Saturday, October 31, 2015

George Molloy - Lowell's Irish Trunk Maker

The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem.  I have a problem.  I collect stuff, too much stuff.  A few months ago while scanning through eBay I saw it.  A 19th century trunk made in Lowell by Irish-born George Molloy.  I put in a bid, and it was denied.  I swore I wouldn’t look again.  But then there it was- the trunk was back.  I had done my research.  I knew who Molloy was.  In a weak moment I made a higher bid.  The trunk was mine!  I had to drive to Foxboro, not for a Patriot’s game, but to bring the trunk back to its place of origin.  The trunk’s not pretty.  Its 140+ years show some wear and tear.  The original outside was embossed leather, but there are pieces drying and flaking off.  The bare wood is showing through in places.  The metal hinges are slightly rusted in spots.  The inside paper is peeling in areas, but what drew me to this piece was the label.  It still has its original label that George Molloy affixed to his work over a century ago.  Now I’m researching how to restore old trunks while maintaining its original dignity.  Ideas?  Please share.  Your help would be appreciated.

George Molloy was the son of George and Mary Conly.  Born in Dublin about 1821 he arrived in Lowell   By 1860 he was married to his wife Ann with whom he had 7 children.  Two of whom predeceased him.  His father George lived with the family until his death in 1862.  
with his parents in 1842.

For many years he was an emigration agent, and then got into the trunk making business.  Trunks could be found in most homes in this period.  Many people had several trunks of different sizes to keep clothes and valuables in.  There were many trunk makers in Lowell at this time, all competing for business.  About 1857 he started advertising his shop in the local papers. One ran like this: 

Purchase your trunk at George Molloy’s trunk manufactory, No. 61 Market St.  You will get a good trunk, fully the worth of your money; all his trunks have patent locks on them, he warrants the keys of trunks purchased at any other store in Lowell, not to open his locks.  You can have any kind of trunk desired made to order at all prices from $1.50 to $10.00.

His offered trunks made of iron, zinc, canvas, leather and duck.  He posted another ad claiming, Travelers have found by experience that Molloy’s canvas trunks will stand more hard usage than any other trunk in house.  Call and see his trunks before you purchase.  George’s business remained at this location for many years.  He along with a number of other businessmen requested a watchman to patrol the area around their shops on Market Street.  The business must have been quite successful since he had to move to larger quarters on Middlesex Street in 1884.  

“Failing health alarmed his friends.”  He died of pneumonia in 1892 at the age of 73.  His funeral was from his home on High Street with mass at the Immaculate.  He was buried in the family lot at St. Patrick’s. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween in the Acre - 1950s

The best rite of Fall was Halloween itself. I don't remember buying a costume. I think I was a hobo from ages 5 to 11. When I turned 12, I revolted and was a vampire. I thought I was cool with a cape and blood dripping from my mouth. That's when I learned not to use red Magic Marker as fake blood. It was also a let down when a friend pointed at me and said vampires never wore glasses. So I took them off, and then looked like a blind vampire tripping on stairs and walking into doors. That was my last year of trick or treating.

What I remember most is getting my paper, orange, trick or treat bag from Greens in downtown Lowell. I think it cost a nickel. It was nothing more than an orange paper shopping bag, but by night's end it would hold a bounty of cavity producing treats. My Dad was often given the chore of walking with us. It often became a history of the Acre lesson. Being an Acre Boy himself, he'd tell me this is where he helped light the gas lanterns when he was a kid. Or this is where the Keyes sisters lived and he'd run errands for them. We'd walk by Lovejoy's mansion where UMass is now. Everyone knew it was haunted, and I'd walk a little closer to him. He'd pretend to see ghosts in the broken windows. One year right in front of Lovejoy's it started raining, hard, and my little trick or treat bag got soaking wet and broke. I was in a panic. Do I stop and pick up my candy, or do I let the ghosts drag us in to Lovejoy's basement and my mother would never see us again? I did what any 6 year old would do. I cried. My father said another prayer to Jesus Christ Almighty, put as much candy into my little hobo hands as could fit, picked me up, and walked me home.