Friday, August 24, 2007

Immigration and Industrialization

Gray Fitzsimons leads teachers on a historical walking tour of Lowell One major theme of the Voice Rising project is to research and investigate the contributions that immigrants made to making America what it is today. Gray Fitzsimons and Lowell resident, Dave McKean, led our summer institute teachers on a walking tour of Lowell using archival photos of the neighborhood called The Acre where immigrants settled. Dave McKean shows the sight of a 19th century Lowell tenementThe biggest group of immigrants were the Irish whose population numbers comprised one-third of Lowell's residents. Gray noted that Irish labor built the Lowell canal system. It was certainly not an easy life building canals with many Irish killed by "crushing stone" and "drowning." One interesting sidelight is the fact that Lowell is the only known place in America where the Irish had shamrocks carved onto their headstones. Teachers at ecumenical plazaAt St. Patrick's church we learned that Kirk Boott enlisted the service of Bishop Fenwick of Boston to help quell the rowdy Irish. Bishop Fenwick sent priests to Lowell to conduct Catholic masses and establish a permanent parish presence in Lowell.
The afternoon session featured an activity where teachers investigated the types of artifacts brought by different immigrant groups such as the Irish, Portuguese, Greek, and Columbian. We then toured the Lowell museum and a restored boardinghouse.
Abandoned mill buildings mural at Lowell Museum

Lawrence History Center: Immigrant City Archives

HAER collection in the Library of Congress > American Memory Project
Search: Lowell

Interested in efforts to keep the Lowell Canals clean? Checkout Lowell Canalwaters Cleaners. The website contains a good historical narrative of the canals and old photographs.
Western canal

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Managing Workers, Managing Markets

Dr. Gray Fitzsimons Historian, Dr. Gray Fitzsimons began day four with Winslow Homer's painting The Morning Bell. He suggested that the central female dressed in red was a veteran mill worker who had the means to afford expensive clothes. His presentation described the Waltham-Lowell mill system where water was used to power textile factories. He told the story of how Francis Cabot Lowell memorized details of the British power loom and worked with Paul Moody to build it in America. In 1813, Lowell set his sights on the Charles River in Waltham, MA to build the first American textile factory. Lowell also employed 600-800 people who were mostly Yankee farm girls who wanted to earn extra money for their families. The Waltham mill proved to be highly profitable, but to increase production meant that the Boston Manufacturing Company had to find a bigger and more powerful source of water power. Dr. Tim Lavallee introduces Kirk BoottThey found it next to the Merrimack River in East Chelmsford, MA. Enter Kirk Boott, a wealthy Boston merchant and skilled former British army officer, who began construction of a canal system to harness the Merrimack river. Fitzsimons stated, "Lowell became the center of hydraulic engineering."
Later in the morning, Dr. Tim Lavallee, taught how a production line system operated in the Boott Cotton Mills as teachers became line workers. Teacher on the production line
Prof Robert ForrantHistorian, Robert Forrant from UMass Lowell lectured on Labor Responses to the New Industrial Order. He told the story of The slaughter at the Pemberton, a Lawrence mill building that collapsed in 1860 due to substandard construction. Forrant used the story to illustrate that workers had no health or safety protections in the mill system. Women started to oppose the factory system by the 1830s and petitioned to set the work day from 12 to 10 hours. Teachers learned about the 10 hour movement through a primary source based reenactment of the 1845 MA legislature hearing on the petition. The petition was denied, but it demonstrated that women had the courage to publicly expose the ills of the mill system.
Teachers testify in 10hr Movement activity
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Skill Built into Machines

