The Market Revolution
Francis Cabot Lowell in The Market Revolution
Francis Cabot Lowell (1775-1817) was a Massachusetts textile manufacturer and an industrial visionary. He was born in Newburyport and graduated from Harvard in 1793. Although born into a prominent mercantile family, Lowell traveled to Great Britain in 1810 to study British textile technology in hopes of finding safer investment opportunities. Memorizing the technical details of the power looms at a textile plant in Lancashire, England, Lowell introduced the technology at a factory built at Waltham, Massachusetts in 1814.
Lowell formed the Boston Manufacturing Company to underwrite his plans for an expanded New England textile industry. Selling shares of stock in his joint-stock company to other prominent New England merchants and bankers, Lowell provided an investment model soon imitated by other American entrepreneurs. Lowell also introduced an innovative labor model at his factory at Waltham: he hired young, single women, housed them in chaperoned dormitories, and promised to transfer traditional paternal labor relations to his new large scale operation.
After Lowell's death in 1817, the Boston Manufacturing Company developed several new mills north of Waltham in a factory town named Lowell after the innovative entrepreneur. While Lowell's investment model survived, his labor model did not. By mid-century, Irish immigrants had replaced the native women formerly employed at Lowell.