The recent release of the 2010 census got me thinking about the demographics of Lowell. That prompted me to open my copy of “The Record of a City: A Social Survey of Lowell Massachusetts”, a fascinating book written by George F. Kenngott in 1912. The book is both enlightening and a representation of the sometimes shocking to our way of thinking attitudes towards race and ethnicity of that time. From time to time, I will excerpt sections of it here. Today’s selection is from the opening of Chapter 2, “The Present Population.”
Lowell is a cosmopolitan city of over one hundred thousand people, representing at least forty nationalities. There are about 20,000 native-born Americans of native parents. There are enough representatives of the English-speaking peoples of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Canada, to make, perhaps, forty per cent of its population. Of the non-English speaking peoples, there are 20,000 French and French-Canadians, 2000 Swedes, 300 Norwegians, 2500 Portuguese, 8000 Greeks, 2000 Poles, 2500 Jews, 200 Armenians, 500 Germans, 200 Belgians, 200 Syrians, and a great mixture of Russians, Lithuanians, Austrians, Chinese and others, aggregating forty percent at least of the population, and increasing so rapidly by immigration that this foreign-born population will soon be fifty per cent, if it is not so already. This large foreign, non-English speaking population has come to Lowell almost entirely during the last twenty-five years; those from southern Europe and Asia have come almost entirely during the last fifteen years.