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The Town & the City: Lowell Before The Civil War


Lowell Sun video

***NEW*** - Part 5 of "The capital of the poor man" - The history of public health in Lowell

Part 5 of "The capital of the poor man" - The history of public health in Lowell has been added. Part 5 discusses a smallpox outbreak in 1837..

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Drone video of Pawtucket Falls 2017


 “History is a tale . . . not of immutable forces but of human endeavors.”
Walter Isaacson in Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Pawtucket Dam, 1833" (Oil painting on canvass)
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library


The Town & the City: Lowell before The Civil War is a collection of documents, images, maps, and writings from when Lowell became a town in 1826 to the beginning of The Civil War in 1861.

Individually and together they give us a glimpse into what life was like in this historic part of America between the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

No part of the earth's service is more worthy of study, for us, than that on which we live. No part can boast a history more replete with the elements of poetry and romance, — what she has done for the advancement of the mechanic arts, — what she has contributed to the comfort and well-being of civilized mankind, — what her citizens have done, and are now doing, for the preservation of the unity and nationality of America, — the world well knows.
Charles Cowley, Memories of the Indians and Pioneers of the Region of Lowell, 1862.

[Lowell, Massachusetts] is in many ways a cosmopolis - the whole universe is represented there in a fourteen-square-mile municipality. And it is possible that by studying Lowell one might see the entire range of human experience and come away with a truer understanding of history.
Mehmed Ali, 2006

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Contact us

If you have questions about this website, please email Brad MacGowan at


See the Lowell Sun article - 

Scan by scan, Lowell history comes alive



Navigating this website

The pages on this site and their contents fall into two major categories:

1.) Digitized documents

2.) Other primary and secondary source materials from a variety of collections including images, maps, and books.

Digitized documents -

Links to the digitized documents and the indexes for them are on the “Documents Collections List & Links” page of the site. Click the second blue box/button on the left to access this page. For each collection, there is both a webpage describing and listing the documents, and an "Inventory" webpage with information/metadata (e.g., date, title, subject, names) including a link to each document.

In addition, a downloadable EXCEL spreadsheet file is available for each document collection. Click here to access these spreadsheets.

Each individual collection page and its Inventory page can also be accessed by clicking on a blue box/button on the left under the “Contact us” box.

The originals of these document collections belong to the City of Lowell, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the Lowell Historical Society. The originals are located at Lowell City Hall and The Center for Lowell History.

These documents were digitized and are presented in the order that existed at the time of digitization. No effort was made to sort, reorder, or categorize. It is not known whether, or to what degree, any sorting, reordering or categorizing has been done over the previous decades. EXCEL spreadsheets and the Search function within the website give researchers the abilities to perform these functions as needed.

Other primary and secondary source materials –

These pages can be accessed by clicking on the blue box/buttons on the left between “Documents Collections List & Links” and “Contact us.”

This site is a work in progress and documents and other resources are added on a regular basis.

Using the "Search" boxes on this site

Most pages on this site have a Search box.

This Search function searches all of the UMASS Lowell LibGuides for the Search Words entered.

It does not browse the whole web, nor does it only browse this specific LibGuide/site.

The middle box on the page with the results of the search titled “LibGuides” will contain links to the UMASS Lowell LibGuide site (bolded) and the specific page on that site where the search word or words are found.

Clicking on the link will not bring you right to that specific word on the page. Use the Find command (command f on a Mac, or ctrl f on a PC) to locate the word on the page.


Under Construction

This site is under construction.

There is already a lot here, and there is a lot more to come.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Contact us