CENTER FOR LOWELL HISTORY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LOWELL LIBRARIES

Home     Digital Photographs     Genealogy Resources     Special Collections     Search
 
A 19TH CENTURY IMMIGRANT'S VIEW OF LOWELL
 
A 19th Century Immigrant's View of Lowell tells the story of John Wood, a cabinet-maker from Bury, England who immigrated to Lowell in 1858 and lived here until his tragic death in 1869.  The letters and other historical documents on exhibit help to tell the story of one man's life and what he observed around him in Lowell during the mid 1800's.

The Historical Background
In 1980, Kenneth Walker of Prestwich, Lancashire, England, sent to the Mayor of the City of Lowell, three lengthy letters found among his late sister's effects.  These letters were written over 120 years earlier by John Wood, an Englishman living in Lowell in the mid-1800's, and sent to his family in Bury, England.  They eventually found their way to the 
University of Lowell Center for Lowell History, where they remained undisturbed for another ten years.  A chance mention of John Wood's letters touched off a project that now reaches from Lowell and the Merrimack Valley to the cotton manufacturing towns of Lancashire, England.  Three 
recently been located.  One is currently living in Lawrence, MA and the second in Oxford, England. The third woman, Edna Bickerdike Dally, lives in Freckleton, a small village near Preston in West Lancashire, and has provided us with some early information on John Wood.  Mrs. Dally's 
grandmother, Ann Wood, was John Wood's niece, and was one of the "family of girls" referred to in the letters. 

     Through extensive research conducted locally and in Bury, England, a more complete portrait of John Wood has  emerged.  We now have much information regarding his early years in England, the reasons he immigrated to Lowell, where he lived, worked and worshipped, the events in his life after his last letter of 1860, the impact of the Civil War years upon his life, and the events leading up to his tragic 
death in 1869.

The Letters
Wood's three surviving letters, dated November 21, 1858, May 1, 1859, and January 22, 1860, offer a rare intimate glimpse into the life of a male immigrant in Lowell during the mid-1800's. Some of his observations and impressions of Lowell, reproduced as he wrote them, are included here. 

     In his letter of 1858, the engraved heading of which appears below, John, writing to his brother, marvels at the appearance of the mills and the female factory workers: 

     I never saw such a place for females as Lowell is in summer you may with see them coming from the mills with there vails of blue green or black wich the all wear and parosols and as neat and clean as if the where going to church in the mills in every room there are washstands with iron wash bowls in rotation with water taps sinks and all complete." 

 "...I was in the Merrimack Corporation ... I can assure you the look much more comfortable here in the mills than home every one has a stool ore chair to sit upon and watch there work and like wise all provided with a looking glass where you may see them stand combing their hair at the glass and straightening up themselves as if in a bedroom ..."
 

Top Of Page    Previous Page or Next Page