association, formed by intelligent mechanics, and incorporated many years ago. They have a costly brick edifice, called Mechanics' Hall, which has a fine lecture Tom, in which courses are annually delivered, together with a handsome library, and an extensive reading room, which is always open, and a fine mineralogical cabinet.

The citizens of Lowell have taken a great interest in the cause of education. The whole amount raised in 1840 for schools by taxation was $17,500. Besides this, the city erected an elegant edifice for a high school, which cost $28,000; and 2 houses for grammar schools, which cost together $30,000. There are 29 public free schools. There are 6 grammar schools, besides the two above mentioned. About one eighth of the population is Catholic, but they have entered, with spirit, into the business of education. The whole number of pupils in all the schools is over 4,000.

There are 2 newspapers in the place, each published tri-weekly; 2 weekly papers from the same offices, and 3 other weekly papers devoted to religion and literature. A magazine, called "the Offering," is issued, consisting of original communications, chiefly by the young ladies in the factories, under the general superintendence of a clergyman, which is very respectable

There are 15 congregations with settled ministers, and several others which constantly worship in halls, and the churches are well attended. It is abundantly proved by this splendid model of American manufacturing cities, that this employment has no necessary tendency to depress that intellect, or to corrupt the morals.

The Lowell Bank, with a capital of $250,000 was chartered in 1828. The Savings Bank was chartered in 1829, and has its office at the Lowell Bank. The Railroad Bank was chartered in 1831, with a capital of $800,000, to facilitate the financial affairs of the manufacturing companies most of which pay their operatives in its bills.

The territory of Lowell does not exceed 2 ms. square. The Indian name of it was Wamsit the seat of a tribe of praying Indians, at the breaking out of Philip's war, in 1765. It was in honor of Francis C. Lowell, of Boston, distinguished for his efforts to introduce the cotton manufacture into the United States.

That a place which, 20 years since, had cot "local habitation, nor a name," should have become the second place in population in Massachusetts, the fourteenth in the United State; larger than any city s. of the Potomac, excepts Charleston and New Orleans, is proof of what manufactures, properly conducted, can accomplish. Nor have these manufacturers benefited themselves more than they have promoted public interest. Cottons which, 20 years sine would have cost 30 cents a yard, can now be purchased for 6 cents; and such establishments as those at Lowell, have wrought this change.

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There were in 1840, 191 retail stores, capital $373,300; 5 lumber yards, cap. $19,000; 1 furnace, Cap. $3,500; 4 fulling m., 8 woolen fac, cap. $551,300; 26 cotton fac. 166,000 sp., 3 dyeing and printing estab., total cap. $8,000,000; 3 powder m., cap. $150,000; 1 paper fac, capital $8,000; 1 flouring m., 3 grist m., 1 saw m., cap. $50,000; 2 printing offices, 2 binderies, 3 weekly, 2 semiweekly newspapers, and 1 periodical, cap. $10,000. Total cap. in manufac. $3,837,460. 7 acad. 1,311 students, 28 sch. 4,306 scholars.

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Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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