Lowell’s Schools from 1890 to 1930

The strangest thing that I noticed in the study of the period was the introduction of a lock on the Minutes Books.  A very secure lock was placed on all books written from 1910 to 1936.  Obviously, the information in the book was guarded and secret.  There are repeated references to Executive Sessions and the need to keep certain people out of the  public eye.  And they could lock the books.  It must be  a fact that they did keep people from reading the Minutes of the Meetings during this time.  I have not read further minutes past this 1936 time period  but it does not take much of an imagination to come to the conclusion that these locked books were used in the period past 1936.

There is a great deal that we know, and it is noted that the handwritten tomes of earlier periods were replaced by typed books, giving much more information to the reader.  There is so much information that it is almost impossible to read through the Minutes.  Their information was closely guarded, as the locked books can attest to.

Sometime around  the late 1880’s, many fine school buildings were finally completed.  The new high school, which was financed for fifteen thousand dollars, was completed by 1893, at which time the new City Hall and Memorial Hall, which contained a library, were completed.  In the high school, a third floor hall, named “Coburn Hall” after a  past School Committee member, held up to one thousand students, under the eye of a solitary teacher, who sat on a perch above the many students.  “Coburn Hall” was still in place when I began my studies at Lowell High School, my father turned the hall into six classrooms.  That is how large it was.

The Moody School, the new Bartlett School, the  Varnum School, the Butler School, the Pawtucket Memorial School, and other smaller buildings were completed by 1890 or so.  Lowell was buzzing.  Even President Taft said he was going to attend the first Indianapolis-style race track for cars which was in Pawtucketville, and which was held in 1911.  The high school was not large enough for its population, and the 1922 building took care of the influx of students.  The students would hold students in relative comfort for the next sixty years.   The Locks and Canals Corporation told my father that the school department could not build air tunnels in their air space and they told him that they owned the rights to the air above the canals up to the heavens.  We spent some time talking about that and the fact was that we would have to go to court to get access to that air space.  That was the first and last time my father had been told that argument.

In Lowell, at this time,  the Directors of the Greek community opened a Greek school.  Teachers at the Greek school would teach in Greek and English.  The new Greek Academy, patterned after other private schools, would be regimented.  But the high school would not be omitted from regimentation.  An educator named William Dauncey was to give examinations to students “for admission to the high school.”  Standardized testing has begun in Lowell.

The city was growing, and had seventeen schools organized  by twenty eight instructors.  At the time a comparision was  made to Charlestown which had 9,000 inhabitants with one thousand five hundred eight one students; compared to Lowell’s two thousand three hundred students who were supported by the city’s schools.  The head of the high school would become the Master of the high school.

At about this time, John Alden Williams summed up parts of Islam by saying “If we judge, then we shall be judged.  When we condemn, we insure condemnation for ourselves.  If we forgive, we may be sure of forgiveness.”    This is just a  brief respite, a change of some past and current mores.

The following is taken from the School Committee of the City of Lowell; Standing Committees from January of 1890 to January 2, of 1899.”

The curriculum of the Training School included Nursing.  The new Committee on Schoolhouses and Hygiene (led by a Mr. Cummings) appear before the City Council and ask for an appropriation of $15,000.00  for a new high school,”  We already covered this amount previously.  The School Committee also asked for raising “The American flag over the high school building,” when it was completed.  It is interesting to acknowledge the oversight of the City Council over the construction money for the new high school.

In these minutes, the books were financed.  The Colburn School in Lowell lends six rooms to the Training School.  Strangely enough, Substitute Teachers were given a hearty raise for the year of twenty five dollars each.  This amount was called to the attention of the full board.

During this time, the Head of the Training School, Mrs. Dewey, was authorized to employ her Assistant Principal, Mrs. Radcliffe…:to employ themselves to observe the work of their pupil teachers when they acted as substitutes and to “report on the details of the work.” (ibid.)  There was an examination, as at the high school, for admission not only to the Lowell High School, it was suggested that the Superintendent hold an examination for certificates to lower grades and subsequently examination for the school and the Training School.

The Committee was entreated that there were requests for four out of Lowell’s  student population that they be accepted to LHS, despite the fact that they had not passed the minimum seventy percent on the standard examination.  Mr. Greene, on the Committee, passed a motion “that it was voted that the matter be referred to the Superintendent with full powers.”  The Superintendent stated that five, not four had already been accepted.  He had determined somehow, that they were qualified.

The School Street School, bought Scudder’s Short History of the United States’ for the Evening School.

In addition, the Highland School received copies of the ‘People’s Encyclopedia,’  Lowell’s schools got “the goods.”  Dr. Gerry missed a great many meetings.  Some students were not permitted to graduate.  No more than twenty five students were admitted for the graduation class.  Three teachers, identified as Edward Simpson, A.W. Hodge, and John J. Tobin were hired.   They received Certificates to Teach.  They had to fill out a written application.  In a motion by Mr, Greene again, it was voted that Miss Richardson, teaching at the Sycamore Street School be transferred to the Edson School and be replaced by Miss Bersi.

In an interesting aside, in April 1891, Mr. Coburn’s Motion stated that Attendance should be required,  although people over the age of 18, should be ineligible.  Only one person, Stella Cosgrove, could not get her teaching certificate because of her age.  In the meantime, Mr. Harrigan filed a  motion that there be fifty scissors for every grammar school for their sewing program.

A high school committee oversaw the high school and purchased writing books for the high school.  It was also learned that there was a Cheever Street School.  There is no information on it except for the fact that it existed.

I learned that the high school principal was a Mr, Coburn, after whom the previously mentioned Coburn Hall was named.  There were many substitutes hired.  The high school committee said that it should contain 8 members from each Ward and two at-large.  In other economic and finance news Mechanic’s Hall was hired by students at $12 per week.  Twenty five dollars was used for the purchase of music for LHS.  It should be noted that at this time people’s love of music was not caused by radios or record players,  they had not been invented as of this time.

The Training School Committee purchased Cyclostyle bicycles were purchased hundreds of bikes for the students.  Bikes were the only way to quickly get around the city.  Horses were the bicycles main competitors.

The schools ordered:

“Century Dictionary” for LHS

Supplementary reading took place by Principal Coburn

Miss Dewey’s books supplemented book purchases for the school’s library

Buy Kindergarten material at $5.00 for teachers who ask for it

“Hawthorne’s Wonder Book” for 8th grade classes

“Birds and Bees” was purchased for the 7th, grade

‘Scudder’s Tables and Folklore’ for the 6th. grade

Books could be ordered in September.

The Dover Street Kindergarten successfully asked for a new schoolhouse.  They were moved to the brand new Moody School.  In the meantime, the Chairman of the School Committee and the Superintendent were told to be “fitting up the office.”

All of these improvements were designed to be implemented between 1890 to 1899.