Skip to Main Content

Lowell History: Visitor Observations 1827-1913

Observations of Lowell by Margaret Hall, 1827



Captain Basil Hall went to America to investigate the prisons, asylums, and schools in 1827; he went armed with over one hundred letters of introduction and his formidable wife, Margaret. Accompanied by their daughter, Eliza, and her nurse, Mrs. Cownie, the Halls visited New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. 

Margaret Hall came to America from the well-to-do society in Edinburgh. Hall had a taste for travel, having grown up in Spain, and related her experiences in America to her sister Jane in a series of letters home. These letters were collected and published as The Aristocratic Journey a century later.

Although Hall's husband spoke frequently and fondly of his experiences as a young man in New York and Boston, in her letters Hall found the new country strange and crude. She was particularly dismayed at the entertainments and fashions of society women, and at the separation of men and women in practically all amusements. Her descriptions of slave auctions and of slave life on the plantations in South Carolina, however, proved her to be a keener observer of the institution of slavery than were Tocqueville and Beaumont.


October 13, 1827 
Yesterday we were up betimes and off at nine o'clock to the great manufacturing establishment at Lowell, which has grown up in the last five years. The journey was twenty-five miles, and we made it out by one o'clock. We went at once to the house of Mr. Kirke Boott under whose immediate superintendence the works are. We rather expected that we should have had time to visit the manufacturies before dinner, which by the way was somewhat  young in us, considering the experience we have had of American hours, but we were not prepared to find (altho' we arrived at one) we had kept the family waiting beyond their usual dining hour. In ten minutes we were seated at table, and such is the capability of one's appetite to accommodate itself to any hour, that, dining at one or at six, I always feel equally hungry. We swallowed our dinner with somewhat of American speed, as the days are short now and we had a great deal to see before dark. Five years ago Mr. and Mrs Kirke Boott took up their residence at Lowell where there was then no building except one or two little hovels, but last night we went over very extensive cotton manufacturies that have sprung up since that time, 
and on every side fresh ones are starting into life. This State is so very bad for agricultural purposes that they are driven to manufactures to gain a livelihood, but as yet they have neither skill nor capital to attempt anything fine or expensive, and the finest cottons they make at Lowell (printed ones I mean) are not beyond the value of fifteen pence a yard I should think. But with time and their desire to improve they will soon advance the quality. 

University of Virginia