Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on the textile industry in Lowell, Massachusetts, as a case study of early nineteenth-century industrialization.
This workshop focuses on Lowell, Massachusetts, the first planned industrial city in the United States, as a means to study changes in work, economics, society, culture, and the environment that occurred between 1820 and 1860. To address the key themes that a study of Lowell invites, Merritt Roe Smith (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) places the local textile industry in an international context, Patrick Malone (Brown University) focuses on Lowell's water power system, Jack Larkin (Old Sturbridge Village) discusses the transition from an agrarian to a market-based economy, Gray Fitzsimons (GGF Historical Consultants) focuses on the textile industry's management structure and on the experience of Irish and French Canadian immigrants, Robert Forrant (University of Massachusetts, Lowell) speaks about labor's responses to the new industrial order, Chad Montrie (University of Massachusetts, Lowell) explores the tensions between the traditional and the modern in the literature of the early nineteenth century, and Marie Frank (University of Massachusetts, Lowell) utilizes two selections (by Thomas Cole and Charles Sheeler) from the NEH Picturing America portfolio to explore responses to industrialization and the American landscape. Participants directly examine Lowell's rich historic fabric such as the Suffolk Mill, the Boott Cotton Mill and Boarding House, and other mill sites along the Merrimack and Concord Rivers. Site visits to Old Sturbridge Village and the town of Concord put the industrial developments in a wider context. In addition to readings by workshop scholars, the participants read selections by historians Thomas Dublin, Patrick Malone, and Brian Mitchell; the period literature of Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and the writings of young women who worked in the mills. The university provides online support through Blackboard, and teachers develop lesson plans, the best of which are posted on the workshop's website.