Thursday, April 4, 2013

Making Their Mark on the City

City Documents, 1894

The Seal of the City is familiar to most Lowellians.  The river.  The mills.  The bales of cotton.  They have all been well-known symbols of Lowell as the City of Industry.  A careful look through city documents shows that the Seal has gone through several changes over the decades; each one emphasizing a certain phase of the city’s evolution.  Often a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, can be seen in the sky, advertising the profits created by the mills.  In the 1880s and into the 1890s a new image is seen in the skyline, a church tower.  The steeple of Saint Patrick Church can be seen amongst the outline of the mills.  The 13th century gothic-style church had been completed in 1854.  Early visitors commented on the grandiose size of the church compared to the shanties, shops, and dwellings of the Acre.  The gold cross that adorned the top of the steeple could be seen from many points across the city marking the Irish presence in the City.  While the church was built in the middle of the Anti-Catholic panic of the 1850s, by the 1880s the Irish had assumed political power.  It was sending a message to the old guard.  Now it was the turn of the Irish to add their brand onto the City’s official seal for all to see.
The idea for this post came from Anam Cara honoree, Dick Howe Jr., who shared this finding during Dr. Mitchell’s presentation.

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