This Collection possibly represents the work of one man, but his identity is unknown. We do know that during this time, a photographer named Silva worked in the Lowell area, but the city directories do not list him by name. These images document aspects of life in the Portuguese community from 1905 to 1930. The exact identities of the people in the photos remain a mystery: it is believed that the photos depict members of the Portuguese community who came to Lowell from the Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, and continental Portugal. Like many immigrants to Lowell, the Portuguese came looking for jobs. They found employment in the textile mills, foundries and tanneries.
The Portuguese established their owned comunidade, or community, settling in three parts of the city: Back Central, in the areas bounded by Charles, Gorham, Central and Smith Streets; the Highlands, around Crescent, Chelmsford and Midland streets; and near the Tremont and Suffolk Mills. The comunidade grew rapidly. In 1905, 1,292 Portuguese were recorded as Lowell residents. By 1912. the number had risen to 2,500.
Over the past 20 years, several projects, including lectures and exhibits, have focused on the Portuguese community. A grant provided by the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission in 1990 allowed the Center to produce a set of archival photographs from glass plate negatives donated by the Camara family. What you see in this exhibit is a small sampling of those photos.
Although the Lowell textile mills were crowded, noisy and hot, they provided steady employment for many men and women in the Portuguese community. In the mills, the Portuguese were exposed to American language, traditions, and culture. Nevertheless they were able to retain their own culture, traditions, and language. The Portuguese sense of comunidade was most evident in the strikes of 1903 and 1912, when Portuguese workers organized themselves separately from other ethnic groups to take care of themselves and their community.
The Church was and continues to be an integral part of the Portuguese community. The first Portuguese parish was formed in 1901 and named St. Anthony's of Lisbon.
One of the most important religious celebrations is the Feast of the Holy Ghost which takes place every spring . A young girl is selected to wear the Crown of the Holy Ghost, a symbol of faith. It was also customary among many ethnic groups during this period to photograph a departed loved one. These photographs were sent to family members in the home country.
From Lowell's earliest days as an industrial city, recreational opportunities were available for citizens after the conclusion of their workday. Over the years, that work day became shorter, freeing up even more time for recreation. Portuguese residents enjoyed both formal and informal gatherings with family and friends.
Music, an important part of Portuguese culture, provided one of the sources of entertainment in the Portuguese community. The PORTUGUESE UNIAO band, compete with uniforms, played at official functions and for special occasions.
Local, families and friends could gather to enjoy fresh air and green space at local picnic grounds and parks. As trolley companies expanded their routes, families were able to enjoy outings at amusement parks such as Lakeview Park in Dracut and Canobie Lake Park in Salem, NH. The advent of the automobile enabled families to travel even further to visit friends and relatives in such other Portuguese communities s New Bedford, MA
The Portuguese neighborhoods that blossomed in Lowell featured various types of housing and a variety of Portuguese owned businesses. Housing for the Portuguese families ranged from triple - decker tenements to single family cottages. A trip through a Portuguese community might well reveal grape arbors and flower gardens, perhaps in tiny yards, but nonetheless reminiscent of the old country.
Portuguese businesses included Jose Ferreira's shoe repair shop and Silva & Barreiro's fish market on Charles Street. Community members could patronize Manuel Rodrigues' grocery store on Moody street, get a haircut a A.C. Picanso's barbershop, or buy wood from Antonio Silva.
Comunidade: The Portuguese Community in Lowell, 1905-1930. edited by Lewis T. Karabatsos and Martha Mayo, features these and many other photos from the collection housed by University of Massachusetts Lowell, Center for Lowell History, which is located in the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center, in Lowell, Massachusetts.