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Lowell History: Visitor Observations 1827-1913

Observations of Lowell by Henry A. Miles, 1845

Lowell It Was and As It Is 
By Henry A. Miles 

The Superintendent at the Lowell mills

Lowell Massachusetts was once a small village. The construction of a textile mills accessed it to grow rapidly from 2500 resident in 1826 to over 17,600 in 1836. The following is a description of the role of the mill superintendent:

Lowell has been highly commended by some, as a model community, for its good order, industry, spirit of intelligence, and general freedom from vice. It has been strongly condemned, by others, as a hotbed of corruption, tainting and polluting the whole [and. We all, in New England, have an interest in knowing what are the exact facts of the case. We are destined to be a great manufacturing people. …

. . .On the banks of the river, or of a canal, stands a row of mills, numbering, on different corporations, from two to five. A few rods from these are long blocks of brick boardinghouses, containing a sufficient number of tenements to accommodate the most of the operatives employed by the Corporation. Between the boarding-houses and the mills is a line of a one story brick building, containing the counting room, superintendent's room, and clerk’s and store rooms. The mill yard is surrounded by enclosures, that the only access is through the counting room, in full view of those whose business it is to see that no improper persons intrude themselves upon the premises.

Thus the superintendent, from his room, has the whole of the Corporation under his eye. On the one side are the boarding-houses, all of which are under his care, and are rented only to known and approved tenants; on the other side are the mills, in each room of which he has stationed some carefully selected overseer, who is held responsible for the work, good order, and proper management of his room. … 

This, then, is the little world over which the superintendent presides. . .The superintendent's mind regulates all; his character inspires all; his plans, matured and decided by the directors of the company, who visit him every week, control all. He presides over one of the most perfect systems of subdivided and yet well-defined responsibility… 

From Lowell, As It Was, and It Is, Henry A Miles (Powers & Bagley, Lowell) 1846