The Industrial Revolution wasn’t invented in Lowell, but it was perhaps perfected here. No other city in the Northeast poured more of its heart into the project of industrial production. Blessed by the natural turbines of the Merrimack River, the city became the center of cloth and textile manufacturing in the region in the middle half of the 19th century.
In fact, European visitors raved over the city as a miracle of modern ingenuity. As one Scottish visitor of the time said: “Niagara and Lowell are the two objects I will longest remember in my American journey—the one the glory of American scenery, the other of American industry.”
Much of the success of the story, of course, was based on the exploitation of the workforce, mostly immigrant women from French Canada, Ireland, Italy, and other countries. Because of that, Lowell and the neighboring city of Lawrence could also be said to be the beginning of the modern labor movement, as these women risked their lives to strike for better working conditions.
Lowell today is still a melting pot of immigrants from different countries, including a strong Cambodian community that settled here after the Vietnam War. Now that the mills have shut down, the city is one of the poorest in the state. It has seen new life in the past decade, however, as a haven for artists priced out of Boston , as well as a proud multicultural city—making it one of the most dynamic destinations in New England.