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Lowell History: Visitor Observations 1827-1913

Observations of Lowell by J.H. Grandpierre, 1854


We could not leave the United States without visiting Lowell, that
marvellous creation of American manufactures. Let the reader represent to himself a town of thirty-seven thousand inhabitants, twelve thousand of whom are employed in the factories, that is, four thousand one hundred and sixty-eight men, and eight thousand four hundred and seventy young women. Twelve manufacturing companies, represent a capital of thirteen million nine hundred thousand dollars. The cotton which is transported raw to the sixth story of the manufactory, is returned to the first floor transformed into printed calicoes, which are at once packed and sent off. The quantity of fabrics of all kinds woven every year at Lowell, would form a vast belt, long enough to gird several times the circumference of the globe. Seventeen miles of cloth are woven every hour, such is the railroad speed with which they work.

But great as is the admiration excited by so wonderful a development of human industry and skill, it is far surpassed, by the feeling of satisfaction with which a Christian witnesses the paternal care and supervision exercised over the nine thousand female operatives, by their employers. Each company has built and furnished comfortable houses, where they are lodged and boarded at a moderate price. These buildings, which are of immense size, are subdivided into small separate tenements, where the young girls are received in companies of twenty-four, under the supervision of a respectable woman who acts as housekeeper, and enforces the regulations of the establishment. Each person has her own room, and they may assemble when they wish in the parlor, where they find a little library prepared for them. The rooms, and even the stairs, are well carpeted. To see these young women on their way to their work, from their neat dress and modest manners you would suppose them persons in quite another station. There are, in fact, to be found among them daughters of country clergymen, who do not think it beneath them to pass three or four years atLowell, that they may lay aside as the fruit of their honorable labor and economy, a small sum which afterwards serves as their dowry. 
In America, labor is a disgrace to no one. Indolence and inactivity alone are thought dishonorable.

The operatives of Lowell earn from four to five dollars a week. Half of this sum serves to pay their board, and they may thus economize two or three dollars weekly. It is known, that these young women edit and publish among themselves, a monthly journal:--some of the numbers of this, which we have in our possession are really very remarkable. We need not add that their conduct is perfectly irreproachable. The directors of the various companies would not admit into their factories or boarding-houses, persons whose morality was liable to suspicion, nor would they even receive any of irreligious habits, or who were not regular attendants at church. There are in Lowell more than thirty churches of different denominations.

If we were making a book on the United States, we should have many other institutions to mention, many other facts to recount, but our readers must not forget that our visit was but of two months, and that we have only promised a few notes on such, facts as fell under our notice, in the sphere of religion and morals, in that short space of time.