Interesting Historical Educational Facts – Lowell, Massachusetts

I found these historical facts among some of my papers on my desk.   You do not want to go searching on my desk.   Heaven knows what will emanate from the stacks of papers.

In an early carnival, in 1911, there was the “Golden Balloon” ride, where you would ride in a balloon and look over the terrain below.  It was a very popular ride.  The Mayor even would sing “Up in a Balloon Boys.”  There are no records of harrowing adventures or people hanging on the outside of the balloon.  It was a very safe ride.

At about the same time, the Lowell schools were finally built.  The jewels were the new High School consisting of one well-built building with the capability, in what became known as “Coburn Hall,”   of holding up to 1,000 students in the hall under the eye of one solitary teacher sitting on a perch above the students.  They sat at tables throughout the hall.  When I went to Lowell High School, Coburn Hall was still there.  My father knocked it down by replacing it with six normal sized schoolrooms.

Outside the high school, the plan was for President Taft to tour the first automobile racetrack and start the festivities attached to the holding of the first automobile race of its size.  That was in 1911.  The high school was already filled to capacity and in a decade, the larger old building, referred to as the 1922 Building, would hold students in relative comfort for the next eighty years.  In 1983 a new building would be built across the canal, over the Locks and Canals Corporation’s claimed “air-space.”  That building is at the center of the current controversy on the building of a new high school.

In 1893, successive buildings were added to the Lowell School system.  The Bartlett, Moody, Butler, Pawtucket Memorial, and smaller schools would be described as the jewels in the throne.  Around this time, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes said that the First Amendment did not mean you had the right to yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater.  He also said you could take all of the medicines in the United States, put them on a ship, sail it as far as it could go, sink it, and not be any the worse for the lack of medicine in the country.  There is no information on what Lowell’s patent medicine industry had to say about this.

Most medicine, he pointed out, was alcohol.  Medicine was to become very popular during the exercise called Prohibition.  That was because of its alcoholic content.

At the time, an injunction against auto racing would not pass muster.  Drivers got ready for Lowell’s answer to what would become the Indianapolis, Indiana’s “Indy 500.”    Meanwhile, in education, in Lowell at the time, the Directors of the Greek community opened a Greek school.  Teachers were at the Greek School and would be taught in Greek and English.

On the racing circuit, Al Poole ran the oval in eighteen minutes  and twenty-eight seconds.  We know that the mills closed for the race, it is assumed that the schools did too.  There is no verification for that, though.

Students were not overlooked by the race officials.  In 1911, there were no licenses apparently because the race officials put aside a new car for a lucky boy or girl.  It is unknown who won the drawing, or which lucky boy or girl walked away with the prize.  But, he or she could legally drive it home.

On an earlier note, the Irish School, which was opened by the early Lowell School Committee, was closed because all of the Irish distrusted the English and Americans so much that they refused to enroll their children in a Protestant-oriented school of the city’s making.  They went to Catholic Schools.  There was a test of basic skills which was to be coordinated by publishing the times it was to be held in the “papers of the time.”  Each of the above examinations would take place at two o:clock.  Ten Primary Schools were included.  The unfortunate Irish School was still funded at the amount of eighty dollars per year, which it was not to exceed.       Around the year 1834, long before the Lowell Auto Race, Lowell High School was to occupy a spot on Merrimack Street at the Concert Hall, which was rebuilt to hold the students from the high school.  The School Committee paid $95.00, a princely sum, to Mark Rogers to make desks and seats for the students.  It was largely because of the expense of making seats and desks, that students were soon acquainted with the fact that education was seen as a feeder system for the mills and their projects.  Now, meaning today, in education, it is believed that the reason for such regimentation was to keep the students ready for the discipline and rigor of millwork.

The high school was not omitted.  William Dauncey was to be “admitted to (give) examinations for admission to the high school.”  The seventh grader, at this time, was old enough to be a school teacher so she or he did not need a high school education.  The mills put so much time into this effort that it was noted that the Hamilton Corporation had three primary schools, with paid teachers.  To give you a better sense as to how much the aforementioned money amount of $95.00 was, the man who was hired by the Hamilton Corporation to sweep and clean  the stoves in the school received fifty cents per week. (School Committee Minutes)

There was a proposed rhetoric to be used in the high school.  The city was growing and had seventeen schools organized by twenty eight instructors.  A comparision was made to Charlestown, which had 9,000 inhabitants, with 1581 students; compared to Lowell’s 2,300 students who were supported by the schools.

The School Committee of 1834, was determined to be ready to open the high school on the 25th. of August.  A “Committee of Two (to) be appointed to make the necessary inquiries respecting a Master for the High School.”  They “recommended to the Committee some suitable power for the appointment.”  (of the Master of the High School).  The Committee recommended that Members Austin and Barnaby “be a committee to ascertain what suitable room can be obtained for the use of the high school.” (Committee Minutes)  They settled on someone and voted that the salary of the Master of the High School be “One thousand dollars.”  (July 23, 1834).

They also voted that “Mr. William Hale of Millbury be the Master of the High School.”   Rent of the Concert Hall was decided on being $120.00 per annum.  They further decided that Messrs. Barnaby and Austin be a committee to prepare the hall for the use of the high school.

“The town voted to choose a general superintending School Committee to consist of seven and that Theodore Edson, James Barnaby, John W. Graves, Joshua Merrill, Eliphalet Case, and Samuel F Hueun, and William Austin were elected to fill”… “the vacancy on the Board.”  Samuel A. Coburn was the Town Clerk, and Theodore Edson, pastor of St. Anne’s downtown was the Chairman of the School Committee.

Around the same time, at the Third Grammar School, they elected Mr. Isaac Whittier  as Assistant Master.  No salary was given.  At the North Grammar School Mr. James Bean was voted in as “Assistant Master to fill  the term of Mr. Healey.”

In a remarkable move, they voted for a woman as “Assistant Master also at the North Grammar School.”  The South Grammar School had a woman as Assistant too.  Her name was Mrs. Marsha B. Daves.

Not all of the schools were ready by the end of August.  They voted that Mr. Austin “be a committee to provide a stove for the Third Grammar School room.  Make the necessary arrangements for its commencement.”  (School Committee Minutes)

The purpose of this exercise was to put into some perspective the lives of the average person of the time.  I started with the 1911 race because those notes were more in depth than those related to 1834, although, as you have seen, the 1834 notes were very voluminous.  So I could have reversed it a bit, but I wanted to show the school department as it existed in 1834.  Hopefully, I did that adequately.   The race information was recently discussed on a television show called “Lowell Remembers.”

This document is Copyrighted by James A. Peters.  No aggrandizement will be tolerated.