Waterpower in Lowell: Engineering and Industry in Nineteenth-Century America

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Overview

Patrick M. Malone demonstrates how innovative engineering helped make Lowell, Massachusetts, a potent symbol of American industrial prowess in the 19th century.

Waterpower spurred the industrialization of the early United States and was the principal power for textile manufacturing until well after the Civil War. Industrial cities therefore grew alongside many of America's major waterways. Ideally located at Pawtucket Falls on the Merrimack River, Lowell was one such city—a rural village rapidly transformed into a booming center for textile production and machine building. Malone explains how engineers created a complex canal and lock system in Lowell which harnessed the river and powered mills throughout the city.

James B. Francis, arguably the finest engineer in 19th-century America, played a key role in the history of Lowell's urban industrial development. An English immigrant who came to work for Lowell's Proprietors of Locks and Canals as a young man, Francis rose to become both the company's chief engineer and its managing executive. Linking Francis's life and career with the larger story of waterpower in Lowell, Malone offers the only complete history of the design, construction, and operation of the Lowell canal system.

Waterpower in Lowell informs broader understanding of urban industrial development, American scientific engineering, and the environmental impacts of technology. Its clear and instructional discussions of hydraulic technology and engineering principles make it a useful resource for a range of courses, including the history of technology, urban history, and American business history.

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Editorial Reviews

New England Quarterly - Thomas Dublin
Malone has made a real contribution by illuminating the technological basis for the rise of the nation's first planned industrial city and by showing how the novel demands posed by that industrial complex contributed to the emergence of hydraulic engineering over the course of the nineteenth century.
Industrial Archaeology Review - Ian West
A work of outstanding scholarship within the field of history of technology and an important contribution to the study of industrialisation.
Technology and Culture - John K. Brown
This worthy contribution to historical understanding is also an accessible undergraduate text... It would enliven any survey course in the history of American technology.
Historical Geography - Blake Harrison
One can only imagine the work that went into mastering this material. Beyond being simply impressive, though, the book's level of detail allows readers to get an intimate sense of how the city developed physically over time. Readers interested in the broaders history of urban infrastructure will surely appreciate this.
Choice
Presents an excellent analysis of the origins, evolution and management of the waterpower system (including a discussion of hydraulic and engineering principles) during the 19th-century industrialization period in the US. Highly recommended.
Choice

Presents an excellent analysis of the origins, evolution and management of the waterpower system (including a discussion of hydraulic and engineering principles) during the 19th-century industrialization period in the US. Highly recommended.

Historical Geography
One can only imagine the work that went into mastering this material. Beyond being simply impressive, though, the book's level of detail allows readers to get an intimate sense of how the city developed physically over time. Readers interested in the broaders history of urban infrastructure will surely appreciate this.

— Blake Harrison

Isis - David E. Nye
Malone has supplied the missing volume, providing not merely a synthesis of what went before but a short book that is well grounded in rich primary source materials.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Patrick M. Malone is a professor of urban studies and American civilization and director of the Urban Studies Program at Brown University. He is the coauthor of The Texture of Industry: An Archaeological View of the Industrialization of North America, and the author of The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics among the New England Indians, also published by Johns Hopkins.

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