A Unique View of the Boston Manufacturing Company.

 The Boston Manufacturing Company building, soon to be rechristened the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill, circa 1978, photo by Steve Dunwell, from the Historical Architectural Engineering Record. 

The Boston Manufacturing Company building, soon to be rechristened the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill, circa 1978, photo by Steve Dunwell, from the Historical Architectural Engineering Record. 

Google "Boston Manufacturing Company" or, as the building is now known, "Francis Cabot Lowell Mill" and you'll get a number of images. Most will have been taken along the south side of the Charles River, across the waters from the building, as its length, and bend northeast, around the river's curve, make it an ideal vantage point for getting a sense of the building and its iconic, 200 foot tall smokestack.

But this building, which we love and call the Museum's home, benefits from some more challenging, and unique, viewing angles. Especially interesting for us today since such an angle resulted in the photograph below from nearly a century ago. 

  "64. Boston Mfg. Co,, Oldest Cotton Mill in U.S., Waltham, Mass"  Real Photo Postcard by Foster of Waltham.

"64. Boston Mfg. Co,, Oldest Cotton Mill in U.S., Waltham, Mass" Real Photo Postcard by Foster of Waltham.

At first glance, the stark sharpness of the depth of field gives the impression that we are looking at a highly detailed model. But it assuredly is not. Taken from across Moody Street, this shows a view not easily available from any other point in the area. With such a perspective, we have a clear view of the grounds surrounding the entrance to the BMC property and Building No. 1, which is the first building built by the BMC, dating to 1814. And, as a real photo postcard, rather than one printed via photomechanical means, it allows for far more detailed close examination.

Greenery has been planted to the westernmost peak of the grounds, with hedges bordering what is now known as Landry Way. The power canal to the north of the building is clearly visible, along with the numerous bridges spanning its width.

One can get a real sense of the scale of the dying and bleaching houses (Nos. 7 & 6 Dye Houses to the fore, No. 5 Bleaching and Weaving House at the rear), which are the most prominent of the BMC structures no longer standing (the area is now Landry Park). While visible in numerous other photos of the era, those wide, low buildings seem more compressed and less impressive from across the river. Outside of this image, the scale of those buildings can best be gleaned from viewing the 1922 fire insurance survey map showcased in an earlier post.

But perhaps the most interesting detail, and one missing from any other image anyone here at the Museum has seen, is the large sign atop the roof of the building.

"1813 Boston Mfg. Co. 1813, Gilbrae, Finest In America, Ginghams"

 Enhanced detail of the postcard, showing the grand signage atop the factory building.

Enhanced detail of the postcard, showing the grand signage atop the factory building.

 Announcement from the  Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office , November 16, 1920.

Announcement from the Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, November 16, 1920.

With this sign, we start to winnow down the year of this picture. Now, obviously, the smokestack means this is post 1911, but the use of the BMC Brand trademark "Gilbrae" indicates that we are probably post-1920, as that is the date it was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

As the Boston Manufacturing Company ceased operation in 1930 (and would arguably not have been celebrated in a postcard so immediately after its closing) we have ourselves a pretty firm window of time which we may consider in dating this image.

  "81. Moody St. and North Side, Waltham Mass."   Note the building at left, across from the BMC, which was most likely the vantage point for postcard "64." Also of interest is the small gateman's house at the mill entrance, and Storehouse No. 2 (the large, dark wood building) just beyond it. The building to the fore of the storehouse, in what is now the lot for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, is a mystery at this time, as it was added after the 1922 Insurance survey.

"81. Moody St. and North Side, Waltham Mass."
Note the building at left, across from the BMC, which was most likely the vantage point for postcard "64." Also of interest is the small gateman's house at the mill entrance, and Storehouse No. 2 (the large, dark wood building) just beyond it. The building to the fore of the storehouse, in what is now the lot for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, is a mystery at this time, as it was added after the 1922 Insurance survey.

Foster did at least one other postcard of this area, and if anyone can spec out the cars seen on the Moody Street bridge, we may have that time narrowed even more finely. That this is numbered "81" and the postcard above is numbered "64" means there is hope for even more amazing views from this series.

Of course, today, with the ease of such tools as drones, we can get even more unique views of our home, the beautiful Francis Cabot Lowell Mill. But as lovely as these new shots may be, they will never have quite the wonder and rouse the curiosity in us the way those historic images do!

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