The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Lawrence (Massachusetts)

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Lawrence (Massachusetts)
Edition of 1920. See also Lawrence, Massachusetts on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

LAWRENCE, Mass., city, and one of the county-seats of Essex County, on both sides of the Merrimac River, and on the Boston and Maine Railroad, 26 miles northwest of Boston. It is one of the notable and leading manufacturing cities in the valley of the Merrimac River. Built at the lowermost available rapid on the river, the city has the concentrated power of all the tributaries of that stream and receives benefit from the entire watershed feeding the main current — an area of 4,450 square miles. The water power developed at this point, amounting to about 15,000 horse power, is remarkably uniform and reliable.

Water Power Plant. — In 1845-48 the “Great Stone Dam” located at Bodwell's Falls near the old historic “Andover Bridge” was built of hammered granite. When finished this structure was considered the most complete and durable work of the kind then existing in America. It was bedded upon the underlying strata of bluestone or Merrimac schist and it was so thoroughly constructed that it has stood to this day without alteration or addition, seemingly a part of the ledges between and upon which it was built. This dam concentrated at one point the power of three successive natural river rapids, the accomplished result being a fall of 26 feet, increased in height, when needful, by flashboards, to 30 feet. The overfall of water is in one unbroken sheet over a crest, nearly straight in line, 900 feet in length between the granite abutments. In addition to this unbroken span of solid stonework the protecting wings of the dam are 729 feet in combined length. There are two main canals, one along the northern bank of the river, one mile in length, and another upon the southern side, one-half mile long; these distribute water power to the large mills and workshops. In 1915 a survey was made under the supervision of a commission appointed by the governor of the State for a navigable channel from the mouth of the river at Newburyport to Lowell, Mass., a distance of 36 miles. In 1917 the United States Board of Army Engineers reported favorably upon the survey, and in 1918 both branches of the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill authorizing the building of this navigable waterway in conjunction with the Federal government. Pending war induced the governor to veto the bill at that time, but it will in all probability be passed as soon as conditions warrant. Such action will make of Lawrence a direct seaport town. Steam and electric power are also used in addition by nearly all manufacturers and in some instances are exclusively relied upon.

Manufacturing and Business. — Lawrence may well be known to Americans as “The Worsted City,” for the United States census returns show that in the production of worsted and woolen dress goods Lawrence leads the United States and is second in the world; Birmingham, England, being the only city which excels her in this respect. Lawrence leads the entire country in the amount of capital invested in any one locality in the worsted and woolen dress goods industry, and in the value of that class of goods produced, the sum invested in this distinct business in 1917 being $120,263,298 and the value of product $135,618,681. Among wool-growers and dealers of the world, the city is known as a leading consumer of that staple. Among the great manufacturing companies that lead in importance are the Pacific Mills, having over 10,000 employees; the American Woolen Company, employing 17,000 operatives; the Arlington Mills, with 8,500 operatives; the Everett Mills, employing 5,500. The total investment in the textile industry in Lawrence in 1917 was $175,534,916 and the total value of textile products was $174,495,698 Lawrence is also famous for its manufacture of calendered book paper. In the manufacture of wooden wheels Lawrence also leads the country, the Archibald Wheel Company manufacturing government artillery wheels, wheels for fire engines and automobile wheels.

The first steam fire-engine in America was manufactured in Lawrence. Paper-mill machinery is also extensively manufactured, as are also shoes, foundry products, carriages and steam fire apparatus, engines, boilers and mill fittings and findings of all description.

The industrial unrest which has been generally attributed to Lawrence is now the subject of systematic study by a commission of citizens employing a high-grade publicity expert, and seeking by co-operation with the heads of the industries to establish a new industrial consciousness and relationship between the workers and the employers. The means employed are to be along the lines of those advocated in the Rockefeller Industrial Plan of Shop Committees, Co-operative Management, ultimate partnership and ownership by such employees as fit themselves for it; an increase in home and property ownership as a stabilizer of labor and a means of reducing labor turnover; a development of parks, playgrounds and recreational centres; the increase in interest in education, Americanization and naturalization, and a broad comprehensive plan of housing and city planning,

Site and Environment. — The site was peculiarly adapted to the building of an important industrial centre. The small Spicket River here enters the Merrimac from the north and the Shawsheen stream enters from the south. The location is healthful. The rapid Merrimac River divides the city into nearly equal sections, the northern half now having the largest population and most important industrial establishments. The city was laid out in 1845-46 by the founders and promoters, and has been built largely in accordance with original plans.

