Francis Cabot Lowell founded the Boston Manufacturing Company, in Waltham, in 1813. It housed all the operations for producing finished fabric under one roof, making it one of the most advanced textile mills in the U.S. at the time. At its heart was Lowell’s brainchild, a water-powered loom.
Boston Manufacturing was the first modern, industrial corporation in America, setting standards of finance, management, technology and labor organization that gave flight to the country's new industrial revolution. Young farm girls, housed in dormitories, made up BMC's workforce. They were well paid, in cash, giving many a new-found sense of independence, despite the long hours and regimented living.
To achieve his vision, Lowell gathered under his leadership a small group of well-connected Boston businessmen who later came to be known as the "Boston Associates." They combined technological innovations, new business strategies, and a shared sense of social responsibility to create the Waltham-Lowell system of manufacturing, which eventually extended to Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Saco, Maine.
The mill buildings are now elderly apartments. Housed in the complex is the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation. The museum traces the industrial revolution in America from 1813 through mid-20th Century. Showcased are pioneering Waltham companies, among them the famed Waltham Watch Company.
The photos below are arranged in three parts: 1) the mill buildings, today, 2) the BMC exhibits, and 3) a few of the many other museum exhibits. More information about the other exhibits can be found on the museum's website, here. Following is a breakdown of what’s shown in parts 2) and 3):
BMC exhibits: A big blue sign explaining why the BMC was historically so important (click or tap on it twice to enlarge). A working model of the famous power loom. A big bell that controlled the workers’ daily schedule. A diorama showing the first two mill buildings along the river, with housing for the farm-girl workers behind them.
Other exhibits: A 1920 paper bag machine that produced 22,000 bags an hour for the Waltham Paper Bag Company. An 1857 horse-drawn fire engine with a steam powered tank, which shot water through the hoses to a height of 150-200 feet. A fully intact Model T chassis. Finally, an engraving machine from the Waltham Watch Company (1854-1950), and a few of its mass-produced watches and clocks.
As I went about taking pictures, I noticed various antique machines and machine parts lurking in corners of the museum, which I felt were of visual interest in their own right. I've posted them as a separate story at Machinery.