Francis Cabot Lowell was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1775. Lowell was a member of a prominent family from Boston, which included a statesman, an astronomer, two poets, and a president of Harvard University. Lowell also attended Harvard, graduating in 1793.
After becoming a successful merchant in the United States, Lowell traveled to Great Britain, where he spent two years studying the inner workings of the textile industry and the power looms being used in those factories. Lowell brought his knowledge back to the US, and with his brother and business associates, formed the Boston Manufacturing Company, which improved upon the power loom technology that was used in their textile mill in Waltham, Massachusetts. The waterways in Lowell proved to be perfect to power Boston Manufacturing Company’s power looms, and a new textile mill was opened by the company in Lowell, MA.
To raise money for the vastly improved machines and new facilities that were built to house them, Lowell and his partners sold shares in the company for $1,000 each. This model of shareholder corporations is still used by many American companies to this day. With its advanced power loom technology, the Waltham Mill became the forerunner of the American factory, and the company expanded rapidly as did the entire textile industry.
Lowell was a pioneer in employing women in his mills, and although they were paid lower wages, they were offered educational and religious freedoms that weren’t offered anywhere else at the time. They were also given superior boarding houses and cash wages, that weren’t afforded to women elsewhere. These pioneering women became known as Lowell Mill Girls, and they were the backbone of Lowell’s thriving cotton industry during the American Industrial Revolution.
Francis Cabot Lowell died at the age of 42, leaving the Boston Manufacturing Company in excellent financial health. In tribute to Lowell, his business partners changed the name of their mill town to Lowell in 1822, and the name still stands today in tribute to this pioneer who helped grow Lowell into a thriving city.