The Course of Industrial Decline
The Boott Cotton Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1835-1955
Studies of American industry frequently cite Lowell, Massachusetts, as an early model for business practices. Scholars have sought to explain the city's rise to prominence, the impact of its textile mills on workers and on commerce, and its part in regional development and American prosperity. Laurence Gross looks beyond these issues. Focusing on Lowell's Boott Cotton Mills, he examines the industry's struggle to maintain its prominence, the causes of its decline, and its ultimate flight south.
Gross puts much of the blame for the pattern of events on the mill-owners themselves. They resisted reinvestment, so their operations became less efficient. They kept antiquated machinery running long after it was safe to do so, and they were slow to respond to issues of worker safety. The increased textile demands of World War II, Gross explains, only forestalled the mills' inevitable demise.
About the Author
Laurence Gross is an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
"Essential reading for historians interested in the technology of the textile industry."
"What is important about this study is that it looks at the consequences to labor of the decision making of the company, which sought to increase profits, while labor worked hard to produce and protect itself against a management system that did not have its interests at heart."
"A major contribution to our understanding of the city of Lowell and its significance in american industrial history... Gross does a masterful job of depicting the industrial process and the complex interplay between the worker, the machinery, and the management."
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