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Grant number: BH-50634-14

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University of Massachusetts, Lowell (Lowell, MA 01854-2827)
Sheila Kirschbaum (Project Director: March 2014 to present)

Inventing America: Lowell and the Industrial Revolution

Two one-week workshops for seventy-two school teachers on the textile industry in Lowell, Massachusetts, as a case study of early nineteenth-century industrialization.

This workshop focuses on Lowell, Massachusetts, as a significant case study of American industrialization between 1820 and 1860. Lowell tells the story of how Yankee ingenuity meets early industrial capitalism in a traditional agricultural society and develops into a full-fledged market-based economy. A fundamental transformation of American life occurred as the result of the mobilization of women and immigrants into the work force and accompanying changes in ethnic and cultural diversity, class relations, and social mobility; new economic models and volatile markets; and the rise of labor unions and progressive movements. The workshop is organized around a set of key topics: 1) Lowell's overall significance as an industrial showplace, 2) the transformation of New England's economic and social order, 3) changes in the experience of work, 4) worker protest and organization, 5) the struggle of Lowell's community to come to terms with slavery, 6) transformation of nature as a result of industrialization, and 7) the intellectual, artistic, and literary efforts to define an "American" culture. Sheila Kirschbaum, the workshop director, assembles a group of historians with particular expertise on Lowell, including Merritt Roe Smith (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Patrick Malone (Brown University), and Thomas Kelleher (Old Sturbridge Village), and University of Massachusetts, Lowell, faculty Robert Forrant, Bridget Marshall, Jennifer Cadero-Gillette, and Gregory Fitzsimons. On Monday, participants travel to Boott Mills to examine a working water-powered turbine and complete power train, following a presentation on the industrialization of textiles in Waltham and Lowell. On Tuesday, participants visit Old Sturbridge to discuss the transition from an agrarian to a market-based economy. Participants test their skills as assembly-line workers in connection with a lecture on industry management structure and working conditions on Wednesday. A Thursday trip to Walden Pond invites further reflection on the morning lecture on Emerson and Thoreau. On the last day, participants take a walking tour to examine Lowell's immigrant history. Secondary readings for the workshop include Thomas Dublin's Lowell: The Story of an Industrial City; Patrick Malone's Waterpower in Lowell; Jack Larkin's The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840; and Ira Berlin's Many Thousands Gone, among others.

Project fields:
American Studies

Landmarks of American History

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$160,286 (approved)
$158,833 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2014 – 12/31/2015