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EXHIBITION

AMOSKEAG

A SENSE OF PLACE, A WAY OF LIFE


At the Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, N.H.

September 21 - November 2, 1975

also shown at the AT THE BOSTON ARCHITECTURAL CENTER
November -December, 1975.

"If you categorize architecture or planning as had because it was done by absolute monarchs or thieving speculators you will have to rule out most of the best known examples of the past and present."

City of Man, p. 228

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Exhibition supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and other foundations. 
Documentation and research was supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Exhibition design by Randolph Langenbach and Sergio Modigliani


The following quotations are from the exhibition panels.

... The barbarian may be, and often is, an agriculturist, but his feet are earth-bound. The shepherd, tending his flocks on the sunny slopes of some Iverness, may fill an idyllic life, but he is only a dreamer. The range of the Arab is as far-reaching as the ring of his fleet-footed steed; the roof of his tent is as wide as the blue-arched dome of the Persian sky, and his freedom undoubted; but his legacy to posterity is as barren as the sands of Sahara. It is not until man begins to exercise his fertile mind in the invention and making of those things which shall enable him to broaden the scope of his labors that he starts on his upward course.

George Waldo Brown, 1915.  George Waldo Brown was the author of The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, a History. This book is more than a history; it is a celebration of the entire industrial system. The book, and this quote, express the extreme confidence in industrialism which existed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an unrealistic and unquestioning confidence which makes the era of Amoskeag's greatest success seem remarkably distant from the present.


"I view great cities as Pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man."

Thomas Jefferson, 1800


"We point to our spindles and looms, to our forges and machine shops, to our railroads and steam presses and call it prosperity. Is it an advancement for which the generations to come will bless us. ... My hope and belief is that the world will yet go onward, mind over matter, till a point is reached as far in advance of that which we now occupy as the present is in advance of the remotest past. Such is the destiny of our race, and the man who most helps to roll on this tide of improvement, stands among the greatest on the earth."

Spoken in Manchester in 1851 by Rev. Cyrus W. Wallace


"In the old Greek mythology it is said that when the walls were being built around the ancient city of Thebes, the stones assumed their places to the music of Amphion's Iyre So it may be said that the stones which made the walls of our city assumed their places to the music of the multiplying notes of the loom and spindle."

Semi-Centennial of Manchester, 1896


"Unlike the cities of Europe, which were built by some demigod, son of Jupiter, or by some hero of the siege of Troy, or by an inspiration of the genius of a Caesar or an Alexander, or by the assistance of some holy monk, attracting crowds by his miracles, or by the caprice of some great king, like Louis IV or Frederick, or by an edict of Peter the Great, it is neither a pious foundation, a refuge of the proscribed nor a military post. it is a speculation of the merchants of Boston.

From: Michael Chevalier, Society,, Manners and Politics in the United States, 1839. The quotation is in reference to Lowell but the same could be said about Manchester.


"The grumblers pretend not only cotton and woolen, mills spring up all over the South, but idle wheels in our own as a consequence. This may in time partly be realized -  but only in part. So long as three things remain we shall continue a city, and in spite of all drawback, a flourishing one. These three important features are, first, the best location, geographically, in the state; second, waterpower; third, railroads .... It is enough ..... A people who have grown a city of thirty thousand inhabitants upon the sand hills of Derryfield, making the wilderness to blossom as the rose, and converting a veritable desert into a garden, need not fear for the future .... Faroff Nevada may beckon us to mines of gold but in ... the brains of our artisans, teeming with invention, shall be found a more certain return and a more assured success. Let us take courage and fresh hope for the future of Manchester."

The Manchester Union, June 13,1868


"None of the manufacturing towns of New England pleased me so much as Manchester, in New Hampshire. Unlike its great godmother, it has clean air, clear waters, and sunny skies. Almost every street is an avenue of noble trees."

Thomas M. Young, The American Cotton Industry, A Study of Work and Workers Contributed to the Manchester [England) Guardian, 1902


Not until one has passed over one of the pretty bridges and penetrated through the waterside building to the court beyond does one begin to appreciate the enormous extent of these simple, stately buildings. Behind the riverside pile there runs a courtyard so long as to be more like a private road, and on the other side of this road stands another line of mills, parallel with the curve of the first, so that one cannot see to the end of them.

Thomas M. Young, The American Cotton Industry, A study Of work and workers contributed to the Manchester [England) Guardian 1902


Perhaps the handsomest, certainly the most impressive, buildings in Manchester are the Amoskeag and the Manchester Mills. They are not ornate  ornate mills are of ten hideous -  but they are built of a warm red brick, beautifully weathered, and form a continuous curved facade (like the concave side of Regent Street in London), nearly half a mile long. Rising shear out of a deep, clear, swift-flowing stream, upon the other bank of which are grass and trees, they need little more than to be silent to masquerade successfully as ancient colleges.

