Category: Manuscripts

On the Watch in West Chelmsford, Mass.

When people think of textile mill employees, they often think specifically of the “mill girls” of the early to mid-19th century, who were employed in the weaving and spinning rooms of hundreds of textile factories. But men were employed in the mills as well, in supervisory capacities as well as in mechanical positions or in areas requiring much physical labor. One position that certainly all large businesses would include in their personnel, regardless of whether or not it was a textile mill, was that of the night watchman. And unlike most positions in a mill where you shared your workspace with dozens of others, this would be a more solitary job. Thanks to an unknown watchman working in West Chelmsford, Mass., we have a detailed idea of what his duties entailed and how he filled his time during work.

correspondence - watchman

(Letter) 1856 Apr. 7, West Chelmsford, Mass. : (to) G.W. Walton, Sargentville, Hancock Co., Maine; 0022.407 (detail)

On April 7, 1856, an unknown man wrote a letter to his friend, G.W. Walton in Sargentville, Hancock County, Maine, from an unidentified mill in West Chelmsford, Mass. Unfortunately the second half of the letter is missing, including the signature, so we have no idea who this man was, but it is clear that he is reasonably young and may have taken the job in order to have some time to study as he is thinking about teaching. (Sounds like your classic college-age job!)

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