These podcast episodes contain audio from Lowell Talks community discussions. During these programs, we invite local experts to talk about a relevant issue. With each episode, you will be hearing a question and answer segment with a ranger followed by clips from the larger discussion.
SPEAKERS Allison Horrocks, Andrew Seeder
00:05 Hello and welcome. My name is Allison Horrocks and I'm a Park Ranger at Lowell National Historical Park. I'm joined today by Andrew Seeder, who created a visual about the enslaved labor process and its connections to the Boston Associates and Lowell.
00:21 Thank you, Allison, and thank you for this opportunity to communicate with you and the other people who are interested in this history. I'm visiting you virtually from New Jersey, but I'm based in Boston, Massachusetts, professionally, I'm a researcher and this is the first project of my research studio, Seeder and Partners, LLC.
00:43 So part of what we're talking about today is hundreds of years of research condensed into one graphic that will allow us to better understand different connections between Lowell and the slave trade. So I'm currently sitting in a building that is called the Boott Cotton Mills, which is part of the National Park Service presence here in Lowell. And this building is named after a man named Kirk Boott, who was the primary founder of the Boott cotton mills and financier Boott has a huge presence in the city of Lowell even today. And as Andrew takes us through His graphic, you will see names that if you visited Lowell are very familiar to they are names that are on the city streets, they are on signs names, such as Appleton, Moody, and Cabot which still populate a lot of cities in the northeast and beyond. I mentioned the Boott specifically because not just where I'm located today. But it also really gets at some of the key tensions that we'll talk about. Boott not only profited from the Atlantic slave trade, many of his co-investors were part of investing in various trades that were related not just to chattel slavery, but also rum, which is where a lot of their fortune came from, for the city of Lowell, but but was also directly antagonistic to ending slavery. That's an important part of our story as well. Kirk Boott in 1835, was among a group of people who put their names on a broadside or a public piece of paper, suggesting that they were fighting against the people who were anti slavery. And these kinds of fights would erupt periodically in Lowell as an anti slavery faction and a pro slavery faction really clashed against each other. So part of what we're talking about is this bigger global process by which cotton arrives in Lowell after lots of hours of enslaved labor in these bigger connections. So to get us started, Andrew, can you tell us a bit about where the idea for this specific project really came from for you?
02:49 Thank you for asking that. Um, so I have a habit of taking nonfiction books and trying to distill them into like, very short, readable, digestible summaries. And initially, I was interested in doing some research, sort of about, sort of, I'm interested in this in this question of quantifying reparations from slavery. And because I'm in Boston, I was walking around the streets of Boston, downtown Boston on the Shawmut Peninsula, and it occurred, it struck me that a lot of the ground that I was walking on, was filled in, and that 200 years prior, I would have been standing in the middle of the ocean. And it occurred to me that this large land making process, you know, where was the wealth? What are the wealth come from that that sort of pushed out the shores of Boston into the Atlantic, and I got to thinking about where where the rest of the source of wealth of New England's wealth came from, in the 19th in the 18th and 19th centuries. And originally, I was focused just on the customhouse in Boston as sort of an institution where these connections between New England and slavery and the slave camps in the south and the 19th century, that it was through the customhouse, that these sort of connections materialized. And then as I began researching the Custom House, I sort of went deeper into the literature of what you know, what's being called the sort of a new history of capitalism. So I, you know, Walter Jacobson's, the river of dark dreams, Edward Baptists, the half has never been told, spend backwards global history of cotton. And I thought I was originally going to write an essay that sort of distilled those three books in particular, and then the more I got to thinking about it, I thought it'd be more powerful if instead of a long form essay, that that was a summary of these books that I would create a visualization that tried to describe these connections sort of all on one page.
04:57 Yeah, so I think part of what we're going to do is we're going to actually take people through the different elements of the graphic that you created together with an artist. And including some of the decisions that you made in packaging this information to be one various listening to but very detailed overview of this process.
