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Inventors The History of Mills
Francis Cabot Lowell

Francis.tif (37042 bytes)Francis Cabot Lowell was an American businessman and the founder of the world's first textile mill. Together with inventor Paul Moody, Lowell created a more efficient power loom and a spinning apparatus.

Successful power looms were in operation in England by the early 1800s, but those made in America were inadequate. Francis Cabot Lowell realized that for the United States to develop a practical power loom, it would have to borrow British technology. While visiting English textile mills, he memorized the workings of their power looms. Upon his return, he recruited master mechanic Paul Moody to help him recreate and develop what he had seen. They succeeded in adapting the British design, and the machine shop established at the Waltham mills by Lowell and Moody continued to make improvements in the loom. With the introduction of a dependable power loom, weaving could keep up with spinning, and the American textile industry was underway.

Prior to the Civil War, textile manufacture was the most important American industry. The first American power loom was constructed in 1813 by a group of Boston merchants headed by Francis Cabot Lowell. Soon textile mills dotted the rivers of New England transforming the landscape, the economy, and the people. Initially, mill work was performed by daughters of local farmers. In later years, immigration became the source of mill "hands."
More on Francis Cabot Lowell Below

Water Wheel (Covers material on water mills)
The waterwheel is an ancient device that uses flowing or falling water to create power by means of a set of paddles mounted around a wheel.

Waterwheels and Mills
In all likelihood, the earliest tools employed by humankind for crushing or grinding seeds, nuts, and other food-stuffs consisted of little more than a flat rock, upon which the material was crushed by pounding with a stone or tree branch.

America's First Industrial City
In 1810, the New England trader Francis Cabot Lowell decided to create an American textile industry.

Wind Energy
Blowing wind spins the blades on a wind turbine -- just like a large toy pinwheel. The blades are attached to a hub that is mounted on a turning shaft. The shaft goes through a gear transmission box where the turning speed is increased. The transmission is attached to a high speed shaft which turns a generator that makes electricity.

The first known wind device was described by Hero of Alexandria (c. 1st century AD)

Wind Power
The history of wind mills - applications and the future.

Windmill History
History and development of windmills, especially in England

Wind Power History
The history of wind power.

History of Paper, Papermaking and Paper Sacks (Covers some material on paper mills)
The history of paper and papermaking, the inventors and innovations behind the different processes.

Francis Cabot Lowell
The success of the early spinning mills of southern New England in the years before 1810 and the uncertainties of shipping led the son of a leading Boston merchant family, Francis Cabot Lowell, to seek a haven for his fortune in manufacturing. Having developed the country's first working power loom, Lowell, with fellow Bostonians Patrick Tracy Jackson and Nathan Appleton, established the Boston Manufacturing Company along the Charles River in Waltham in 1814.

There Lowell and his fellow entrepreneurs, later called the "Boston Associates," transformed the country's fledgling textile industry. Capitalized at $400,000, the Waltham mill dwarfed its competition. The power loom and related machinery permitted the combination of all the steps in the production of cloth under a single roof. Instead of relying on traditional family labor, the company recruited young single women from the surrounding countryside. So great were the profits at Waltham that the Boston Associates soon looked for new sites, first at East Chelmsford (renamed Lowell), and then Chicopee, Manchester, and Lawrence. The "Waltham-Lowell system" succeeded beyond their expectations, giving the Boston Associates control of a fifth of America's cotton production by 1850.

Their profits permitted this tight-knit group of families - Appletons, Cabots, Lowells, Lawrences, Jacksons - to build an economic, social, and political empire. They helped develop the Boston and Lowell Railroad and other railroad lines in New England. They owned controlling stock in a host of Boston financial institutions, allowing them to finance and insure ventures through their own companies. As their fortunes grew, the Boston Associates turned to -philanthropy-establishing hospitals and schools-and to politics, playing a prominent role in the Whig Party in Massachusetts. Until the Civil War, the Boston Associates were New England's dominant capitalists.

Mill Power Drives
millplan.gif (50942 bytes)Once a wheel or turbine had harnessed the waters power, the mill engineer had to transfer the power throughout the mill to hundreds of machines. British and early American mills ran a vertical shaft off the main drive shaft, then transferred the power by gears to overhead shafts on each floor. Because it was difficult to get precisely machined gears, American mills were rough and noisy and had to be run at slow speeds. A few small mills used belting, but it wasn't until Paul Moody used belting in the Appleton Mills in 1828 that it was seriously considered as an alternative to shafting. Leather belts transferred power directly to the horizontal shafts on each floor. Belts allowed faster speeds and were quieter and less jarring than shafting. Belting was also much lighter, easier to maintain, and more forgiving of imprecise mill construction. By mid-century, belting had become a distinguishing characteristic of American mills.

Source: Lowell National Historical Park Handbook 140

©Mary Bellis

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