Public Works and Buildings. — The waterworks, established in 1874-75, were so ample that extensions have not made it necessary to reconstruct the pumping plant or the storage reservoirs. The source of water supply is the Merrimac River. The filtration beds that cleanse the current before it is distributed for use were designed and constructed in 1892 under the care and approval of the Massachusetts State Board of Health. The experimental station of the Massachusetts State Board of Health is established here. Illuminating and heating gas and electric lighting and power are supplied by a single chartered company. The courthouse was erected in 1903, at a cost of $250,000, and the post office was erected at about the same time at a cost of $150,000. The school buildings are large and commodious. The old city hall, the original “Town House,” served for a quarter century almost every conceivable public use and is still a noticeable structure. Other notable features are the Essex County Training School, Children's Home, Cottage and Lawrence hospitals. A noteworthy experiment is now being tried by the American Woolen Company at its Washington Mill, where an immense modern building has been erected, part of which is being devoted to the use of a day nursery where the mothers employed in the mill can bring their children mornings and leave them in charge of trained nurses.

Parks and Pleasure Grounds. — The founders of the city wisely reserved a common of 17 acres at the very centre of the business and residence section as a public pleasure ground. No buildings are allowed upon this central park and no public reserve in the commonwealth is more nobly wooded or more truly the people's ground. About this central park the largest public buildings, the leading Protestant churches and many of the best residences are grouped. Four large outlying parks in a nearly wild condition but of much natural beauty and several smaller squares are well cared for by an established park commission of five members. A playstead of several acres exclusively for games and athletic exhibitions is conveniently located.

Banks and Savings Institutions. — Lawrence has one national, three trusts, three savings, three co-operative and one Morris Plan bank, the total savings bank deposits being over $30,00,000, and the total bank deposits, savings and commercial, being over $56,000,000.

Churches and Charities. — There are over 40 organized churches in the community, the Roman Catholics having much greater numbers and larger value in property than any other denomination. There is an organized city mission. A General Emergency Hospital and Children's Home are maintained by the Ladies' Union Charitable Society, a protectory or asylum for orphans or destitute children, an endowed Home for Aged People, and every nationality in the community has its own relief, benefit or social societies.

Government, Schools, Free Libraries and Lectures. — Municipal control is vested in a commission of five, consisting of a mayor and four aldermen, each in charge of a department, namely, finance, public safety, public property and parks, engineering and public health and charities. The annual budget of expenditures for municipal maintenance and operation approaches $2,000,000. There are 32 public schools, one industrial school, 11 parochial schools and one training school which is maintained by the county. There is a high school and a recently constructed central grammar school of 36 rooms with the most modern equipment, including baths of all kinds, gymnasium, lunchrooms, lecture halls, meeting-rooms for parents and having trained nurse and doctor constantly in attendance. The evening schools are maintained as a part of the public school system and give courses in classical and English studies, also special instructions in penmanship, mechanical and free-hand drawing, bookkeeping and typewriting and the natural sciences. A special feature in which Lawrence is very active is the course in Americanization and naturalization, which is being discussed and studied by educators throughout the country. A free course of lectures especially for industrial classes, upon scientific and miscellaneous subjects, has for many years been sustained by endowment. The free public library of over 50,000 volumes is patronized by all classes. The main library building was the gift of a generous citizen.

History. — Previous to 1845 the territory now included within city limits (about seven square miles lying in form nearly a square) was an unimportant section of two old, historic towns — Andover and Methuen. The inhabitants of the site numbered only about 350 and were nearly all the families of quiet farmers or river men; there was not a church building, warehouse for trade or manufacturing establishment of any importance then standing in the entire district. In 1845-46 an associated company of manufacturers, financiers and merchants, the leading pioneer manufacturers and progressive business men of prominence in Massachusetts, after critical examination, associated themselves together and procured an act of incorporation under the name of the Essex Company, chartered for the purpose of developing and controlling the water power and establishing factories and workshops at or near the site they selected. This company purchased lands covering nearly half the area of the contemplated town and secured land or flowage rights for several miles above the site chosen for the projected city. It was decided to locate at the lowermost of three successive Merrimac River rapids below Lowell, at the confluence of the Merrimac, Spicket and Shawsheen rivers. Promoted as the Lawrence building and manufacturing enterprise was at the outset by responsible and powerful sponsors, the “New City,” as it was at first called, rapidly developed and became almost at the beginning important as an industrial centre. In less than two years from the commencement of operations in 1845, the settlement was organized as a separate town, taking the name of Lawrence in honor of the eminent merchant manufacturers of that name who were so deeply interested in establishing the town and city. The city has had its calamities. Its industrial enterprises survived the financial reverses of 1857, 1858 and 1859, only because of powerful support given by loyal defenders and business leaders. This time of trial was succeeded by the gloom attendant upon the “Fall of Pemberton Mill,” 10 Jan. 1860, an occurrence that enlisted the interest and sympathy of the entire country. In the War of the Rebellion the city's volunteers were among the first to respond to the call for troops and were among the first to engage in conflict. A citizen, Sumner H. Needham, was the first martyr to fall in the ranks of the patriot soldiery in April 1861. Lawrence was incorporated as a city 10 May 1853.

Population. — The cosmopolitan character of the population is particularly noticeable. Forty-six nationalities are represented among the population. Formerly the greatest immigration was from France, the British Isles, Canada and Germany, but of recent years the flow has been from Italy, Greece, Poland, the Balkan States and Russia. Pop. 105,000.

George E. Rix,
Secretary of Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.