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.
A small parade of men and boys made their way down Broadway
Street in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood on an October evening of 1868.It was just before the big presidential
election of that year.The marchers
carried torches and sang political songs supporting their candidate, Ulysses S
Grant.It was a heated contest that
year, and boys were stationed along the parade route to keep an eye on any
“missiles” that might be thrown at the marchers.When they approached the corner of School and
Broadway the group came to a halt to unfurl a flag as the crowd joined in
singing TheStar Spangled Banner. Speeches were made and the flag was suspended
between William Manning’s shop and the opposite street corner.
Mr. Manning had just opened the shop a few months
before.He probably didn’t realize that
Manning’s Silver Corn Cakes would become a national sensation and last for
decades.Manning, a relative of the well
known Manning family of the Manning Manse in Billerica, had experimented with
different types of popping corn and received a patent from the US Patent Office
after perfecting a popping machine.He
purchased an acre of land on Broadway Street and built his empire.
The basement contained the popping room, which used 5000
bushels of corn and 100 hogsheads of molasses a year.Four large kettles were kept busy on the
bottom floor and 12 more on the first floor to make corn cakes.Horse power was used to grind the corn.Large cutting knives were used to cut the
cakes.Later, Manning diversified into
making corn balls and a variety of other products..His cakes sold two for a penny.
The business quickly prospered with 6 buildings taking up
the corner.Stables for the horses and
storage sheds were added to fill the demand for corncakes.The fame of Manning’s Silver Corn Cakes
quickly spread from the Acre, across the city, state, and eventually the
country.Mr. Manning was nearly 90 when
a broken hip led to his demise and death in 1923.The business was sold and the land
transferred over to a roofing company.And
all of this started in a corner shop in the Acre.
As soon as I saw the advertisement for Manning’s Silver Corn
Cakes, I was taken with his story. I had
to find out more about him and his Acre connection.I think few in my age group would forget
buying corn cakes and old-fashioneds.I’m not sure if it’s just a Lowell, or New England thing.Finding corncakes today is a rarity.Most are poor imitations of the original.I recently found such an example at a local
“candy house.”It was a quarter size of
the original and about $3 or $4.The worst
travesty was that it was not a real corn cake or an real old-fashioned.As a kid I might get mine from the BC on
Merrimack Street or more likely at Ovie’s on Broadway.There was an unwritten rule that one did not
buy them in mid-summer. The corn cake would be too sticky and the old-fashioned
would melt too easily.If memory serves,
the pair cost a nickel.I doubt anything
will ever equal the memory of sitting on the stoop, taking out the corn cake
from the brown paper bag; smelling the caramel, feeling the sticky sweetness,
and finally squashing the vanilla crème drop onto the corn cake.Ahh, youth!