Skip to Main Content

Lowell History: Visitor Observations 1827-1913

Observations of Lowell by John Silbey, 1854-1859



John Langdon Sibley born in Union, Maine on December 29, 1804, and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 9, 1885. Harvard Library – 1825-1885.

Sibley's personal diary spans nearly 37 years, with entries beginning on January 1, 1846 and ending on August 29, 1882. In it he recorded the details of daily life, often commenting on local and national current events, as well as Harvard affairs.

April 22, 1854

Went to Lowell. Real estate down. The Irish are working into the city so that the Yankees leave it. One Yankee girl spends at the stores as much as four Irish, consequently, the Yankee storekeepers leave Lowell. The American girls frequently come in the fall to spend their winter in the factories. In the spring they leave, return to their homes & teach school. Latterly Irish girls have been taken in when the American[s] have left, & having good constitutions, but little affected by cold or heat, & having enough capacity to learn the routine of the factories & but little more, & being withal, willing to remain after being admitted, their services are getting to be preferred, and the Americans when they return, are sent to other places. Thus the City which when a settlement began for a manufacturing city, promised to be very large, has sunk down as a place of residence hardly desirable.

October 25, 1856

Saturday. Went to Lowell & returned. The place has deteriorated in the character of its population; the Americans having moved away & the Irish and other foreigners moved in. Real estate cannot be sold & houses that are high-priced cannot be let.

May 25, 1859

Wednesday. Spent the forenoon in Boston, & the afternoon at Lowell. Real estate low. The prosperity depends on the cotton market. At six o'clock P.M. took the cars to Concord, NH. & stopped with Dr. Gage over night. His wife, my cousin, hopelessly idiotic in the Insane Hospital.