Thomas M. Young, The American Cotton Industry, A study of work and workers contributed to the Manchester [England] Guardian, 1902


"There are mighty energies slumbering in those masses (of factory workers); Had Our ancestors witnessed the assemblage of such a multitude as is poured forth every evening from the mills of Union Street, magistrates Would have assembled special I constables would Id have been sworn, the riot act read, the military called out, and most probably some fatal collision would ILI have taken place."

W. Cooke Taylor, Notes of a Tour in the Manufacturing Districts of Lancashire, [England], 1842


"The advantage of providing good and comfortable tenements for employees having a families and nice boarding houses for others is important, as it secures an excellent class of work people which tells materially on the prosperity of the Company."

Treasurer's Statement from the Directors' Records of the Merrimack Manufacturing Company of Lowell, Mass.


"These old factory girls and old factory boys arc to be found everywhere, in all classes and in all vocations, and they ought to be as proud of their dear old 'Alma Mater' as the Harvard graduates arc of their college "

Harriet Hanson Robinson, 1883


"There are few men around today who can say that they were 'Amoskeag men' when Amoskeag was Amoskeag."

William Parker Straw, former agent of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co., 1945


"All the operatives, at first, were Yankees. Then the Irish came directly from Ireland with their families, and after they had dug the canals -  of course we employed them for that sort of work -  we commenced gradually working them into the mills ... So then we had first the Irish, then came the Germans. As the foreigners worked in, the Yankees worked out; I they were crowded out ... As the Irish came in they took the under work, and gradually rose up till they had places of 'importance That hid been going on gradually till the Germans commenced coming and then the French

Testimony of Frederick Smyth at the Senate hearings on Capital and Labor, 1883


"As for myself, I regard work people just as I regard my machinery. So long as they can do the work for what I choose to pay them, I keep them; getting out of them all I can ... What they do or how they fare outside my walls I don't know ... They must look out for themselves as I do for myself. When my machines get old and useless, I reject them and get new; and those people are part of my machinery."

Fall River agent, 1855.  This quote was cited with great indignation by the mill agent from the Merrimack Manufacturing Company in Lowell at the annual director's meeting to illustrate the difference in attitude between the he managements of certain other corporations and his own.


"Resolved: That the immense power now wielded by corporations in this country, and the alarming strides they are making here and elsewhere, threaten the total extinction of individual rights and admonish us, that unless a speedy check be given to this power, we shall, soon see the worst features of European aristocracy perpetuated On the soil of liberty, and the independence and rights of citizens prostrated by the grinding despotism of concentrated wealth."

Resolution passed at the New Hampshire State Democratic Convention, 1843


"This country is governed by the Laborers. They are the Kings, and like the Kings of old, they are flattered and deceived by designing people, and have to learn often by a long and hard experience that they cannot change the law of supply and demand any more than King Canute could stop the rise of the tide.

I have said so much because the Labor question is the great question of the day, and because I believe that the success and prosperity of the wage earner is as much for the interest of the rich as of the poor, for their character controls and Moulds the destinies (sic) of this Great Nation."

T. Jefferson Coolidge, from the Treasurer's Report delivered at the Amoskeag Mfg. Co. annual meeting, 1886


"We must not, however, disguise from ourselves that the competition from the South becomes more severe With every year."

from Treasurer's Statement at the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company Annual Meeting, 1891


"It may be necessary for the operatives to submit to a decline if they wish to see the wheels kept in motion. A mill I will never be run I) long at a loss."

From the Treasurer's Statement at the Amoskeag Mfg. Co. Annual Meeting of stockholders, 1896



"Q. You say that Manchester was a sand-bank almost when you came here?

A. Yes; it really was."

Frederick Smyth, 1883, referring to his first arrival in Manchester in 1839 - one year after development started.


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"The grumblers pretend not only cotton and woolen, mills spring up all over the South, but idle wheels in our own as a consequence. This may in time partly be realized -  but only in part. So long as three things remain we shall continue a city, and in spite of all drawback, a flourishing one. These three important features are, first, the best location, geographically, in the state; second, waterpower; third, railroads .... It is enough ..... A people who have grown a city of thirty thousand inhabitants upon the sand hills of Derryfield, making the wilderness to blossom as the rose, and converting a veritable desert into a garden, need not fear for the future .... Faroff Nevada may beckon us to mines of gold but in ... the brains of our artisans, teeming with invention, shall be found a more certain return and a more assured success. Let us take courage and fresh hope for the future of Manchester."

