Osborne Library

The Osborne Library contains a rich and comprehensive collection of printed, pictorial and manuscript material of interest to researchers in a variety of fields. Users include historians of business, technology and labor, designers, spinners and weavers, architects, exhibit designers, filmmakers, textile workers and their families, and the general public. The collections include books, pamphlets, government documents, trade catalogs, advertising material, prints, photographs and business records that record the history of textile production in the United States. Access to the library is by appointment only for researchers aged 17 years and over. Younger students must be accompanied by an adult.

Young woman holding shuttle

Young woman holding shuttle
and bobbin, ca. 1850 (daguerreotype).

The Book Collection:

The book collection includes pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, government documents, broadsides, trade catalogs and advertising ephemera as well as related material from countries that have influenced the U.S. industry. Factory novels, histories of mill towns, treatises on factory architecture and water power, and the standard technical texts on manufacturing and dyeing, by hand or machine, are part of this comprehensive collection. Although strongest in New England material, the library collects printed matter from all over the United States and selected foreign countries and includes information about textile-making from prehistoric times to the present. Most of the library's holdings deal with natural fibers, although we have a small but growing collection about man-made fibers.

Title page from Lowell Machine Shop trade catalog, 1902.

Title page from Lowell Machine Shop trade catalog, 1902.

Advertising label for Doris underwear, ca. 1920.

Advertising label for "Doris" underwear,
ca. 1920.

Advertisement from Daily News Record, Sept. 20, 1940.

Advertisement from Daily News Record, Sept. 20, 1940.

The Print and Photograph Collections:

The 47,000 images in this collection include a variety of formats: paintings, prints, photographs, maps, insurance surveys, blueprints and engineering drawings, postcards, stereographs, labels and advertisements. They show textile machinery, workers and managers on the factory floor or posing in the photographer's studio and views of mills and mill towns, as well as many other aspects of textile manufacturing, both industrial and pre-industrial. The images range from the 18th century through the 20th century with a concentration in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For information about obtaining images, contact the Librarian (978-441-0400 x228) for terms and prices.

Print and Photograph Collections

Print and Photograph Collections

The Manuscript Collection:

The manuscript collection is composed of business records from manufacturers, trade groups and labor organizations as well as the personal papers of individuals associated with the industry, such as educators, inventors, workers and managers. Currently there are over 700 collections ranging from mill records to a weaver's draftbook to a single handwritten letter from a mill girl to her family. Collections represent a variety of businesses from a rural carding mill to large firms of textile and textile machinery manufacturers. The collection is strongest in New England material, although the library collects from all over the country. The Osborne Library is grateful for project support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration. Their grant funded the creation of electronic catalog records and finding aids for the Library's manuscripts and business records. Catalog records are now available in the OCLC and MassCat databases and the Museum's Chace Catalogue.

A letter from Sarah Page

A letter from Sarah Page, Great Falls, N.H., to her cousin Mary (Nov. 17, 18---).
Sarah likes her work in the mill but dislikes her boarding house
and is very homesick.

Page of cloth samples from J. Fielding's draftbook

Page of cloth samples from J. Fielding's draftbook,
1775-1778 (English).

To Use the Osborne Library:

An appointment is required. Please write (Osborne Library, ATHM, 491 Dutton St., Lowell, MA 01854), telephone (978-441-0400 x 225), fax (978-441-1412), or email jward@athm.org.


The Osborne Library is open to the public by appointment only, Monday-Friday, 9-5 p.m. Closed weekends.


$10 per day. Fees may be waived or reduced under special circumstances. Members of the Museum receive a number of free visits each year as a benefit.

Who may use the library:

Researchers must be at least 17 years of age.

Reference Services:

Please mail, telephone, fax or e-mail your inquiries. The numbers/ addresses are listed above.

Rights and Reproductions:

Contact Clare Sheridan, Librarian at 978-441-0400 x228.