05:16 Here it is, this illustration is called 100,000 Days A Year. And before we go into each of these steps, sort of a couple caveats, the bail to bolt process was historically complex and dynamic. And each of the steps that I described here has its own history. And you know, you could spend a lot of time researching and diving deeper into each one of these steps. So this illustration, it has some omissions, it potentially has, you know, it definitely has a perspective, right. And to that end, you know, it is simplified. This is a very simplified version of the process. So with that said, I'll sort of outline this, if you if you see the here's the full illustration, you have the title 100,000 days a year, you have portraits of the so called Lords of the loom are members of the Boston associates who were these sort of wealthy merchant capitalists from New England who devised what became known as the wall fan local manufacturing system, and invested in the cotton manufacturing complex in Lowell. In addition to purchasing the land. You have further Lords of the loom text here. These are other people who invested in it, but sort of not as directly and some are secondary investors through other stock ownership in the Waltham Mills, I have a summary text description that'll walk you through and my sources, a map within a map down here that sort of describes the direction of the interstate slave trade and also the packet lines. On the left here this is there's sort of a subtitle here that says cotton harvesting. These are the steps again, the simplified version, steps of the cotton harvesting process, meaning what's what's actually happening on on the slave labor camps. And then up at the top is the power power loom. One of the workers of the looms often, if not, I believe exclusively women, and a physical description of what happens to the cotton fibers through the spinning and weaving process, landscape drawing of the local manufacturing complex that was part of the manual Merrimack manufacturing company, and then a line of the railroad here that linked the customhouse to each year in the decades before the Civil War, the cotton textile mills and Lowell Massachusetts consumed on average 15 million pounds of cotton. Historian Edward II Baptist estimates that the bales of cotton consumed in Lowell for the Merrimack manufacturing company took slaves a combined 100,000 days of labor per year to produce capital invested by a small handful of people. The Lords of the loom made this cycle of violence possible. 100,000 days a year shows a simplified version of this cycle, including the direction of the interstate slave trade, the land expropriated from the Chickasaw, Choctaw Creek and Seminole peoples, the long life long lat style of slave labor camps along the Mississippi River. The steps to produce bales of cotton by slave labor, the packet line between New Orleans and Boston, the overland shipment of cotton bales from Boston to Lowell and then finally, steps to transform cotton bales into textiles. By wage labor working for the Merrimack manufacturing company. One mill in a larger mill complex, the local mill produced course, so called Negro cloth and sold it to plantation owners. A slave who picked cotton could have had that same cotton returned to them in the form of a shirt manufactured in Lowell, the cradle of the American industrial below that text description here. In addition to sort of get the hopefully this description gives you a sense now why it's called this this illustration is called 100,000 days a year. And below the text description are the primary sources, mostly secondary sources that I used in my research, huge shout out to illustrator Madeline Dall, she made this come alive. It's really her artistry that makes this work take you through this illustration. And it's probably the smallest element on the page. And it's it's a map within a map. So if you took a sort of a far out view of this illustration, you'd seen mostly the eastern that the shoreline of of Massachusetts, and you can sort of see that, you know, see that the arm of Cape Cod as it were. And then on the bottom center of this map is a much smaller version of basically the upper south and Gulf Coast coastline of the United States. This solid arrow here represents the general direction of what's called the interstate slave trade, the domestic slave trade are all called the second great migration in the United States. So after 1807, the United States bans importing slaves from the International slave trade. And it's at that point that the domestic slave trade explodes. And you have people basically buying, selling and stealing people from slave camps in the upper south. So South Carolina, Georgia, and where they were producing, you know, tobacco, sugar for rum, they were producing one commodity and bringing them to the banks of the Mississippi River for cotton cultivation. Now, it's important to note that this was not empty territory. This was not empty wilderness here. And we have maps, sort of the shaded area on this map. These other territories are the territories of the indigenous communities that were there were living there at the time. And the map is very much indebted to Edward Baptists book, namely, the Chickasaw, Choctaw Creek, and the seminal peoples in Florida, that that land was was violently expropriated from these peoples and coerced from these peoples in order to the to build up the domestic cotton production process, right? This was for a young nation, right? This is a mere 20 You know, this, this starts wrapping up a mere 30 years, 40 years after the American Revolution. And the cotton commodities known as King cotton is basically the the commodity that is the foundation of, of the young, the young America's economy, sort of