A Mill City Overnight

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Postcard of American Woolen Co., Washington Mills, Lawrence, Mass., 1900.

Orra Stone, in his four-volume History of Massachusetts Industries (1930) has this to say about Lawrence. “The influx of Boston capital created a mill city almost overnight and for nearly a mile on both banks of the stately Merrimack there tower the red brick walls of manufacturing establishments…” (p. 327).

Less than 40 years after the Essex Company’s incorporation, 338,100 spindles, 9,057 looms, and 10,200 employees weaved two million yards of worsted a week. The Lawrence Machine Shop, built between 1846 and 1848, constructed most of the machinery used in the mills and also for a time built railroad locomotives.

Lawrence was also one of the most important centers in the U.S. for the production of papermaking machinery. Stone notes: “The city manufactures a wider variety of paper-making machinery than any other one center; a larger total volume than any other city in the United States, while a buyer can purchase in Lawrence a larger percentage of the complete machinery required for making paper than in any other place in this country” (p. 338-39).