The mission of LowellIrish is to collect and preserve the history and cultural materials, which document the presence of the Irish community in Lowell. As the first immigrant group in a city that continues to celebrate its immigrant past, LowellIrish will serve as an advocate to support a better understanding of the historical, political, religious, and social function the Irish played in the formation of the city.
Thursday nights were food shopping nights when I was growing
up in the Acre.We’d get in our 55 Ford
and head down Broadway to the Giant Store.It had a big ramp that led up to the food store, or you could take the
stairs and go down to look at the toys.When
you were done grocery shopping, they’d put your brown paper bags in a metal bin
and send it down a long set of rollers, which led outside in order to load at
your car.I always wanted to take a ride
along that conveyor, but I digress.
One of the items that was on our weekly shopping list was a
box of Bradt’s crackers.They came in a
long, white rectangular box with blue lettering that said “Bradt’s Soda Crackers.”The crackers were snow white with little air
pockets that made them “crispy, but not brittle” as was advertised on the box.I remember they were on a shelf near the ice
cream, and I’d have to climb up on the freezer to reach them to put in the
shopping cart.There was always the
warning of not dropping the box and breaking them before we got them home.There was always a little anxiety to pull out
that perfect cracker without breaking it, and then snapping it along the little
perforations that would divide the square into quarters.
The company was a Lowell original being manufactured on
Whiting Street (between Fletcher and Salem Streets).Today the parking lot for the new UMass
buildings completely covers where the small wood and stone factory once
stood.My friend, David, lived just
steps away from the factory.You could
smell the crackers baking in the oven as we played in back of his house.The white-aproned men would often keep the
doors and windows open to escape the heat or sneak outside for a smoke.From time to time they’d give us a few of the
broken crackers.The wooden floors of
the factory were almost snow white with crackers that didn’t meet quality
control.Occasionally, farmers would
pull up to haul away the sacks of broken pieces to feed their hogs.
City Directory, 1890
Since my dad had ulcers they were a staple of his diet
whenever they flared up.My Mother used
them in her stuffing, as I think every Lowell mother did.They were great on meatless Fridays with
butter or peanut butter.Probably every
family in the area had a box of Bradt’s in their pantry.
The company had deep Lowell roots.It was started by David, Gerrit J(Garrett),
and David Bradt in 1833.The Bradts
originally worked for Mr. Pierce’s bakery.In just a couple of years the brothers opened their own bakery on
Whiting Street and built a home.They acquired
tracts of land that make up parts of Bowers Street.Through the years the company took on several
names; Bradt’s Soda Crackers, Bradt’s Soda Biscuits, and Bradt’s Common
Crackers.The family did well enough
that they became involved in real estate and banking.The founder, David Bradt died in 1892,
leaving the company to various relatives and slowly declining over the
years.He was buried in the family plot
in the Lowell Cemetery.
The company was sold off to Oswald Turcotte in the 1930s who
tried to re-energize it by broadening the selling area to outside of Lowell and
a new advertising campaign.Ads appeared
in the papers using the theme “crispness without brittleness.”Mr. Turcotte assured his patrons that they
were keeping the original recipe and quality of the 100 year old product, while
expanding the line to include oyster crackers and saltines.As November rolled around the ad campaigns showed up in the Lowell
Sun.One was a “telegram” by
grandchildren reminding Grandma they were coming home for the holiday and her
stuffing made with Bradt’s crackers.Another was a personal endorsement by a Mrs. Edna Riggs Crabtree who
used them at her cooking school.The
company even had a quite successful bowling league in the 1940s and 50s
competing against the likes of Laurin Morticians and Turcotte Wines. They were still advertising for employees
in the Lowell Sun up to 1970.The actual
date of closing is unclear.
Today we buy water biscuits at outrageous prices at
specialty stores.Yet nothing today
could compare to a Bradt’s!