that the national economy, so huge stakes in producing cotton, the very small here you can sort of see these like little splinters coming off of the the white line here is the Mississippi River. These little splinters coming off here are the what's called the long lat style of plantations, which was, believe it, it has French origins, the sort of the, the style of the property style, as it were the property geometry. But the idea is to give as many different people, as many different companies and individual plantation owners getting as many people as possible access to the riverfront access to the river will also try to optimize for acreage. So you get these many like very long, long plantation styles so that every everyone who's harvesting, growing cotton and harvesting it can get to the Mississippi River and ultimately to the Port of New Orleans. And then finally, this red dot and then sort of the dotted red line here represents the packet line cycle of commodity production ramps up you get sort of standardized what are called packet lines, where you have basically the same ships more or less, going back and forth to the same places. Often, you know, it can be also known as the triangle trade. Where in one from one voyage, it's it's shipped, like one boat from the Port of New Orleans to New York City is filled with cotton. And then the cotton goes to Liverpool, the Cotton's dumped out of Liverpool, but then the ship is filled back up with cloth wares and other manufacturing goods to make it to the rest of Europe, also potentially going to Africa. But the idea here is that there's a you know, there's a trend shipment line that's constantly going back and forth. The vast majority of the cotton that is produced along the Mississippi River in this part of the South, it ends up in England in Liverpool specifically to be transformed transformed into cloth commodities for the European markets. But even so, you know, the 10% of that that doesn't get exported, that's enough to sort of build up the national economy and certainly build up New England's wealth. just the sheer volume of comments produced is astounding, right? The 15 million pounds of cotton that just goes to Lowell every year at its peak. Something they're like, I think by 1860 something like 45,000 plantations in the American South and I'm not sure how many along our along the Mississippi River but it's a gigantic scale. And then scaling out is sort of the cotton harvesting process. And one thing that we that we omitted here, slave quarters of where were where the slaves were residing and spending their lives. That said with without a mission, we have the top left sort of what's you know, known in American vernacular as the big house or sort of where plantation owners and other sort of company man are doing their business and even living That's, you know, has it's such a powerful symbol in the American imagination and also in American history. And then next to that, labeled one is the clearing of the land, right. And that's something that isn't addressed really much at all in the literature, let alone the connection to slavery, right from when you're reading about the cotton manufacturer in New England, slavery is rarely mentioned. And even in contemporary accounts, the cotton planting and harvesting is highly extractive from an environmental standpoint. So it's, it exhausts the land itself, doing this sort of monoculture, you're depleting the soil of its of its nutrients, you're destroying the ecosystems, you're clearing the forests in the service of producing this con. So you have this this land, it's cleared by slaves, the lumber from the clearing is often used to construct the big house, once it's cleared of stones of, of animal life, and you're left with just the top. So you have step two, which is the plowing of the top soil for planting the actual cotton seeds. And there's a an entire literature about whether you know, what species of cotton plant was most effective and what ticular time in this in the 19th century, this is, this is what's called I believe, upland cotton. The cotton grows it flowers into the sort of fibrous tusks that you're you're familiar with. And then it's, it's harvested by by slave labor. And people are picking, you know, hundreds of pounds of cotton a day. It's brutal. It's truly terrible conditions. And once it's it's harvested, step four, depicts the weighing of each slaves' harvest from that day. And this is something that Edward Baptist, in his book that has never been told, makes an argument about it about when you compare the slave regimes that exist in the West Indies. In the upper south, you see, you see a transformation between the the slave labor regimes that existed there, and what we end up seeing along the Mississippi River and these in these slave camps to produce the garden commodity. And what you see and it's actually depicted in Steve McQueen's movie, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is, unlike, each day, having its own quota. slaves are basically forced to compete against themselves to reach their, their their own personal quotas for how much they pick in the fields each day, so if a slave is out there, they pick 250 pounds of cotton one day, that next day, there's going to be slave owners or another laborer who's working on the on the slave plantation who isn't a slave saying, you pick 250 pounds today. What? Yes, you picked 250 pounds yesterday, what have you picked today, and they're constantly ratcheting up each individual person's quota to extract as much possible cotton from each person as they can, without and sometimes intentionally exhausting that the person themselves. So the cotton is weighed. And then it is it's ginned. And that, you know, there's a huge literature about the