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Mss: 442 1898-1916 B751

Boott Cotton Mills. Boot Cotton Mills Account Book, 1898-1916: Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss: 442 1898-1916 B751
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: Boott Cotton Mills account book
Date(s): 1898-1916
Quantity: 0.75 linear feet (1 volumes)
Language of materials: English


Purchase: Gift of George S. Gibb, 1961

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edufor more information.

See Also:

Proprietors of Locks and Canals of Merrimack River, (Mss: 393 1792-1947 P966)
Various Lowell Companies (Mss: 442 1873 L914)
Greenleaf and Hubbard (Mss: 761 1850-1860 G814)
Vertical File collection on the textile, clothing, wool products and paper industries (Mss: 44 1811-1949 File)

Historical Note

The Boott Cotton Mills, located in Lowell, Massachusetts, was incorporated in 1835 by Abbott Lawrence, John Amory Lowell andNathan Appleton for the purpose of producing "drillings, sheetings, shirtings, linens, fancy dress goods, and yarns." Between 1836 and 1839, four mill buildings were built along the Merrimack River, each operating independently from the other. A three-story counting house located in front of the mills housed the administrative and accounting functions. The complex grew in 1846-1847 with the addition of a fifth mill. A central picker house was added in 1860 and a cotton storehouse in 1865. Mill #6, built in 1871-72, not only contained carding, spinning and weaving machinery, it included a blacksmith shop, a large machine shop, a paint shop and carpenter shop.
By the 1870s, Boott Cotton Mills shifted to a variety and order mill with the six mills working as a unified plant. At the same time, management made the decision to increase production, keep pay rates low and avoid reinvestment in plant and equipment. The increased production helped maintain profits and dividends, but ultimately working conditions and wages declined while buildings and machinery became obsolete. After 1880, when the South became increasingly competitive with the long-established northern textile mill industry, this corporate policy proved unwise. However, throughout the 1880s and 1890s, the Boott paid consistent dividends and its stock price remained high.
Long-term neglect of plant and labor proved the undoing of Boott Cotton Mills for a time. In February 1905, the mill closed and the corporation ceased with stockholders, dominated by the current generation of directors, selling the plant and its assets for $300,000 to a group of investors from Lowell and Boston. Renamed Boott Mill, this new company reorganized management and production, invested in new equipment and retrained workers. This markedly different way of doing business allowed the company to successfully withstand the economic necessities of two world wars and the depression years. However, the bad market and big inventories which existed for cotton textiles during the early 1950s hastened the end of many mill operations in the northeast. Boott Mill became one of the casualties, and in 1955, it closed after one hundred and twenty years of operation.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of one volume of semi-annual accounts, May 1898-November 1905. Included in this volume are additional loose papers concerning the liquidation of the company.

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