Automobile Races, Technology ~ the Lowell Connection

This is a cross-post from Dick Howe’s blog. It is a subject that could generate many more posts!

Automobile Races, Technology and the Lowell Connection

by Marie

It’s all about the cars! The big NASCAR races are but the current focus of aficinados of the sport  -although for the first time ever the opening of the Daytona 500 was rescheduled due to the heavy rain and dangerous conditions down in Daytona, Florida yesterday. It’s really a pageant, a festival – if you will – wrapped around the races. It harkens back to a different kind of automobile racing when Lowell, Massachusetts hosted its first “automobile carnival and road race” back in 1908. Locals won’t be surprised to learn that the twists and turns of a roadway along the Merrimack River in the Pawtucketville neighborhood created a natural and attractive raceway. Another factor in the Lowell race was that John O. Heinze, president of the Lowell Automobile Club and owner of the Heinze Electric Company that made parts for Detroit car manufacturers was a major advocate for racing. He knew that to have racing sanctioned issues of safety had to be addressed. Lowell was a proving ground for his technology – Lowell partnered again with those in the forefront of new technology.

Auto Racing in Lowell (post card views /UML Center for Lowell History)

In his essay “Race Along the River,” former Lowell Historical Society President and Pawtucketville activist Ray Hoag gives us the “front and back stories” on the 1908 race. While an entertainment for both the drivers and the spectators, as Heinze planned the races were really a testing ground for the emerging  technology of the automobile. Just what could these “machines” offer both the racer and the public? What could they withstand on a long trip or for that matter even on a rigorous short trip? Motor car touring was starting to becoming popular and New England with it scenery, charm and challenging roadways was a magnet for these new “tourists.” Back in 1908 – as now – Lowell seemed ripe for marketing as a destination city for tourists – the new motoring tourist back in that day. There is another connecting thread – consider that the American Automobile Association (AAA) celebrating its 110th birthday on March 4, was organized from regional groups in response to a lack of roads and highways suitable for automobiles. AAA was an early sponsor of automobile races later the AAA focus turned more to meeting the needs of the touring and vacationing public. (Learn more here.)

Read Ray Hoag’s essay  here at the UML/ Center for Lowell.

Note: Many early automobile were “Made in Massachusetts” – even here in Lowell:

1908 Lowell-American Runabout (Lowell-American Automobile Company)

See more Massachusetts -made automobiles here:

That Dickens in America – Not All Went Well – But He Liked Lowell

  Charles Dickens as a young man… he was 30 years old  on his First American Tour.

Lowell Historical Society VP Gray Fitzsimons passed along this interesting take on Charles Dickens’ 1842 American Tour from the BBC Magazine. The side bar further confirms his time in Lowell, Massachusetts (although Lowell is mispelled). Here’s the side bar followed by an exerpt and a link to the full article. What do you think? From other accounts, he DID like Lowell

Highlights of Charles Dickens’s 1842 itinerary

  • January 22: Arrived Boston
  • February 2: Visited mills at Lowel, Massachusetts
  • February 13: Arrived New York by boat
  • February 14: Ball at Park Theatre
  • March 2: Visited Tombs Prison and Public Department
  • March 6: Arrived Philadelphia
  • March 10: Visited Capitol and White House
  • March 13: Dinner at the White House
  • March 29: Arrived Pittsburgh
  • April 4: Arrived Cincinnati
  • April 10: Arrived St Louis
  • April 26- May 3: Niagara Falls
  • May 4- 29: Visited Canada
  • June 7: Left New York for England

From the article:

On his first visit to America in 1842, English novelist Charles Dickens was greeted like a modern rock star. But the trip soon turned sour, as Simon Watts reports.

On Valentine’s Day, 1842, New York hosted one of the grandest events the city had ever seen – a ball in honour of the English novelist Charles Dickens…


But a visit which had started so well quickly turned into a bitter dispute, known as the “Quarrel with America”…


As a committed social reformer, Dickens wanted to use his trip to find out if American democracy was an improvement on class-ridden Victorian England.

The novelist particularly enjoyed Boston*, his first port of call…


The tone of the visit changed when the crowds and individuals he met as the tour continued became – as he perceived rude, discourteous, undisciplined  – and as Dickens scholar Professor Jerome Meckier  notes: “The longer Dickens rubbed shoulders with Americans, the more he realised that the Americans were simply not English enough. He began to find them overbearing, boastful, vulgar, uncivil, insensitive and above all acquisitive.” 

Check out the full article here at:



More From the Irish History Detectives at Lowell Irish

 St. Patrick Church, Lowell Massachusetts , a stereoview

This is a cross post – follow-up from the Lowell Irish website. Historian Dave McKean touts the value of the old photos and stereo views he and his history detective side-kick – Lowell Historical Society Board member and genealogist Walter Hickey – are hoping that you have in your family archive. Using your best detecting skill could really bring some rewards – some tid-bits of information that help set a time, a place and era. Dave advises:

Take a look at your own photos. No date? Is there a calendar on the wall? A magazine cover? The Name of a movie on a billboard? Don’t know where it was taken? Look at the buildings in back. Is there a street sign? Store sign? If you watch CSI, you probably have a bit of Sherlock Holmes in you. It’s all elementary, Watson.


Read the full post here at the Lowell Irish website.

The Archives of St. Patrick’s Church Lowell, Massachusetts

St. Patrick Church, ca 1880 – Lowell Massachusetts

Over at the Lowell Irish website, church historian Dave McKean tells us how he got involved in collecting and preserving materials for a St. Patrick’s Church archive. He’s requesting help in adding to the collection:

I know that many of you out there have your roots in the Acre and St. Pats. That photo of Grandpa might be more than just that. It might show us the houses and layout of Adams St. The ribbon you kept from Nana with the medal of Mary might be a “premium” given out by the Sisters. You never know. Look around. Drop us a line. Save some history.


Read his full blog post here at LowellIrish.