the influence of the cotton gin and the explosion of the production of the cotton commodity, which is an automated way or rather a mechanical way of separating the cotton cotton fibers themselves the thing that ultimately become cloth, separating seeds from that, and the ability to separate those seeds in in a more automatic fashion is is one of the necessary conditions for the explosion of commodity production in the south. Then finally, you've got the gin cotton, and it gets bailed or pressed into the bale maybe that that that is the raw what I would refer to as a raw cotton commodity. Meaning that you know, buyers on the other side of this are looking for a standard standard weight, standard size, more or less standard quality of the cotton commodity itself to be used in the manufacturing process. The bales are then you know, now that they've been commodified right into into these units, these bail units, they get stacked on these barges, these barges that float down that go down the Mississippi River, collecting bales from from the different slave labor camps London Mississippi River until finally they make their way to the Port of New Orleans. And from the port. Like I said most go to New York. Most go to Liverpool by by way of New York, most of the cotton goes gets exported out of the country. But the the cotton is bought. It's it's unloaded. It's reloaded out of these packet lines. And then it's off off to their destinations. This is the Boston Custom House, I was interested in the Custom House as an institution, which straddles both the colonial era and also sort of the early the early republic as something which is trying to regulate and standardize the operations of the mercantile and market economies. You know, you can walk to the Custom House in Boston, and it would have been the the shores, that the waves of Boston Harbor would have been laughing up onto the side of the Custom House in the 19th century, before the land was filled in, got a packet line shift, this one's modeled after the USS Ohio. And they get to the Custom House, they sort of register with the customs agents, and then sort of buyers and sellers are squaring their accounts, as it were. And then the cotton gets unloaded. And it's transshipped. Offer over the Boston and Lowell railroad, which is basically dedicated to just moving cotton, from from Boston to to Lowell, it makes its way to Lowell further picking are sort of removing debris from the raw cotton commodity carding, where you have these individual cotton fibers, and you sort of straighten them out, you sort of like comb them together, then you spin the fibers together into threads, you work together, the finer threads, the thicker threads, and then you weave together the larger threads into into cotton cloth. You know, a lot has been written about the what's called the wall fan Lowell system. And it is the first sort of vertically integrated manufacturing company in the world. It was designed, you know, that it sort of conceived of by this rather sort of mysterious historical figure of Francis Cabot Lowell, who I don't know if you would agree with his characterization. But he goes, he goes to, I believe in Scotland where he finds this but he goes any basically memory, he goes and visits a mill out, I believe it's in Scotland, but it could have been in England, likely in England. He goes there and what the way that cotton production was working in England at the time was through the putting out system so a bunch of people get, they get the con, they get the raw con commodity, and they sort of put out the cotton to all these peasant families. And the peasants are the ones sort of doing the picking in the cardigan and spinning the fibers into into usable thread for the manufacturing process. And Lowell goes and sees a version of the power loop. He sees an automated machine loom in action, he memorizes it, he, he sees it, he memorizes it, he brings it to the United States. And then he enlists his friend Paul Moody to reconstruct the machine based on his memory to then go and sort of launch their what's vertically vertically integrated process so they don't put up the cotton to peasants. They have all of the production under one single facility they have proven the success of the model in in Waltham, Massachusetts it sees incredible corporate profits again all using cotton from slave labor the people who are originally investing in Waltham say hey, this is this works. Let's do this on a bigger scale. And so they go and they find they find a place at the time is called East Chelmsford, indigenous territory but before European settler colonialism, expropriated it from those people. Turns out there were actually some pretty consequential battles and King Philip's War in Queen Queen Anne's war, not far from from where Lowell is today. So they identify East Chelmsford as the place where they want to set up this planned industrial city, a planned factory town. And one of the main reasons they do that is because the Merrimack River drops about 32 feet in elevation over what's called the Pawtucket falls over over the length of about a mile. And it's a very, very strong currents from the Merrimack River it's creating rapids and this drop in elevation makes it a perfect place for to to utilize water power. And in fact, there had already been a canal built in this section of the Merrimack River called the Pawtucket canal before the load before the Merrimack manufacturing company purchases the land. But the but more canal sort of smaller tributaries are built off of the Pawtucket Canal, and the gravity of the falling water is what powers the mills themselves. And you know, you can go in there and now and I visited Lowell, it's deafening. I mean, the inside of these places as these power