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Recognized as the first planned company mill town, Lowell was founded in the 1820s when a group of Boston financiers constructed a textile factory on a canal bypassing the Merrimack River's Pawtucket Falls. This view, which is oriented toward the south, shows a densely settled city resulting from fifty years of industrial growth. According to the 1880 census, Lowell was Massachusetts' second largest city.
By viewing the city from the north, the artists place the original industrial enterprise the Merrimack Manufacturing Company -- in the center foreground. At that time the company occupied at least fifteen buildings (identified by the number 2). In the center foreground nearby, there were several other large textile mills the Lawrence Manufacturing Company (six buildings identified with the number 3) and the Tremont and Suffolk Mills (eight buildings identified with the number 9). In addition, two more large mill complexes occupy the center of the drawing the Lowell Manufacturing Company (eight buildings identified the number 4) and the Hamilton Manufacturing Company six (buildings identified with the number 5).
Clearly, this view served primarily as a business directory with the legend listing sixty industrial and commercial activities. The city's social and cultural life is not highlighted; there are no references to public buildings, schools or churches. Although long rows of company housing are evident next to the factories, they were not labeled. The view shows no sign of the vitality of the city's ethnic neighborhoods, especially French Canadian and Irish, that characterized the city's work force during the last half of the 19th century.