Section 3: Biddeford-Saco

Section 3:


9. Saco-Lowell Textile Machinery Advertisement Davison Textile Blue Book, vol. 57
[unknown author], 1923
Courtesy of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Closely associated with the textile mills were the companies that produced the complex machinery needed for processing cotton and producing textiles. Formed in 1912 by the merger of the Lowell Machine Shop and Saco-Pettee Manufacturing Company, the Saco-Lowell Corporation was one of the largest such producers. The Lowell Machine Shop was originally founded as part of the Merrimack Manufacturing Company. Prior to its 1912 merger with the Saco-Pettee Manufacturing Company, the Lowell Machine Shop acquired the Kitson Machine Shop in 1905. Both the Kitson and Lowell shops operated in Lowell during the second half of the 19th century. The Saco-Pettee Manufacturing Company resulted from a merger in 1897 between the Pettee Machine Works in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts (outside Boston), and the Saco Water Power Company in Biddeford, Maine. According to this 1923 advertisement, the new company had factories located in all three locations (Biddeford, Lowell, and Newton Upper Falls), with business offices in Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Greenville, South Carolina. However, by 1928, all operations were consolidated in Biddeford and Saco, Maine.

10. Saco-Lowell Shops “Kitson Plant” (Machine Shop), Lowell, Mass., (#13754), surveyed September 13, 1919
Associated Mutual Insurance Companies, 1919

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The Saco-Lowell Shops in Lowell, Massachusetts
The Kitson Machine Shop, one component of the 20th century merger of the Saco-Lowell Corporation, was founded in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1849 by Richard Kitson. This site plan and perspective view, prepared in 1919, reflect the growth of the company, albeit near the end of its operation. According to the textual commentary, it consisted of ten buildings constructed between 1866 and 1918, employed 270 hands, was powered by electricity, and produced textile machinery. The Kitson Machine Shop was purchased by the Lowell Machine Shop in 1905, and was subsequently absorbed in the 1912 merger that created the Saco-Lowell Corporation. Following the closing of the “Kitson Plant” in the 1920s, the site was used for light industry and warehousing. In 1992, the American Textile History Museum (formerly the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum) purchased the Kitson buildings to house its expanding collections, and opened to the public from 1997-2016. After the museum’s closing, its collections were dispersed to dozens of institutions around the United States, including the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education at the University of Southern Maine. We remain grateful to the staff of the ATHM for their many years of stewardship of these important collections.