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Lowell History: Visitor Observations 1827-1913

Observations of Lowell by George Moore, 1844

Journal of a Voyage Across The Atlantic: 
With Notes on Canada & the United States; 
and Return to Great Britain

Excerpt by George Moore, Esq.

October 30, 1844

Wednesday morning.-- Received my despatches per Great Western, and proceeded to Lowell per rail. I forget whether I described an American railroad before. There are no first and second class carriages, as with us, but gentlemen's cars and ladies' cars; and, as a black man never travels with a white one, there is a negro car. Each car holds from thirty to fifty. There is a stove blazing hot. Except where a branch-road joins the main one, there is seldom more than one track of rails. They rush across the turnpike-road, where there is no gate, no policeman, no signal. There is painted up, "When the bell rings, look out for the locomotive." I was met at Lowell by my fellow-passenger in the Western, Royal Southwick, intimately connected with the factories there. The first we visited was a cotton cloth and drill factory, where they make about 50,000 yards per day, all by water-power (the Merrimack), and have a couple of hundred girls employed. The good order and clean appearance of both factory and girls contrasted greatly with both in Lancashire. There are twenty-five mills here. We then visited a carpet manufactory, by machinery that reduces labour 75 per cent., and where some of the many girls employed make a dollar a-day. There is no manufactory like this in the world: there is a patent taken out by E.B. Bigelow to protect the carpet power-loom manufactory. They must be making money fast here. We then visited a cloth manufactory upon a large scale, where they employ about 800 hands; and the excellency of the cloth surprized me. They will have no occasion for English cloths much longer. All by water-power. The last place was a large cylinder print-works, where they produce some first-rate goods, and, I think, as cheap as ours. There are several factories in Lowell, each of which they call a corporation, as they are chartered. They employ about 8000 girls, who make 3-1/2 dollars per week, or 14 s. Their neat, clean, and healthy appearance pleased me much: they are well dressed; and, meeting them out, you would take them to be of a higher grade. They pay 1-1/2 dollar per week for lodgings, which are situated near, and belong to the different corporations. They are strictly moral and virtuous, and all contribute to a monthly publication called "The Lowell Offering," well worth reading. I saw the principal editors (young ladies), and ordered it for next year. The rooms in which they work are well arranged; and green plants are trained to shade the glass windows. The laws of the state forbid their working more than nine months in the year, and require that they shall be educated during the other three. There is a hospital or boarding-house for the sick, at 3 dollars per week: they do not often require its assistance, for in 1841 they had 100,000 dollars in the savings-bank. We visited the Mechanics' Reading-room--a large building, with papers from all parts.

The population of Lowell is 25,000; one of the most rising towns in the states. There are also Fall River, Taunton, Manchester, Great Falls, Dover, New Hampshire--all rising manufacturing places. In New England state there is no coal, which is a great drawback. I returned to Boston, and spent the evening with some friends.