power looms are moving, and all these machines are operating, it is deafening, that the scale of the operations are incredible. So the raw con commodity is making its way from the slave labor camps, it goes to these Mills, and it's transformed into various qualities of cotton cloth. Usually it's women, working the machines, but also children, many children. And it's Lowell has a long, proud history of labor organizing as well. And fighting for such things as the eight hour work day, as a result of some of the conditions. Although interestingly, one of the pitches to investors for the creation of this wage labor system among women and children was comparing it to the English textile mills, which were notoriously horrible for everyone working in them, they consider this to be more humane than what they saw on it. So you're looking at, you know, these these are, these are the components, the literature is, is, is not critical, for the most part about this, and you're looking at all this and you're like, millions of pounds of cotton, thousands of wage laborers, 10s of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of enslaved peoples indigenous communities destroyed for the production of this commodity for the production of cotton. And, you know, what is it that's animating all of this? You know, is it you know, demand in European markets? You know, I see a lot of sort of, like technological determinism, that describes the force of, you know, why this system lasted for for decades and decades before the Civil War. And like, you know, it's the cotton gin that didn't, you know, once the cotton gin was was present, then, you know, then the cell took off. And it's like, you know, that's just one piece of the puzzle. And if you look at the history, what's animating it is the investment capital from from the Lords of the loom. These these men, and they're mostly men. Were looking for profits. They were looking to make a lot a lot of money. They were looking for power. And this was an opportunity to invest to invest capital. You know, I thought it was important to name some of these folk Paul Moody, the engineer PT Jackson, Dudley Ting, Kirk boo Nathan Appleton, William Appleton and Daniel Bowditch. JOHN Lowell Jr. That's Francis Lowell sun, people for whom I was not able to find likenesses, Timothy Wigan, Ebenezer Appleton, Warren Dutton, these men were, these were sort of the original investors who sort of had conceived of, of,
27:51 of this sort of this this profit engine,
27:54 this this this, this calm production process. But you know, also, you know, I won't read all these names, but there are also quite a few people who were initial shareholders in the Merrimack manufacturing company, a lot of appletons. A lot of Jackson's senator, the politician Daniel Webster, Nathaniel Bowditch, and also a few women as well, the cabinet daughters are on here as well. But that in broad strokes is 100,000 days a year again, it's it's it's, it at least outlines the basic steps of of what you call Allison bail to bolt. While without turning a blind eye to the fact you know, all this value is being all this profit is being created through slave labor.
28:41 We talk about law as a planned industrial city and part of the distinction of the city, especially in relation to the National Park Service as being the first large planned industrial city in the United States of a certain scale. And I think something that could be talked about a lot more is the way that that plan, really in a lot of people's minds necessitated enslaved labor to make it function only the complications of our story here is you do have a male worker pictured a young woman who's working on a loom, and part of the plan truly, of creating the city of what becomes bold, named after Francis Cabot lol is recruiting women who are thought to be more compliant, right people who are thought to be more of a temporary workforce. And there's this huge gap between being a quote unquote, mill girl, which is thought to be kind of a temporary condition for women. And the way that women in the south who are part of the system have enslaved labor. That's a hereditary condition. Yet we have women in Lowell who call themselves slaves. And we have this whole dialogue that's happening in the country, you know, just almost 200 years ago where laborers who are in Lowell, Massachusetts are walking away from their looms, and protesting, and in earnest calling themselves slaves or white slaves. And this is something that happens over and over, where people are kind of picking up on that. But as you're showing there is a huge difference, right? People are obviously working very hard in these factories, but they're not part of a system in the way that enslaved laborers are in other parts of the country.
30:24 Yeah, I think that I did not know that that history, I think, was one of the reasons that I kept doing this research as I was sort of, I was struck by the fact that the mid the mid 20th century accounts, even some of the contemporaneous descriptions that I'm reading about, about the cotton manufacturing process for ASIC as an incredible industrial process, there's no there's no recognition. And there's no articulation of the fact that like, where does this cotton come from? It's picked by slave labor, like these are slave labor camps. And it when you say that, it makes me think that like, it's surely these, these these, these mill girls knew where their cotton came from, they feared becoming that they feared becoming enslaved perhaps as a way of perhaps that I guess that maybe that's what's being articulated is the fear of becoming enslaved. And is it is it the foremost of their, of their consciousness, but it's not something that's articulated and published, or, or the printed accounts?
