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Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory-City (Library of New England) Paperback – September 15, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Library of New England
  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: UPNE; 1st edition (September 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874517362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874517361
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Amoskeag] belongs to the literature of testimony, offering up insights on work experiences, family practices, patterns of sociability, the pleasures and miseries of life and labor in Manchester . . . Tamara Hareven, one of the most intelligent and prolific among contemporary historians of the family, has disclosed something of the life and work patterns of men and women in a great mill. In the course of it, she has also warned us about the insufficiency of simple formulas, the complexity of men and societies, and we are in her debt for it.”—New Republic

From the Publisher

5 1/4 x 8 trim. 71 illus. 2 maps. LC 95-34264

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nineteenth century American travellers waxed enthusiastic or properly melancholic amidst the ruins of Europe. Writers such as Henry James often contrasted the youth and vigor (and innocence) of America with old, tired Europe. None of them could have imagined that less than a century later, the busy New England mills that turned out huge quantities of shoes, textiles, and useful products of all kinds would be silent, weed-strewn ruins. When I look around at cities like Salem, Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, and Brockton, Mass., at Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, at a dozen small towns in Maine, I realize that I grew up during the fall of a whole civilization. I saw the tail end of it. Today so many of those thriving factories and mills have been razed to the ground, turned into condos or specialty shops, or even, into museums of industrial history.
AMOSKEAG is the story of one textile mill, once the largest in the world, along the banks of the Merrimack River in New Hampshire. The story is told through 37 interviews after an introduction of thirty-odd pages. The effect is most immediate: you feel as if you had lived the whole experience, grown up around these people. The reader is taken through the lives of management to the world of work---the varieties of tasks and social interactions to be found within the giant factory. Then we get an idea of family life, how the factory permeated every aspect of existence, and finally of the strikes, shutdowns and rising costs that eventually drove the mill out of existence (or rather, the whole textile industry to other states and countries). The text is punctuated by numerous black and white photographs which add to the atmosphere of "bygone days" that emanates from the whole book. If you are looking for a book on industrial history or early 20th century New England, you must read this one, it's unforgettable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
You'll enjoy this book even if you're not particularly interested in Manchester, NH, or mill towns, as long as you want to hear people talk about their lives.
This is a good window into life in a "factory-city" along the Merrimack River from its start in the early 1800s through the 1970s. Each chapter is an interview. You get the story through the words and memories of those who live it. Mill workers and their families talk about the founding of the town, their arrival as immigrants seeking good jobs, what their work lives were like, the strike, and the eventual shutdown of the mills. A good read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "jogila" on March 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
The story of Amoskeag is the story of a society...a story of a different time...a way of life that used to be. This book travels through the 1800's and the 1900's telling the tale of a factory, and the people who passed through it.
The highlights of the book occur when the factory workers are interviewed. The characters and stories they create are so funny and so real...you get such a feel for how their lives were. I laughed so many times.
The only parts I found boring were when the terms of factory making were being discussed. It was important to know to put what the workers were saying into context, but I found it boring.
Overall, the book was a gem. I am now very interested in a time period that before I thought was useless and boring. I would reccomend this book to anyone.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By For What It's Worth... on November 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
I grew up in Lowell and read about their mills.

Since the Amoskeag Mills make up Manchester, New Hampshire's beginnings and I presently live in one of its suburbs, I decided this was a good place to start in learning its history, and I am not disappointed.

The authors interview many immigrants who came to Manchester to begin a new life. While many of them left their poor home countries to start anew in the United States, they had to work extremely hard to earn the little they did have. Many of their young children had to work for the families to remain above the poverty level. Child labor laws hadn't come into effect yet. Later on, some lied about their age in order to work.

These interviewees note how much Americans have today without doing much for what they do have. It is obvious that these people paved the way to ease for future generations.

I would have loved to have gotten to know these people to hear firsthand about their lives, their work, their struggles. I find it fascinating. Many worked 12 hour days. Some didn't like the atmosphere. Some loved their work. Seems it could have been called "legal" slavery with the hard labor, tiny salaries, and long work days, 6 days a week. They were compelled to attend church and the young women could not imbibe in liquor. Their lives were clearly not their own. The Amoskeag considered them to be "their children." It was conditional though. If they spoke up too loudly for what they wanted, they could lose their jobs. Yet they continued in it because many believed they had no choice if they wanted to survive.

There were benefits to this way of life, however. The mills paid higher wages than in non-factory jobs (such as in being a nurse's aid or office worker).
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By Brenda Dunn on August 6, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A wealth of first-person interviews with former mill workers.
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