The Lowell Historical Society maintains numerous collections of writings, documents and photographs which are open for public research. The collections are comprised of the Society’s original archives as well as those of the Lowell Museum. The holdings of the Society, which differ in size and scope, are located at the Center for Lowell History and other various locations around the city. Use of the collections should be coordinated in advance of visitation to ensure access to all requested materials. .

Genealogy – we can assist with your search!

As an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, we do provide fee-based genealogical search services. Our rate is $30.00/hr. If this is of interest to you, please fill out this brief form and we will put you in touch with our genealogist who will work with you. The genealogist will indicate whether or not additional fees will be required beyond the first hour. Thank you for your interest in the Lowell Historical Society and good luck with your search!

A summary of how we can help:

Ayer Papers

James Hazen Brickett Ayer (1788 – 1864) was Paymaster for the Locks and Canals Company and served as Alderman and later Mayor of Lowell. The papers are correspondence to his wife during 1823 when Ayer was in charge of the Merrimack Mills lumber department.

Bancroft Papers (From the Lambert Collection – Lowell Museum)

Jefferson Bancroft (1803 – 1890) came to Lowell in 1824 and was the city’s Mayor from 1846 to 1848. He served as a State Prison Warden and Deputy Sheriff from the 1830’s through the 1880’s. The collection contains Bancroft’s personal and business correspondence as well as bail bond postings, poll tax receipts, fire insurance policies, deeds, foreclosure and auction records.

Boston and Lowell Railroad Collection

The Boston and Lowell Railroad was the first chartered railway in the country and was incorporated in 1830 by the same investors as the Proprietors of the Locks and Canals. The collection contains minutes of the original incorporators, petitions to the Massachusetts Legislature, route planning, budget proposals and a scrapbook of timetables, notices and news articles.

Brownell Diary

George Brownell (1793 – 1872) was Superintendent of the Lowell Machine Shop, a founder of the Old Residents’ Association and father-in-law of the famous hydraulic engineer, James B. Francis. Sent abroad on a sailing ship in 1839, Brownell studied and recorded the social and industrial life of England of which his journal gives a detailed account.

Butler Collection

Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818 – 1893) was a Lowell lawyer who became a Civil War General, Congressman and Governor. This collection, much of which was purchased with a donation from the Whit Pearson Memorial Fund, includes personal letters, photos and portraits of Butler, Stevens and Ames family members and a series of Thomas Nast political cartoons of Butler.

Case Papers

Reverend Eliphalet Case was Minister of the First Universalist Church from 1828 to 1830. After, he left the ministry to become a “reformer, politician, postmaster, journalist and rum seller.” The collection is a series of letters to and from Case concerning religious conflicts in the city and also business correspondences from the 1830’s through the 1860’s.

Cemetery Gravestone Rubbings

Financed by the Lowell Historical Society, the Lowell State College undertook to document and preserve pre-1850 slate stones. The collection of imprint rubbings are from many of the oldest graveyards in the city including the Clark, Edson, Hildreth, Lowell, Mammoth Road, Old English, Pawtucket, Saint Patrick’s, School Street and Woodbine Cemeteries.

Central Bridge Collection

The Central Bridge, opened in 1826, was the main crossing over the Merrimack River from Downtown Lowell to Dracut (later Centralville) and was originally a wooden covered bridge until it burned in 1882. The collection includes Articles of Incorporation, Legislative papers concerning the building of the bridge, lawsuit information, shareholder payments, contracts and news clippings.

Champagne Brothers Collection

Musicians Eusebe, Octave and Philias Champagne of Lowell wrote music and lyrics and published scores of French and English songs of which some were recorded on national labels. This collection of their sheet music and other locally published songs ranges from 1909 to 1932.

Commodore Ballroom Collection

Originally built as the Kasino, the Commodore Ballroom opened in 1924 to become the preeminent Lowell dance club under the ownership of Carl Braun and his family. This collection includes business records from 1936 to 1950 as well as tax filings and payroll information from 1937 to 1945. Also in the collection are song books, sheet music and over 200 autographed photos of musicians including Ray Anthony, Les Brown, Clooney Sisters, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Sammy Kaye, Vaughn Monroe, Artie Shaw and Jack Teagarden.

Corliss Papers

John Corliss (1791 – 1881) was the grandson of Revolutionary War captain John Ford and was employed by the Lowell Gas Light Company. Letters from family and friends to Corliss and his sister Helen cover a period from 1824 to 1888. Also included are several letters addressed to Reverend Charles C. Carpenter.

Edson Diaries

The Reverend Theodore Edson (1793 – 1883) came to Lowell in 1824, became rector of Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church and was an advocate for public education. Edson’s diaries follow an in-depth survey of his personal and public life from 1822 to 1880.

