Map 2: Lowell's canal system in 1850.
In planning Lowell, the primary objective was to place each mill in a location to take advantage of waterpower. The sites chosen were contained within or adjacent to the eastern half of an irregularly shaped island formed by the Merrimack River and the Pawtucket Canal. Feeder canals were extended from the Pawtucket Canal to the mill sites which were located parallel to either the river or canals. Power was transmitted from the canals to the mills first by water wheels and later by the more efficient water turbines that began to be installed by the late 1840s. By the late 1830s, increased demands for waterpower were beginning to produce shortages. Continued industrial growth was contingent upon an increased supply of waterpower. In 1847 the construction of the Northern Canal, an alternative waterway connecting the Merrimack River to the Western Canal, improved the quantity and efficiency of waterpower and prompted further growth in the productive capacity of Lowell.¹
Questions for Map 2
1. Locate Boott Mills. Between what two waterways was the Boott Mills complex situated?
2. How many mill complexes are indicated on the map? How many of these were constructed before Boott Mills? What does this indicate about Lowell's importance as an industrial site?
¹Adapted from Charles Parrott, Industrial Heritage 1984 Guidebook: Lowell Excursion, The Fifth International Conference on the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage, 1984.
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