On Saturday, I took a train with Victor to Lowell. This accomplished two goals. One, I’ve always wanted to see this famous town of industry. Second, it was my first time using the MBTA commuter trains.
Lowell was at its peak in fame and relative prosperity while Polk was President. While it continued to grow through the Civil War and into the turn of the Century, changes in industrial production and the cotton industry slowly eroded its singular prominence. The historic core of Lowell is quite small and easy to walk across. There have been modest attempts to “do it up.” We ate cookies at a Brazilian cafe. Lowell must have been one of the most depressing places in the world in the middle of winter between the piles of snow, factory smoke, the over-crowded tenements, and lack of electric light.
The national park at Lowell is one of the most interesting I have been to. You can go see a floor of working looms at the Boott Factory and buy a postcard of the guy who is actually running them. There is a boarding house to visit which shows the life of the “mill girls.” Upstairs and around the corner, there small display on the history of Lowell, including its most famous son, Jack Kerouac. I did not know he was French-Canadian. His typewriter was small. In the summer, there are boat rides through the canals built to generate power.
I am always intrigued by the stories that the Park Service chooses to tell about its sites. In Lowell, they do not back away from labor disputes and the unglamorous world of industrial work. The story synopsis: rich guys find fast creek to build factory based on stolen English design. Farm girls escape dreary life at home to work looms discover sisterhood and solidarity through work. Decent profits, more factories but not enough girls! Send for immigrants. Competition from other factories brings lower wages. STRIKE! Strike busting! Get new immigrants to build ethnic distrust and keep wages low. STRIKE! Workers of the World Unite. Send jobs to North Carolina. Dust and Disorder takes over Lowell. Greed rules the world and the workers turn to God and Baseball. Lowell is collapsed.
I’m taking everyone who visits me there.