The 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting – Put It On Your Calendar!

Early Image of the Mills at Lowell, MA

It’s time to start thinking about the 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting Wednesday, May 15th thru Saturday, May 18th, 2019!  We will be based at the Westford Regency Hotel in Westford, Massachusetts (https://www.westfordregency.com/).  Room rates at the hotel are $125/night.  Come and join us for another great meeting full of great activities and great people.

Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center

Figure 1. The Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center in Westford, MA

On Thursday we’ll visit the Lowell National Historic Park (https://www.nps.gov/lowe/index.htm).  The park is the site of the Boott Mills which were part of an extensive group of cotton mills built along an extensive series of canals town. The Boott Cotton Mills complex is the most intact and houses the Boott Cotton Mills Museum.  The History of Lowell is closely tied to its location along the Pawtucket Falls of the Merrimack River which provided water power for the factories that formed the basis of the city’s economy for a century. The city of Lowell was started in the 1820s as a money-making venture and social project referred to as “The Lowell Experiment”, and quickly became the United States’ largest textile center.

Boot Cotton Mill, Lowell, MA

Figure 2. The Boott Cotton Mill

The Merrimack Manufacturing Company opened a mill by Pawtucket Falls, that began weaving cotton in 1823. Within two years a need for more mills and machinery became evident, and a series of new canals were dug, allowing for even more manufacturing plants. With a growing population and booming economy, Lowell was named after Francis Cabot Lowell, and was officially chartered on March 1, 1826. By 1850, Lowell’s population was 33,000, making it the second largest city in Massachusetts and America’s largest industrial center. The 5.6-mile-long canal system produced 10,000 horsepower, to ten corporations with a total of forty mills. Ten thousand workers used an equal number of looms fed by 320,000 spindles. The mills were producing 50,000 miles of cloth annually.

Interior of the Boott Cotton Mill

Figure 2. Interior of the Boott Cotton Mill

Other industries developed in Lowell as well: The Lowell Machine Shop as well as other machines shops served the large number of weaving mills. Moxie which was created around 1876 by Dr. Augustin Thompson in Lowell, Massachusetts. originated as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food”. He claimed Moxie was especially effective against, “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia.”. In 1880, Lowell became the first city in America to have telephone numbers.

Uriah A. Boyden installed his first turbine in the Appleton Mill in Lowell in 1844. It was a major improvement over the old-fashioned waterwheel. The turbine was improved at Lowell again shortly thereafter by Englishman James B. Francis. Francis had begun his career in Lowell working under George Washington Whistler, the father of painter James Abbott McNeil Whistler, and his improved turbine, known as the Francis Turbine, is still used with few changes today. Francis also designed the Francis Gate, a flood control mechanism that provides a means of sealing the canal system off from the Merrimack River, and completed the canal system by adding the Northern Canal and Moody Street Feeder, both designed to improve efficiency to the entire system. We’ll get a first-hand look at the canal system and the turbines on a narrated boat tour of the canals.

Mill Worker's Tenements, Lowell, MA

Figure 3. The Mill Worker’s Tenement Buildings in Lowell, MA

The Lowell Mill Girls were young female workers who came to work in industrial corporations in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The workers initially recruited by the corporations were daughters of propertied New England farmers, typically between the ages of 15 and 35. By 1840, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the textile mills had recruited over 8,000 women, who came to make up nearly three-quarters of the mill workforce.  While their wages were only half of what men were paid, many were able to attain economic independence for the first time, free from controlling fathers and husbands. As a result, while factory life would soon come to be experienced as oppressive, it enabled these women to challenge the then existing gender stereotypes. As the nature of the new “factory system” became clear, the Lowell Mill Girls joined the American labor movement.  In 1845, after a number of protests and strikes, many of the mill girls came together to form the first union of working women in the United States, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. The Association adopted a newspaper called the “Voice of Industry“, in which workers published sharp critiques of the new industrialism. The “Voice” stood in sharp contrast to other literary magazines published by female operatives, such as the “Lowell Offering“, which painted a much more sanguine picture of life in the mills. We’ll spend time at the Boott Mill, tour the canal system by canal boat, and visit the tenement houses where the Lowell Mill Girls lived.

The New England Quilt Museum

Figure 4. The New England Quilt Museum

We’ll also take the time to visit the New England Quilt Museum (http://www.nequiltmuseum.org/index.html) which is less than a block from the Boot Mill site. The New England Quilt Museum, founded in 1987, is the only museum in the Northeast solely dedicated to the art and craft of quilting. Their collections are strong in 19th century quilts, with a geographic focus on New England and the museum staff are planning a special display of their early quilts just for our group.

The New England Quilt Museum

Figure 5. The New England Quilt Museum

On Friday, we’re going to feature a wide-ranging series of hands on workshops, lectures, and demonstrations.   You’ll have a chance to try your hand at blacksmithing, rigid heddle loom weaving, cross stitching, 19th century candy making, and decorative plaster molding.  We’ll have a demonstration on bookbinding. More workshops and hands on activities are in the works so stay tuned.  You can take a tour of the Starrett factory and museum in nearby Athol, Massachusetts. You’ll get to see some very early Native American tools from the extensive collection at the Peabody Institute of Archeology (https://www.andover.edu/learning/peabody) and be able to try your hand at flint knapping. . You’ll hear about Civil War Soldier’s quilts.  We’ll be entertained at our banquet by Doctor and Doctor Noah (yes there are two) and their “Amazing Mechanical Magic Lantern Astronomic Slide Show.” Both the Fiber Interest Group and the Blacksmith’s Interest Group are helping to put together this meeting.

Bob Roemer's Forge

Figure 6. Interior of the Moses Wilder Blacksmith Shop Where the Blacksmithing Workshops Will Be Held

And of course, we’ll enjoy tailgating, our annual Whatsit’s session, the ice cream social, displays, and tool trading as well as the Silent Auction, our Annual Meeting, and Banquet. The theme for the displays is Fiber Arts Tools and Machine Tools.  So, start thinking about a display. They’re a great way to share your knowledge and some of your tools with the rest of us. The more displays the better! Also, don’t forget the Silent Auction.  Items donated by members help support EAIA’s annual budget.  Share your creative talents with the rest of us and bring an item or two for the auction.

Bill and Alyssa Rainford and Eileen and Paul Van Pernis are co-hosts for this meeting. Put the dates, May 15th thru May 18th on your calendar. Think about your display, and an item or two to donate to the Silent Auction.  Bring a friend or your family and come enjoy a great 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting in Massachusetts. Watch for more information about the 2019 Annual Meeting in Shavings and on the EAIA web site (www.eaiainfo.org).

By Paul Van Pernis

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