Understanding Crime in Edwardian-Era Massachusetts – Arrests in Lowell, 1904

So, say you’re writing a scene about Edwardian-era police officers in New England, or researching the life and times of a police officer ancestor.  Or, perhaps you’re trying to get an idea of how people got into trouble with the law in the first years of the twentieth century.  You’ll need to know why Edwardian-era […]

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Abraham Lincoln’s Visit to Lowell, 1848

If you spend a considerable amount of time reading turn-of-the-(twentieth)-century editions of the local papers of Lowell, Massachusetts, you’ll soon come across the name of Samuel P. Hadley, who presided as a Justice for the Lowell Police Court for close to three decades.  In fact, I think a few of the people I’ve researched for […]

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If you were to walk . . . or race a sleigh through Downtown Lowell’s Streets – 1906

Did you know that Jingle Bells was composed by James Lord Pierpoint in Medford, Massachusetts in 1850?  It’s claimed that the town’s 19th century sleigh races inspired the song, and that it was originally written as a Thanksgiving, not Christmas song.  Why “jingle bells”?  Music historian James Fuld informs that the horse-drawn sleighs of the […]

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The Grand Fires of 1904: Huntington Hall; Lowell, Massachusetts

Huntington Hall/Merrimack Street Depot By 1904, the building that housed both Huntington Hall and the Merrimack Street Depot had served as the city’s main public gathering place for generations.  The City of Lowell and the Boston & Lowell Railroad entered into a joint agreement to build the hall in 1853, providing the railroad with the Merrimack […]

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The Grand Fires of 1904 – St. Patrick’s Catholic Church; Lowell, Massachusetts

Note to readers:  The St. Patrick’s Church fire of 1904 occurred just one day before the Fellows Block fire covered in last week’s post.  This post marks the third installment of the Grand Fires of 1904 series. On Monday, January 11, 1904, Sister Josephine, a teacher at Notre Dame Academy in Lowell, Massachusetts, awoke, rose from […]

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The Grand Fires of 1904 – Lowell, Massachusetts – The Rise and Fall of the O’Donnell and Gilbride Department Store

In the 80 years leading up to 1904, Lowell, Massachusetts had grown from a sparsely populated corner of East Chelmsford into a bustling manufacturing city of 95,000 residents. Like any Edwardian-era city, Lowell faced its share of fire risks, especially in its downtown area. Before January was even half over in 1904, Lowell had suffered […]

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The Grand Fires of 1904 – Lowell, Massachusetts and Fire’s Constant Threat

Fire was a danger never far from the minds of our ancestors at the turn of the last century.  In 1904, Lowell, Massachusetts, then a manufacturing city of 95,000 residents and the 39th largest city in the United States¹, suffered a record-setting year in terms of fires, alarms, and losses suffered.  Before the year would […]

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In His Words – Dickens’ Visit to Lowell, Massachusetts, 1842

Were your ancestors among the crowds gathered to meet a young Charles Dickens when he visited Lowell, Massachusetts in early February 1842?   Dickens, a young writer of rising fame at the time of his visit, had yet to write A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities.  His fame had largely been won […]

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Dating Old Photographs – The Price of Tea in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1917

Question: What was the price of a cup of chicken soup in 1915? Answer: Ten cents a cup. Add some ham and eggs to that, and you should be prepared to part with the Barber quarter and Buffalo nickel burning a hole in your pocket. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous or extravagant, you […]

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Other People’s Ancestors – How House Histories Bring the Unrelated Together

When I started researching my family tree in 1988, the hobby was quite solitary.  I spent hours in the local history room of the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Massachusetts, threading microfilm reels of the local papers through the microfilm readers and leafing through dusty, yellowed City Directories.  I remember the excitement of the first time […]

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