The Manchester Union, June 13,1868

THE 1975 SHUTDOWN OF THE CHICOPEE MILLS IN THE AMOSKEAG MILLYARD ALLOWED A CHANCE TO RECALL THE EXPERIENCE OF THE SHUTDOWN OF THE AMOSKEAG SOME 40 YEARS EARLIER. 

The Exhibition included the documentation of this experience, which is also recalled in the oral histories in the book Amoskeag, Life and Work in an American Factory City, by Tamara Hareven and Randolph Langenbach

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On Friday, March 7, 1975 at 11:00 p.m., the Chicopee Manufacturing Company, which was located in the "Coolidge Mill" of the former Amoskeag Millyard, stopped its looms as it had done so regularly at that hour since the time when the night shift had ceased several years before. This time, however, there was a difference: The machines would never again be set into motion, motion which had coursed through the mill for well over half a century. TheAmoskeag-0009.jpg (23959 bytes) Chicopee plant occupied the largest building in the former Amoskeag Millyard. It was the last mill in Manchester, and almost the last in New England, still spinning and weaving cotton. Many of the machines, which it used, dated back to the days when the Amoskeag Company built the mill in 1909.

Beginning at the end of January as the final warps ran out, the looms, one by one, came to rest. The noise, which to the casual observer is an undefined din of rattling and clattering machinery, to the experienced hand quickly took on a different cast, and then slowly receded in intensity from one end of the room to the other. A battery hand articulated the experience of the final shut-down when, with the emphasis of a well-rehearsed Shakespearean actor, she explained, "You can almost hear the STILLNESS come across the room." During the final week, certain looms, like the last survivors in a beached school of fish, continued to vibrate in isolated comers of the vast space, until they too were finally stopped at 11:00 p.m. on that last Friday.

"But it's sad, because, like I said, you go down the aisle and you say I used to have all those looms to fill I I, and, you know, you just don't have anything. It's very sad, real sad ... now it's so empty."

Former battery hand, Chicopee Manufacturing Company

What this final shutdown of the giant Coolidge Mill brought into high relief was a profound sense of time- a sense which in the everyday life of the mill rarely touches people as they continue the process of growing up, getting ahead and working at a clear and closely defined task. But as the "silence" came across that room, it seemed as though, for just a brief moment, distant history had reached through time, to touch the present. The people alive today working in that mill suddenly became one with an era which had, in so many other ways, ended years ago. Then, as the plant was slowly dismantled, and the last employees came to pick up their last paychecks, the hand of history again receded into the comfortable abstraction of distant time, pulling With it these same people who had worked as a group in what was the last of the former Amoskeag Mills.

Amoskeag-0008.jpg (25541 bytes)currier-a2.jpg (37201 bytes)"I don't know, you just, I don't know how to explain it, you're just connected with it-  just a part of you. It's your life, I love the mills, I love to work, I love being a battery hand."

The stillness of Chicopee in 1975 was the stillness of a shutdown Amoskeag in, 1936. For some of the workers, the sense of loss which they experienced at the closing of Chicopee accurately reconstructs, as closely as we can determine, the experience of many of the former Amoskeag workers upon hearing in 1936 that the giant plant would never reopen under the name "Amoskeag.'.'

Perceived in the abstract, an industrial plant is an inanimate object-  a collection of machines and equipment which is used for a time, then renewed and discarded as the rational decisions of a management staff, in tune with the variegations of the world market place, dictate. The personnel operate these machines as part of a job which also changes with the times between individual advancement and industry layoffs. What then is the significance of the final shutdown of the mill? Does the silence which is forever have a different quality from the silence which lasts only overnight? Did the mill, which began with bricks and mortar, and the machines, which began as hot cast iron, together create a single unit which took on an organic quality? Did the Coolidge Mill ever in fact live, so that at this one unmarked, but profound moment, at 11:00 p.m. on March 7,1975, it could die?

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"After Engels had visited Ireland in 1856, he wrote to Marx that ruins were characteristic of Ireland, the oldest dating from the fifth and sixth centuries, the latest from the nineteenth, with every intervening period included. Beginning in the eighteenth century when artificial ruins were first constructed for taste and pleasure, civilization moved on in the nineteenth century to create instant, modern ruins -  of which Ireland is a rural and Manchester an urban instance. The twentieth century has, in America at least, kept up the record."'

Stephen Marcus, 1974


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M-Arch (Harvard), Dipl.Conservation (York, England)


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