Elliot Diary

Captain Richard Elliott of Lowell served in the Civil War with Company C, Eastern Bay State Regiment of the New England Division. His diary covers the year of 1862 and includes descriptions of camp life and unique hand-drawn illustrations of the times.

Father John’s Medicine Company Collection (Lowell Museum)

In the 1860’s, the Lowell apothecary of Carleton and Hovey began marketing a proprietary medicine named for a local Irish-Catholic priest, Father John O’Brien. This tonic became so popular that the apothecary was renamed Father John’s Medicine Company. The collection contains business accounts for several years at the turn of the 20th century, sample bottle labels, sound recording advertisements and promotional films.

Faulkner Diaries

Martha Merriam Faulkner, her husband Luther and sons John and Fred owned several woolen mills in Lowell and in the adjacent town of Billerica. The diaries capture life in the area from 1864 to 1905 and center on the interesting family life of these industrialists.

Flather Collection (Lowell Museum)

Frederick (1867 – 1967) and John Rogers Flather (1899 – 1979) were owners of the Boott Cotton Mills, one of Lowell’s leading textile firms. The collection is an array of diverse corporate records of the Boott dating from 1836 to 1956 and including production and business reports, labor and stockholder records and board of directors’ minutes. Also in this collection are personal papers, records of associated companies like Pettee Machine Works, Lowell Machine Shop and McCormick International Harvester and Treasurer’s files from the Lowell YMCA.

Foley Collection

Elizabeth Foley (born 1904) was an amateur photographer who moved to Lowell from Falmouth, Massachusetts. Seeking to preserve the historical image of the city, Foley took hundreds of photos during the 1950’s and 1960’s and kept detailed accounts of her reflections of the day. The collection includes her photographs, negatives and diaries as well as some personal papers and historical ephemera.

Fortnightly Club Collection

The Fortnightly Club was a literary organization of prominent Lowell women dedicated to educating one another through the presentation of scholarly research papers at the High Street Congregational Church. Minutes of the Club’s meetings from 1889 to 1958 make up the collection.

French Canadian Language Collection

This collection of French language literature from Lowell contains issues of L’Apostolat, a magazine published by Missionnaires Oblats De Marie Immaculee. Also included in the collection are pamphlets and program booklets from Corporation des Membres de l’Association Catholique, Cercle Jeanne-Mance, Chorale Sainte Cecile and L’Hospice Saint Joseph.

Girl Officers Collection

The Girl Officers were an elected group of Lowell High School juniors who, in their senior year, led the school in gym classes, held dances and raised funds for charity. The group began in 1893 and lasted into the 1980s. The collection includes minutes of the Executive Board of the Girl Officers Alumnae Association from 1957 through 1968, scholarship fund reports, Lowell Field Day programs, scrapbooks and photographs.

Glidden Collection

Born in Lowell,Charles Glidden (1857 – 1927) was the inventor of the first telephone exchange and made a fortune in the burgeoning telephone business. Retiring at age 43, Glidden and his wife Lucy were the first people to travel around the globe in an automobile. The collection is a series of scrapbooks that showcase the Gliddens world tour with original photographs. A final scrapbook archives Gliddens pioneering work in ballooning with ascension logs, photographs and news clippings.

Grace Universalist Church Collection

The Second Universalist Parish of Lowell formed in 1836 and built a church in the Downtown area two years later. As the population moved into outlying neighborhoods, the Parish built the Grace Universalist Church in the Highlands during 1895 where it remained until closing in 1973. The collection contains correspondence, estimates and bid information of the Building Committee during the 1890’s, several histories of the Parish, membership lists, Church by-laws and commemorative booklets.

Hadley Collection

Samuel P. Hadley (1831 – 1919) worked on the Middlesex Canal as a boy, was President of the Lowell Historical Society and presided as a Justice at the Lowell Police Court for nearly 30 years. The holdings are Hadley’s personal collection of World War One literature including informational booklets and propaganda pamphlets.

Hull Genealogy Collection

Mary Hull (1895 – 1996), born in Lowell but raised in Boston, was an avid genealogist who compiled a substantial family tree going back generations. Families listed in the genealogy include Blood, Coburn, Colby, Fitts, French, Hildreth, Hull, Merriman, Prescott, Stearns and Varnum.

Lambert Collection (Lowell Museum)

A substantial collection donated by the Lambert family which includes the Bankcroft and Whittaker Collections.

Lowell City Documents

These bound documents cover a wide range of municipal business including Inaugural Addresses of the Mayors, the Municipal Register and reports covering many departments such as the Police Board, the School Department, the City Auditor, the City Solicitor, the Superintendent of the Alms-House, the Inspector of Milk and the Directors of the City Library. The volumes run from 1862 through 1928.

