Re-Creation in America

Francis Cabot Lowell
     While visiting the English cotton mills in 1810, Francis Cabot Lowell, a young Harvard graduate with an ability for mathematics went to England “for the purpose of obtaining all possible information on the subject…with view to the introduction of improved manufacture in the United States.” [21] Lowell presented himself as a merchant, which cleverly hid his real motives. [22] As Robert Dalzell said, “Mr. Lowell had obtained all the information which was practicable about it, was determined to perfect it himself.” [23] 

         England purposely kept the colonies unaware of their mechanical inventions. As Benita Eisler stated in The Lowell Offering, “the new machinery was so jealously guarded by its owners that not a single model had been allowed.” [24] British law banned textile workers from leaving the country and had strict fines and penalties if the laws were broken. When Lowell was leaving England, British officers searched his luggage twice never to think that he had solely memorized the design of the power loom itself. [25]  

         Once back in America, Lowell recruited the help of Nathan Appleton. As stated in his memoir, Appleton “promised his co-operation. He returned in 1813. He [Lowell] and Mr. Patrick T. Jackson, came to me one day on the Boston exchange, and states that they had determined to establish a Cotton manufactory, that they had purchased a water power in Waltham…Mr. Jackson had agreed to…take the management of the concern.” [26] While the Waltham Mill was moving forward, Lowell began to recreate the pivotal innovation of the power loom in the United States. Well known mechanic, Paul Moody was also enlisted to help Lowell with this process. [27] Lowell and Moody finished the loom in 1814 but as Appleton stated, “It was not until the new building at Waltham was completed, and other machinery was running, that the first loom was ready for trial.” [28] 

         Nathan Appleton said upon Lowell’s completion of the innovation, “Many little matters were to be overcome or adjusted, before it would work perfectly…watching the beautiful movement of this new and wonderful machine, destined as it evidently was, to change the character of all textile industry.” [29]  In January 1814, Lowell wrote, “I have got our loom up and yesterday wove several yards by water- The Loom is excellent, tho’ still susceptible for improvement.” [30] 

         Francis Cabot Lowell finally patented his power loom in 1815. As Appleton brought up, “After many failures, public opinion was not favorable to its success.” [31] The Manufacturing and Farmers Journal attribute the “disposition to monopolize the business to Lowell” and “the mammoth Waltham establishment designed to keep the country poor by reducing the costs of labor and agricultural goods.” [32]

         Although all his success, Lowell still needed hands to work his machines. The loom needed people that were “well educated and virtuous”, making young daughters of New England farmer’s perfect. [33] With Lowell’s death in 1817, he had created industrialization and an innovation that would change the lives of the people in America. [34]