Lowell, Mass., was famous in the 19th century for its textile industry, including the use of “mill girls,” Yankee women who came from farms in New England to the big city to work in the mills. The Osborne Library here in the American Textile History Museum owns a number of mill girl letters, written to friends and family about the work of the mill girls, their homesickness, the city and other matters.
Somewhat less common are letters from “mill guys” or men who worked in the mills. The library has recently acquired two wonderful letters written by Charles Lucius Anderson who worked in the Lowell Machine Shop (a textile machinery manufacturer). Both written in 1853, Anderson describes his work, comments at length about family and friends, and makes a number of comments about life in Lowell that are illuminating, amusing and just rich in history.
In his letter dated October 6, 1853 (nearly 150 years ago!), Anderson writes to his parents in West Windham, N.H. (just over the state line from Lowell) concerning—among other matters—his change in his boarding place. Unlike many of the mill girls who lived in company-owned boardinghouses, Anderson was living in a private house, renting a room. However, the situation was not to his satisfaction, as he explains:
“Since I saw Father I have changed my boarding-place to Mr. George Fiske’s in Appleton Street… The reason why I removed was because the “Old Lady” put a young man into room with me, which I would not room with; so I picked up my duds and left. This boarding at a place and being obliged to room with any-body and every-body that may come along is not what I like, and I made up my mind that when I did move I would have a room to myself if it cost me $3.00 per week for board.”