Lowell Fire Department Collection

The Lowell Fire Department was formed in 1829 to serve the growing population and industries of the town. The collection includes minutes of the Town Firewards in the 1820’s, reports of fires, lists of officers and engineers, annual reports, fire fighting publications, photographs of individuals and companies and news clippings of major disasters.

Lowell Historical Society General Collections

The Lowell Historical Society was formed in 1902 as the corporate successor to the Old Residents’ Association. The general collections include thousands of photographs, manuscripts, ephemera and books as well as the Society’s own organizational records.

Lowell Horticultural Society Collection

The Lowell Horticultural Society was formed in 1839 and later became the Middlesex County Horticultural Society. The Society put on exhibitions twice a year of the region’s best flowers, fruits and vegetables. The collection includes letters to the organization, bylaws and billing records.

Massachusetts Cotton Mills Collection

The Massachusetts Cotton Mills were incorporated in 1839 as one of the original major textile manufacturers in Lowell. The collection is a series of engineering and architectural drawings and blueprints some created by James B. Francis. The plans are of mill machinery, as well as turbine, trusswork and water gate improvement designs covering the 1870’s through the 1920’s.

Merrill Diary

Joshua Merrill (1802 – 1889) was a Lowell grammar school principal, a member of the School Board, a bookseller and farmer. His diary captures life in Lowell during the 19th century.

Middlesex Mechanics Association Collection

The Middlesex Mechanics Association was incorporated in 1825 as an organization which provided relief for “unfortunate mechanics and their families”, promoted inventions, offered lectures and maintained a library reading room for its members until its dissolution in 1896. The collection, which covers the 70 year period of the Association, including minutes of meetings, membership lists, by-laws, correspondence, lecture information and library holdings lists.

Middlesex Village School Collection

The Middlesex Village School was a primary school built in 1895 to accommodate Lowell’s annexation of an area from Chelmsford. The wooden building later housed the Knights of Columbus and was demolished in 1998. The collection contains the business and attendance records of this neighborhood school from 1902 to 1965.

Middlesex Women’s Club of Lowell Collection

Organized in 1894 and still active, the Club’s mission is to form a recognized social and mental culture; to further the education of women for responsibilities of life; to encourage all movements for the betterment of society; and to foster a generous public spirit in the community. This recently donated collection from the Club includes annual yearbooks from 1894 to 1994, records of Business meetings and Executive Council meetings, Treasurer’s reports, membership lists and scrapbooks.

Morissette Collection

Father Armand “Spike” Morissette (1910– 1991) was a Catholic priest from Saint Jean Baptiste parish who was involved in the religious, cultural and political life of Lowell during much of the 20th century. In 1953, Father Spike set up the City of Lights campaign to rejuvenate “faith in Lowell” during the economic crisis of the postwar period. The collection includes correspondence and planning documents related to the City of Lights project as well as Father Spike’s personal files concerning churches around Lowell.

Morse Collection

Marion Morse (1897 – 1980) worked as the chief clerk for the Lowell Electric Light Corporation and was also Secretary of the Lowell Historical Society and Historian of the Molly Varnum Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution. This eclectic collection includes general 20th century ephemera from Lowell such as advertisements, letterheads, news clippings, and information about organizations like Saint Paul’s Methodist Church and the Lowell Sesquicentennial Commission.

Reade Collection

Phillip Reade (1844 – 1919) was born in Lowell and, although thrown out of West Point for “a youthful prank”, became a career military officer. After serving in the Civil War and the pish American War and laying the first telegraph lines in the West, Reade became a Brigadier General. The collection contains Reade’s diaries from 1901 to 1915 as well as personal correspondence and appointment letters.

Rogers Hall School for Girls Collection

Rogers Hall School for Girls was Lowell’s finest preparatory institution for young women around the region. The collection contains School bulletins, yearbooks from 1900 to 1973, scrapbooks and registers from 1892 through 1967.

Smith-Baker Collection

Reverend Smith Baker (1836 – 1917) came to Lowell in 1870 and was pastor of the First Congregational Church for over 40 years. He was an avid writer and the collection preserves many of his published sermons and essays covering a wealth of religious and secular topics.

Tremont and Suffolk Mills Collection

The Tremont and Suffolk Mills were a combination of two of Lowell’s original textile corporations which were both built in 1832. The collection is a series of architectural and engineering drawings from the 1880’s through the 1930’s including dye house plans, renditions of boiler installations and blueprints of textile machinery.

Whittaker Collection (From the Lambert Collection – Lowell Museum)

Channing Whitaker (1843 – 1913) was an engineer for the Lowell Machine Shop, a captive during the Civil War and later head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Mechanical Engineering Department. The collection includes Whittaker’s personal papers as well as papers from the Institute and business correspondence and drawings from the Lowell Machine Shop.