• Boott Cotton Mills Museum with Trolley

    Lowell

    National Historical Park Massachusetts

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • Folk Festival Parking and Schedule Changes

    While the park helps the city prepare for and celebrate the Lowell Folk Festival, the Visitor Center parking lot at 304 Dutton St. will be closed Wed July 23-Mon July 28. Also check our Operating Hours page for changes to tour and exhibit schedules. More »

The Waltham-Lowell System

 
Drawing of Francis Cabot Lowell

Francis Cabot Lowell

National Park Service

The success of the early spinning mills of southern New England in the years before 1810 and the uncertainties of shipping led the son of a leading Boston merchant family, Francis Cabot Lowell, to seek a haven for his fortune in manufacturing. Having developed the country's first working power loom, Lowell, with fellow Bostonians Patrick Tracy Jackson and Nathan Appleton, established the Boston Manufacturing Company along the Charles River in Waltham in 1814.

There Lowell and his fellow entrepreneurs, later called the "Boston Associates," transformed the country's fledgling textile industry. Capitalized at $400,000, the Waltham mill dwarfed its competition. The power loom and related machinery permitted the combination of all the steps in the production of cloth under a single roof. Instead of relying on traditional family labor, the company recruited young single women from the surrounding countryside. So great were the profits at Waltham that the Boston Associates soon looked for new sites, first at East Chelmsford (renamed Lowell), and then Chicopee, Manchester, and Lawrence. The "Waltham-Lowell system" succeeded beyond their expectations, giving the Boston Associates control of a fifth of America's cotton production by 1850.

Their profits permitted this tight-knit group of families - Appletons, Cabots, Lowells, Lawrences, Jacksons - to build an economic, social, and political empire. They helped develop the Boston and Lowell Railroad and other railroad lines in New England. They owned controlling stock in a host of Boston financial institutions, allowing them to finance and insure ventures through their own companies. As their fortunes grew, the Boston Associates turned to -philanthropy-establishing hospitals and schools-and to politics, playing a prominent role in the Whig Party in Massachusetts. Until the Civil War, the Boston Associates were New England's dominant capitalists.

Source: Lowell National Historical Park Handbook 140

 

Did You Know?

Historic etching, Lowell National Historical park

The population of Lowell grew dramatically during the years of industrial expansion-rising from about 2,500 in 1826 to more than 33,000 in 1850, when Lowell was the second largest city in Massachusetts.