• A group of wealthy merchants turned industrialists known as the Boston Associates developed the city of Lowell as one of the first planned industrial cities. Their investment in Lowell kicked off the American Industrial Revolution. They soon sought to replicate the success they found in Lowell. The Merrimack River and its natural falls proved invaluable as a source of power and cut through plenty of undeveloped land both up and downstream from Lowell.

  • This map shows the transformations that the Essex Company made to what was farmland thirty years earlier. Can you spot the major differences? Compare this map with the 1845 one. From the stone dam a canal was constructed to the north of the Merrimack River to carry water to the mills. It eventually empties back out to the river. The mile-long North Canal, dug by Essex Company laborers, provided greater space for manufacturers to position their mills parallel to the river on what appears to be an ‘island’ across the lower portion of the map.

  • This photograph, taken in the mid-20th century, shows Lawrence’s mill district with the Ayer Mill clock tower visible on the top left. How many smokestacks can you count?

    Orra Stone, in his four-volume history of Massachusetts industries (1930) has this to say about the city. “The influx of Boston capital created a mill city almost overnight and for nearly a mile on both banks of the stately Merrimack there tower the red brick walls of manufacturing establishments…” (Stone, p. 327).

  • This Library of Congress photograph shows the inside of a Lawrence cotton mill. While it was mainly a wool-producing city and Lowell was a cotton mill city, there were cotton and shoe factories in Lawrence. The Everett Mill is the most notable example of a Lawrence cotton mill. This photo shows the shop floor layout in a typical mill. Mill engineers carefully planned the use of space; nearly all free areas are occupied by machinery. The looms dwarf the workers!

    In 1900:

    •Lawrence produced nearly 25% of all the woolen cloth in the U.S.