The birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution

One of Bank of America’s oldest New England heritage banks, Shawmut Bank, helped establish Lowell, Massachusetts as a national textile hub, making it the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in America.

Lowell, Massachusetts was America's first large-scale factory town and is considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. This is due in large part to the strong financial support of one of Bank of America’s oldest New England heritage banks, Shawmut Bank. Originally chartered in 1836 as Warren Bank, the board of directors changed the name of the bank after one year in business to Shawmut Bank.

The origin of the Shawmut name and how the first board members selected it is unknown, but is likely based on the original name of the region as it was called by Native Americans. Shawmut is a term derived from the Algonquian word “Mashauwomuk,” which was the name of the area around and including present-day Boston, Massachusetts.

Beginning in the 1840s, Shawmut Bank made strong connections to the textile companies in the region. Through these investments, the bank was instrumental in the development of Lowell as a national textile hub.

One of the men on the bank’s board, William H. Wellington, was heavily invested in growing the textile industry in the area and went on to serve as the director of Boott Mills, Lowell’s first textile mill. The original operation of the mills ran off of hydropower from the 34-foot waterfall at the merging of the Concord and Merrimack rivers, Pawtucket Falls. The mill complex consisted of four gable-roofed brick buildings. Over time, floors were added and the roofs were flattened. Stair towers and clock towers connected the buildings.

One entire floor of the Boott Cotton Mills was reserved for the “Weave Room,” which was filled with industrial-grade looms, running at top speed, blasting out the roar of industry for Lowell to claim as its own. Every day, for 10 to 14 hours per day, the roar of clanking and rumbling machinery and rushing water through huge wheels and turbines was punctuated by the chiming of the bells in the clock towers to regulate the daily activities of the workers.

These loud power looms made it possible to transform raw cotton into finished fabric within a single factory. Over time, more mills grew up in a mile-long stretch on the banks of the Merrimack River, and a network of canals was dug to provide transportation and to divert hydroelectric power to the factories. Shawmut Bank played a significant role in facilitating this growth of industry in Lowell.

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