Tuesday, January 11, 2011
When Cotton Was King
The historical note on the 1912 Lawrence Strikes brought back memories of my time in Lowell. I read Arthur Eno's book Cotton Was King: A History of Lowell, Massachusetts, along with Kerouac's The Town and the City, to help familiarize myself with the place. I had gotten a job with the Lowell National Historical Park, or "histerical park" as we sometimes called it. They had revitalized several of the old mill structures that were now national monuments. The old mill city was undergoing a renaissance. Persons were turning some of the old mill buildings into private loft apartments, with their great views onto the Merrimack River.
Lawrence still seemed in a recessionary slumber. It is a much bigger city. There was no compact center like in Lowell. But, historically this was the heart of the textile industry in New England. Reading about the attempts to unionize the mill workers was disheartening, as time and again they were foiled by the workers bitter racism. The Irish spinners wanted nothing to do with the more lowly Italian and Portuguese workers. Eventually, broader unions were formed, but by then much of the industry had moved South to be closer to the source of the cotton.
Unfortunately the only link I've been able to find for Cotton Was King was at amazon. But here is a piece on Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell.