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Marketing the Machine
1896 to 1936
An Exhibit by the Lowell Historical Society
Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center
While Lowell was one of the first planned cities laid out in the United States, much of its haphazard development after the 1830's was due to economics, demographics, and the general trend of laissez faire urban design. The introduction of the automobile to Lowell brought a major impact to the densely settled city.
Traditional transportation now
had to compete with much faster mechanical counterparts and the pace of
city life hastened. Open spaces on residential properties were transformed
into anchorage's for autos,
With the creation of reliable
autos, the population from the original core neighborhoods spread farther
into the outlying sections of Pawtucketville, South Lowell and the Westlands,
and also into the suburbs such as Dracut, Billerica and Tewksbury. The
spatial regionalization of Lowell
rendered the decline of the downtown mercantile monopoly as strip malls eventually eclipsed the traditional shopping areas.
Industries and businesses appeared in Spindle City, which manufactured, sold and repaired autos. The number of Lowell garages jumped from 4 in 1910 to 31 by 1940. Auto merchants like Dan O'Dea, George Dana and Ester Castle (the first woman dealer in New England) became well known symbols of the business.
The impact of cars not only affected
Lowell's social and commercial life, it also catalyzed Mill City into bringing
about change in its governmental policies. The defining influence of the
The catapulting of the car into
prominence as a cultural and political focal point for Lowell and even
for the nation had in great part to do with a calculated effort of several
local residents. Noted Lowellians were active in "marketing the machine".
They helped foster an acceptance of the automobile and were
strong advocates towards making cars the primary method of transportation.
While standard sales methods conversely focused on the individualism of the male driver and the essentials of family oriented transportation involving women consumers, grander schemes evolved. Included in this brochure are essays which highlight two of the most effective Lowell based promotional campaigns for automobiles.
Charles and Lucy Glidden of Spindle City were the first to travel around the globe in an auto. The Lowell couple were also major sponsors of the Glidden Reliability Tours held from 1905 to 1913, and which endorsed dependability in cars and in the upkeep of roadways that auto drivers used. The Great Races of 1908 and 1909 were organized by the Lowell Automobile Club and were impressive entertainment to the hundreds of thousands who came as spectators. The Races were also a marketing strategy upon prospective car consumers and an attempt to attract the auto industry in establishing business in the city.
Through the efforts of interested
pioneers such as the Gliddens, Butler Ames and John Heinze, the automobile
came to dominate much of the urban landscape in Lowell and throughout the
nation. Much of what we accept as commonplace today is only due to the
careful patronage and promotion by Lowellians of an invention that had
to be proven to society.
The exhibit from which this brochure
evolved would not have been possible without the support of many
individuals and organizations. The Lowell Historical Society wishes to
thank the donors and volunteers including:
Exhibit sponsors were the Lowell Cultural Council and
the Lowell National Historical Park. The exhibit team was comprised of
Mehmed Ali, Raymond Hoag, Martha Mayo and Barbara Reed.
Charles Glidden (left) ballooning
Charles and Lucy Glidden in London
Charles and Lucy Glidden leaving Boston, MA
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