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The Town & the City: Lowell Before The Civil War

New webpages on this site -

Locomotive Race on the Lowell Railroad - 1851

“The locomotive races to take place at the Lowell Fair which opens this week, Tuesday, are not for the mere purpose of amusement, but have a high and noble object in view, viz. to test the real mettle of the engine. For this purpose the Middlesex Mechanics’ Association by the community of arrangements issued a circular inviting the agents and superintendents of railroads and manufacturers of locomotives and railroad cars to exhibit at the fair some of their best locomotive engines.”

Plan of Lowell Village - U. A. Boyden (1835)

This webpage contains photographs of a “Plan of Lowell village / from a survey by U.A. Boyden in March 1835 ; drawn for the Boston and Lowell Rail-Road Co. with additions by Philander Anderson, March 1835.” The map is in the collection of the Boston Athanaeum. It includes an index of  buildings, factories, and other structures.

Frederick Douglass in Lowell - First Visit - 1843

When Frederick Douglass visited Lowell in 1843, he was 24 or 25 years of age and had escaped from slavery four years earlier. This was his first visit to Lowell to attend an anti-slavery convention. The abolitionists George Washington Latimer and Charles Lenox Remond also came to Lowell for the two-day convention.

Frederick Douglass in Lowell
- Second Visit - 1844

This was Frederick Douglass's second visit to Lowell to attend an anti-slavery convention. Other well-known abolitionists also came to Lowell for the two-day convention.

Hand-book for the Visiter [sic] to Lowell 1848

“THE intention of the publishers in presenting this small work to the public, is merely to give to the stranger visiting Lowell for the day, a brief account of the various manufacturing operations and to direct his attention to whatever may be worthy of observation. They propose also to furnish such general facts, useful for reference and easy of remembrance, as may be of importance not only to visiters, but to all, in any way connected or interested in the affairs of this city, and of manufacturing generally ; together with a brief sketch of the origin, progress, and moral condition of Lowell, the magnitude of its water-power and its capabilitiesof further increase.”

The Town & the City: Lowell before The Civil War

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.

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 canvas)
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library


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 -

For many, but not all, of the collections, 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. For these collections, there are links to the digitized documents and the indexes for them on the “Documents Collections List & Links” page of the site. In addition, a downloadable EXCEL spreadsheet file is available for each document collection on that page.

All of the individual collection pages can be accessed by clicking on a blue 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 –

Pages with other primary and secondary source materials, in addition to many other features can be accessed by clicking on the blue 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

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

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Contact us