Boston Manufacturing Company - The Waltham System

The Waltham System

The Boston Associates attempted to create a well-controlled system of labor which varied from the harsh conditions observed while in Lancashire. The mill owners recruited young Yankee farm girls from the surrounding area to come work the machines at Waltham. The mill girls, as they came to be known, lived in boarding houses provided by the company and were supervised by older women, and were subject strict codes of conduct. They worked approximately eighty hours per week. The workers would wake to the factory bell at 4:40 in the morning. They would report to work at 5:00 and have a half hour breakfast break at 7:00 a.m. They would then work until the half hour to forty-five minute lunch break at noon. At 7:00 p.m. the factory would shut down and the workers would return to their company houses. This routine was followed six days a week. This system became known as the Waltham System.

By the early 1820s the water power of the Charles River at Waltham was just about maximized, and the investors sought a new location to build even more mills. As the Merrimack Manufacturing Company, in 1822 they copied the Waltham System at the new city of Lowell, Massachusetts on a much larger scale. The same group of investors would later establish Lawrence, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire and several other new industrial centers throughout New England during the first half of the 19th century. The factory methods introduced at Waltham would also be copied by other industries in the years to follow.

The Waltham site would be expanded again during the late 19th century. The original mills were connected, the gable roofs removed, and additional floors were added with flat roofs. The Boston Manufacturing Company closed in 1930.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Some of worker housing has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the site is occupied by the Charles River Museum of Industry and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development-subsidized housing for seniors.

Read more about this topic:  Boston Manufacturing Company

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