“Lowell is a Great City” (in 1926)
On March 1, 1826, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted the town of Lowell its initial charter. Consequently, the city of Lowell will soon begin celebrating its bicentennial. I have occasionally posted items about Lowell’s founding, and will continue to do so, but I will also revisit Lowell of one hundred years ago. The 1920s were an interesting period in the city’s history. That decade formed a bridge between the boom years that ran from the founding until the end of World War One; and the troubled years which ran from the onset of the Great Depression to the start of the city’s Renaissance in the late 1970s.
My first set of articles about Lowell in the 1920s will be drawn from the 1926 Lowell City Directory. Each week, I plan to post excerpts from this book that provide a sense of what the city was like back then. Today we begin with the Introduction to the 1926 Lowell City Directory:
Lowell is a Great City
Lowell bases its claim to greatness on well-known and firmly founded facts. It is the city of a thousand industries that employ scores of thousands of people and its population of 112,759, by the 1920 census, is now estimated at 120,000. Its industries are great industries, and its people are good people.
Lowell is beautifully situated at the confluence of the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The water power of these rivers was fully developed by a system of canals, which cross the city in a network, dividing the territory into seven distinct islands. Along these canals and along the riverbanks have sprung up myriad mills.
Within the city itself the streets are well paved and there are hundreds of the most magnificent shade trees, well preserved, lining the curves and sidewalks. The business section of the city is very compact and all business houses are accessible within a very easy walking distance, and yet there is ample room for expansion within these same limits.
Lowell is surely a versatile city. Its interests are not all commercial or manufacturing. Lowell is progressive. Lowell seeks all the benefits that the modern city needs, and it already has more than its share. It sent its minutemen to the Civil War with the famous Sixth Massachusetts in its sons fell at Baltimore, the first to die for the union. In the commercial life Lowell has shown the way to textile greatness and its mills are monuments of industry known the world over. It’s hard to find an article that is not made in Lowell. It is commonly supposed that Lowell weaves cloth and that nothing else of consequence is manufactured here. Lowell makes the ammunition hoists used on the battleships, boilers, broadcloths, plush, bunting, cartridges, hosiery, machinery, sail cloth which has been used by the America cup defenders, patent medicines of national and international repute, scales, shoes and slippers. The list of Lowell products begins with acids and ends with yarns. It reads somewhat like a tariff bill.
Is it to be wondered, then, that Lowell is prosperous? Its workers seldom strike. They are cosmopolitan and character but are rapidly becoming American by assimilation.
Take the matter of thrift, for instance. The savings banks and co-operative banks are teeming with cash saved by the thousands. The savings banks held $77,530,855 of the people’s savings at the most recent report. The people here own their homes to a large extent, and many of the workers not only live on their own property, but own other property as an investment.
Lowell offers unlimited opportunities for use of water power. for the city is sometimes called the “Venice of America.”
Its business section is situated at the angle between the Concord and Merrimack Rivers at their confluence. Although the deepening of the Merrimack river to permit of commerce from the Atlantic ocean is looking, perhaps, far into the future, that idea suggests only one of Lowell’s possibilities.
Industries, commercial and mercantile establishments are centrally located. The working population is within easy reach of the business area and nearly all the industries.
The Boston and Maine and the New York, New Haven and Hartford systems run into and through the city, connecting it with all points of the country. The city is only 26 miles from Boston and adequate trolley lines. Assist the steam roads in connecting Lowell with Boston, and other points in Massachusetts in New Hampshire.
People who visit Lowell casually are impressed with the surprising fact that a manufacturing city can be beautiful. Lowell is developing along these lines, but is already a beautiful city. Its great parks are models and when the ambitious plans now started are complete, the park system of Lowell will be genuinely magnificent.
Lowell, “The City of Diversified Interests,” welcomes new people, new industry, new development, new enthusiasm, and shows you who would like to know about us that here is a place where law abiding citizens prevail, where industries are varied, where factories abound, where there is seldom excuse for idleness, and where the people are thrifty and energetic, strong on patriotism, watchful of their good name and out of Lowell. Lowell is wide open to the worker, but there is no room for the shirker.
The Lowell Chamber of Commerce is the key that unlocks the doors of Lowell’s future.