Portuguese immigration from Portugal and the Azorean Islands to the United States was originally triggered by the whaling industry. In the late 1880s and early 1900s, the expansion of the New England textile industry led to a greater demand for unskilled workers. In response, increasing numbers of Portuguese men and women came seeking jobs in the mills of New Bedford, Fall River, and Lowell, as well as other cities in New England. This pull, coupled with the development of transatlantic steamship lines, facilitated immigration. By 1920, there were over a million immigrants living in Massachusetts, over 28% of the state’s population, and the Portuguese comprised nearly 3% of that number. Since its industrial beginnings, Lowell has been a haven for immigrants and refugees from the British Isles and Continental Europe. In 1920, Lowell’s population was almost 115,000 with some 38,000 immigrants. Remarkably, nearly half its population was young, between the ages of 15 and 44.
Through the Portuguese Immigrant Archives, the Center for Lowell History will identify and provide online access to resources and special collections in the Libraries at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This project was created in collaboration with . Founded in 2013, with generous gifts from the Saab Family Fund and Luís Pedroso, The Saab-Pedroso Center promotes the multidisciplinary study of the language, literatures and cultures of the vast and varied Portuguese speaking world comprised of over 230 million people in eight countries on four continents and its diaspora.