Prof Merritt Roe Smith Day three began at the Lowell National Historical Park site. The origins and impact of the Industrial Revolution were the focus of today's American history lecture. Professor Merritt Roe Smith (MIT) described how New England moved from the craft method of manufacture to a factory one. Smith said that Yankee practicality was on full display at the first World's Fair held in England in 1851 when they demonstrated items such as apple peelers and Cyrus McCormick's reaper. The French and English opted to display ornate items and lost several head-to-head competitions that pit their products against American made inventions. Smith emphasized that the American government became an active "venture capitalist" helping to jump start many industries. One example was the Springfield armory which successfully produced interchangeable gun parts during the American Civil War.
The Lowell mills represented the center of American manufacturing power during the 19th century. Ranger Clark issues instructions on building a canal systemDuring the waterpower workshop, teachers built canal systems and tested waterwheels in order to understand how the 30ft drop of the Merrimack River was harnessed to power all the Lowell mills. Canal boat approach to Guard locksThe afternoon session featured a ride on a restored trolley car and boat tour of the canal system led by Park Ranger Frank Clark. The best part was learning how the lock system functioned by traveling through the Guard locks. The day concluded with everyone learning to weave on a hand loom. Teachers agreed that this activity helped them best understand how a skill such as weaving could be automated by a machine. We learned how innovations made to the Draper power loom at the Boott Mill meant that more textiles could be produced with less human interaction. Teachers weaving on the hand loom

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Industrialization, Markets, and the Reshaping of Everyday Life

Asa Knight store
Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) is an excellent resource for investigating the rapid changes brought about by industrialization in New England. Teachers began day 2 of the summer institute by visiting OSV to perform a site investigation on how the expanded market economy of the 1830s reshaped work and community life. Chief Historian, Jack Larkin, gave a lecture on the impact of industry during the early 1800s. Larkin stated, "all New Englanders were involved in the market and transportation was key." Teachers formed six groups which were given a set of research questions that could only be answered through field research. Our group was assigned the following questions,
  • How does the process of getting credit and exchanging goods and services change?
  • Who gets loans and from whom?
  • What is the role of banks in the new economy?
Our group visited Asa Knight's store where we learned from the clerk that townspeople were granted credit in exchange for products like butter and wooden shingles. Thompson bank would issue its own bank notes that would have value based on its gold deposits. Salem Towne house cheese making roomWe discovered that Salem Towne was a progressive farmer who sold his families butter and cheese in Boston and would grant loans to other townspeople. By talking to the printer we learned that he paid $300 dollars for his printing press which was sold and manufactured in New York City. The transfer of funds was arranged by the Thompson Bank working with a Boston and NYC bank. Gold and silver were used as hard currency, especially when it came to coinage where the Spanish reale was valued for its silver content.
The day ended with Leslie Obleschuk, Tsongas Industrial History Center Co-Director, leading a debrief on each group's research findings. Teachers share field research at OSV
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Everyone is an immigrant in the 17th century

Blast furnace leather bellows Historian Tad Baker from Salem State College explained why "everyone was an immigrant in the 17th century" when considering the majority of people coming to settle New England. So began the opening session of this year's Teaching American History Grant Summer Institute held at the Saugus Iron Works (SIW) National Historic Site in Saugus, Massachusetts. What better place than the SIW for Everett, Malden, Medford, and Revere teachers to learn how early American colonists used technology to build the first successful integrated iron works in the New World.
Highlights from Professor Baker's PowerPoint presentation included early colonial maps and artifacts from four separate archeology sites which he has actively worked. Professor Baker said that colonial maps are an especially effective way to engage students in the study of history by examining their ornamentation. Historian Tad Baker

Undershot waterwheelRanger Amy Curry led a site tour of the SIW during the afternoon session. Teachers had the added bonus of seeing how carpenters are working to restore the blast furnace building using 17th century construction techniques. The SIW site is currently closed to the public until January 2008 while it undergoes an extensive upgrade of its historic buildings and grounds. Fortunately, everything was in good working order including the 500 lb hammer and the rolling and slitting mill. Ranger Curry remarked that the rolling and slitting mill was a technological marvel of the 17th century. It harnessed water power to flatten and cut iron bars into nail rods. The day concluded with a tour of the museum building and a review of the educational programs offered to students.
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