In 1864, the Lowell Daily Courier reported that "all the cotton manufactories of any importance in this city have been quiet as the grave."
The outbreak of the Civil War severed the supply of slave-produced cotton. Many of Lowell's corporations gambled on a short conflict, sold their raw cotton inventory at a large profit, and temporarily closed or rebuilt their aging mills.
Suffolk Mills, later renamed Wannalancit, in front of you, and the now demolished Tremont Mills, both reduced production to small quantities of woolen goods while enlarging their factories.
Some workers found employment on mill construction crews. But when it became clear that the war would not end quickly, many returned to their rural homes or moved to other cities, causing a costly shortage of trained operators when the mills reopened.
[Photo captions read]
· Slave-produced cotton was sent from ports like Charleston, South Carolina, (shown here in the 1850s) aboard clipper ships to textile centers in New England, Britain, and Europe.
· African-American slaves prepared cotton for the gin, (right) at Smith's plantation, Port Royal, SC 1862