1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fall River

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FALL RIVER, a city of Bristol county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., situated on Mount Hope Bay, at the mouth of the Taunton river, 49 m. S. of Boston. Pop. (1890) 74,398; (1900) 104,863; (estimated, 1906) 105,942;[1] (1910 census) 119,295. It is the third city in size of the commonwealth. Of the population in 1900, 50,042, or 47.7%, were foreign-born, 90,244 were of foreign parentage (i.e. either one or both parents were foreign), and of these 81,721 had both foreign father and foreign mother. Of the foreign-born, 20,172 were French Canadians, 2329 were English Canadians, 12,268 were from England, 1045 were from Scotland, 7317 were from Ireland, 2805 were from Portugal, and 1095 were from Russia, various other countries being represented by smaller numbers. Fall River is served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford railway, and has good steamer connexions with Providence, Newport and New York, notably by the “Fall River Line,” which is much used, in connexion with the N.Y., N.H. & H. railway, by travellers between New York and Boston. The harbour is large, deep and easy of access. The city lies on a plateau and on slopes that rise rather steeply from the river, and is irregularly laid out. Granite underlying the city furnishes excellent building material; among the principal buildings are the state armoury, the county court house, the B.M.C. Durfee high school, the custom house, Notre Dame College, the church of Notre Dame, the church of St Anne, the Central Congregational church and the public library. The commonwealth aids in maintaining a textile school (the Bradford Durfee textile school), opened in 1904. The city library contained in 1908 about 78,500 volumes. There is considerable commerce, but it is as a manufacturing centre that Fall River is best known. Above the city, on the plateau, about 2 m. from the bay, are the Watuppa Lakes, 7 m. long and on an average three-fourths of a mile wide, and from them runs the Fall (Quequechan) river, with a constant flow and descending near its mouth through 127 ft. in less than half a mile. The conjunction of water transportation and water power is thus remarkable, and accounts in great part for the city’s rapid growth. The waters of the North Watuppa Lake (which is fed by springs and drains out a very small area) are also exceptionally pure and furnish an excellent water-supply. The Fall river runs directly through the city (passing beneath the city hall), and along its banks are long rows of cotton mills; formerly many of these were run by water power, and their wheels were placed directly in the stream bed, but steam power is now used almost exclusively. According to the special census of manufactures of 1905, the value of all factory products for the calendar year 1904 was $43,473,105, of which amount $35,442,581, or 81.5%, consisted of cotton goods and dyeing and finishing, making Fall River the largest producer of cotton goods among American cities.[2] A large hat manufactory (the Marshall Brothers’ factory) furnishes the United States army with hats. Until forced by the competition of mills in the Southern states to direct attention to finer products, the cotton manufacturers of Fall River devoted themselves almost exclusively to the making of print cloth, in which respect the city was long distinguished from Lawrence and Lowell, whose products were more varied and of higher grade. The number of spindles increased from 265,328 in 1865 to 1,269,043 in 1875, 3,000,000 in 1900, and to about 3,500,000 in 1906. Excellent drainage and sewerage systems contribute to the city’s health. The birth-rate was in 1900 the highest (38.75) of any city in the country of above 30,000 inhabitants (three of the four next highest being Massachusetts towns). The social conditions and labour problems of Fall River have long been exceptional. The mills supplement the public schools in the mingling of races and the work for Americanization, and labour disturbances, for which Fall River was once conspicuous, have become less frequent and less bitter, the great strike of 1904–1905—perhaps the greatest in the history of the textile industry in the United States—being marked by little or no violence. Fall River has become a “city of homes,” and tenements are giving way to dwellings for one or two families. The lists of the city’s corporation stockholders show more than 10,000 names. The municipal police is controlled (as nowhere else in the state save in Boston) by a state board; this arrangement is generally regarded as having worked for better order. Lowell was about three times as large as Fall River in 1850, and Lawrence was larger until after 1870. Fall River was originally a part of Freetown; it was incorporated as a township in 1803 (being known as “Troy” in 1804–1834), and was chartered as a city in 1854. In 1861 it was increased by certain territory secured from Rhode Island, the city having spread across the state boundary and become subject to a divided jurisdiction. In 1902 the city received a new charter. Its manufactures amounted to little before the War of 1812. A disastrous fire occurred in 1843 (loss above $500,000). In 1904 Fall River became the see of the Roman Catholic diocese of that name.

See H. H. Earl, Centennial History of Fall River ... 1656–1876 (New York, 1877); and the report of Carroll D. Wright on Fall River, Lowell and Lawrence, in 13th annual report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor (1882), which, however, was regarded as unjust and partial by the manufacturers of Fall River.

  1. The small increase between 1900 and 1906 was due in large part to the emigration of many of the inhabitants during the great strike of 1904–1905.
  2. The above figures do not show adequately the full importance of Fall River as a cotton manufacturing centre, for during six months of the census year the great strike was in progress; this strike, caused by a reduction in wages, lasted from the 25th of July 1904 to the 18th of January 1905.