31:27 No, and I should add, when we talk about Lowell, you know, we obviously put a lot of emphasis on the industrial laborers and the people who are making up. When we look at women, generally, let's say like 1830 1840, most of the women in the city are either living in the Irish community called the acre, or they are working in a factory, because it's still a pretty limited experiment. In essence, it's mostly people who are obligated to live in boarding houses, then the city grows and changes quite a bit. But we do have stories of people coming to low self emancipated people. And I'm thinking of something as a story about a man who goes by a different alias. But one of his names is Robert, and he actually was present, of course, for the auction of himself. So he was sold for $800 in New Orleans. And when you were talking about the packets, and the transportation of cotton up to up the coast, up to Boston, Robert is at his own sale for $800, Robert frees himself and travels to Ohio. And sort of Curiously, the way these things work, he ends up in Boston, you know, probably right into the Custom House. And he continues up to a town called Andover, which is very close to lol, and then actually takes the train to lol gets off the train and find sanctuary in what many people call the mill girl church St. Anne's Episcopal for a short period of time before moving on. And I think part of what's really extraordinary is we know unfortunately, far too little about people like Robert. And we do have other stories of self emancipated people. But someone like Robert also doesn't stay in law, he continues on he does not stay. And we know that as the numbers of immigrant laborers are soaring. As an example, there are very few French Canadian people here prior to 1850. Then the number jumps to close to 15,000. Within a short period of time after the Civil War, there are 11 people who are considered African American enroll in 1830. That number only goes up to 177 over 50 years. And I think that's not a coincidence. I think people are, you know, self selecting, as you were saying as part of this cycle of violence. And I think often, you know, people are generally rational actors. And if you have been wearing something called lol cloth, or there is this association, also these factories are segregated. For the most part, there isn't that same kind of opportunity. I think it explains that to a large degree why for the most part will becomes a huge landing spot for immigrant workers who are coming from places like the United Kingdom, but not for internal migration. The way a city like Chicago would, you know, in a few decades, incredible. I'll just say to a I think part of what's important about this project and for educators or people who are just curious in their local history. bowl is, you know, connected to a lot of different AMERICAN STORIES, a lot of different aspects of United States history. But we also have, you know, a lot of rich local history and people who are very interested in, you know, how things came to be named in their communities. And I would encourage people to look closely at the stockholder or the shareholder list I should say, of the Merrimack manufacture Answering company. Because if you walk or drive or take a trolley, that's part of the Park Service through roll, it is almost impossible to not see something named Thorndike. Right, we have the Thorndike exchange, our visitor center, its parking lot is located on Dutton Street, we could go on and on, of course, we have Jackson St. We have many things named after the Appletons. And so a lot of this city is really named in honor of people whose financial ties, they're not loose to this connection, you know, they're they're not loose, they're actually very intimately connected to the story that you've told,
35:39 they, that that's something that struck me as well, and sort of just walking the streets of Boston are like these, these men memorialize themselves, right with, with, with their plans, with their power with their money, it can give you the illusion that like that they're great men, and they may be great in the sense of like, of the wealth that they accumulated, but there is a, you know, there is a violent, ugly, immoral side of, of the wealth that they created for themselves. Or rather, I should actually correct myself, they did not create their wealth for themselves, right, their wealth is, is generated through through slave labor through the expropriation of land, through through, you know, course of wage labor practices. That's where their wealth comes from. Right.
36:28 And I think some of these histories, you know, a lot of people call them hard history, or they call them Hidden History. You know, it really depends on your perspective, what you want to call it, thinking about someone like Kirk Boott, actively intervening in the actions of people who are anti slavery. One of the things that the broad side does notice about this meeting for people to gather says is that they're not going to let people create mischief. That's the word that they use against their partners, shareholders, and basically, you know, kind of CO conspirators in the American South. And someone like Kirk Boott is very invested in telling wealthy Southern plantation owners that he, you know, won't allow his workforce to become part of anti slavery activity. There are many things named after boot. Recent research in Boston, particularly at the baker library, and Harvard done by staff here shows that it's not just the cotton but much of the timber, the leader timber that is added to this complex and others, as well as the pig iron was also harvested, and done by skilled laborers who were enslaved people. So a lot of that is literally hard to see, when you visit our property today, you mostly see bricks. And of course, bricks were also made in other contexts by enslaved people, but the pic iron the wood, of course, the cotton that came through the building, but many of these processes actually all connect. So it's the money, it's the materials. And this building would not exist without slave labor, so much like buildings from the White House to mansions in Natchez, Mississippi, this building can be counted on that list as well.
38:08 Yeah, I think I think if there was anything that I would, that I hope people would take away, again, like this is just scratching the surface. Right? I hope that that's something that people sort of take away, even from this sort of simplified for broad stroke version is that, you know, you hear I guess, there are sort of, there are two myths that I that I came across, right. One is that the Industrial Revolution, industrial capitalism, as it as it emerged in the United States, was something that was like, could to be to be compared against slavery as an economic system. Whereas, you know, the closer look at the history, it's, it's quite plain that the emergence of you know, the industrial capitalist American economy is is based on slavery, right? That kind of comes from the slave regimes in the south. And the other myth that I came across was this anachronism of projecting back this distinction between the North and the South, deep, deep into the night, you know, deep into the history, whereas, you know, to your point, right, like, the deeper that you look into the history, these are all interconnected. Right. And you can't you can't sort of divorce one one segment of the can't attach one segment of the American economy in the 19th century, or its legacy right from, from this history.
39:30 Now is the kind of final thought you mentioned that you started this project, in part as a way to think through what reparations might look like in the United States. And this is something that has been brought, you know, all the way to the highest levels of American government at various times as a proposal. What do you think in a city like lol reparations might look like either on a local, national or global scale? What would be something actionable that that might change? Wow.
40:00 That that's a good question. I definitely do not have all the answers about that. And I'm still very much thinking about that myself and thinking about my own sort of personal privileges. From where I'm sitting as a researcher and from the, my own my own skills that I can bring to to this movement. Or to this reckoning, I think there needs to be on historical accounting, historical auditing, if you will, of as best as we can, right, as best as the material history can attest to as best as the records can attest to, who was it whose lives were ruined, whose lives were stolen on the banks of the Mississippi River to produce this? One of the challenges I found in doing this historical research was a lack of clear historical material connections between which plantations specifically, which slave labor camps specifically, did Kirk boots, and these other Lords of the loom, buy their cotton from? And once you have that answer, or at least as close as a complete answer, as you can get given the historical materials, once you know, okay, where did where exactly did the cotton come from? I think, I think then you're in a better position to potentially memorialize the tragedy.
41:19 You know, the Boott Cotton Mills, among other things has changed since the early years when it was first constructed, some of the bricks have been rearranged, some of the beams have been moved or have been fixed. But a lot of this building physically hasn't changed. And yet, the way that we use it is completely different than anyone could have ever imagined. And I think, you know, buildings exist, in part to serve the different purposes and the different meanings that we put into them. And I think a place like this as an example where, you know, people could come to work here over 150 years ago, and experience something they never had before. The Industrial Revolution completely changed the way people imagine their relationships to craft to work to the things that they put on their bodies and use their hands for. And I think it's a good reminder that things can always change again, you know, we, as storytellers do our best to tell the truth about the past. And part of that means, you know, understanding fully the different stories that we contain within a single building. And I think people who know some of these names, if they're from this area, or have heard some of these names before, think they'll look at these portraits or those street signs a little bit differently, particularly in our age that we live in now. The Thorndike exchange is being completely reordered. So talking about things that seem immovable that are actually quite open to change that that also is happening today.
42:45 Sure, hope so. Allison, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this work for those who are interested. I'm happy to talk more about this. The research studio that I created is called cedar and partners LLC, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But I guess I just want to reiterate that this is just scratching the surface a future I'm able to go more deeply into each of these steps.
43:17 Thank you so much.
How closely connected were the lives of Northern capitalists and Southern enslaved people? During this Lowell Talks program we spoke with Andrew Seeder, a researcher who recently completed a graphic project titled "100,000 Days a Year". This graphic highlights the close ties between industrial cites like Lowell and Southern cotton plantations. Seeder talks about the different ways he researched this question. To see the full graphic visit https://miro.medium.com/max/2640/1*Z98-pLjhfjObrXechf-B-Q.jpeg