Amesbury in 1880 – A Bird’s Eye View of an Industrial City
by John Mayer
Executive Director, Amesbury Carriage Museum
One of the more remarkable views of Amesbury is a bird’s eye view published in 1880. The map provides an aerial view of the area and includes tremendous detail of the industrial center of town and the neighborhood streets. A selection of companies and the homes of businessmen are shown in vignettes around the border. At the bottom is an index keyed to names of notable companies and locations.
The Amesbury Carriage Museum has a copy of this map. It is a document that has served as a very valuable resource for our industrial survey team. E.H. Bigelow of Framingham published the map in 1880, and the lithography company of Beck & Pauli in Milwaukee, WI, made each print. Unfortunately we do not know the story about how the map was made or sold locally. Bigelow made views of other Massachusetts towns, including a view of Newburyport in 1880.
The Industrial City
The map is centered on the Amesbury millyard and Market Square. This focus clearly shows how the millyard served as the center of industrial activities at the time. Salisbury and Amesbury were separate towns divided by the Powow River and the combined population of the two towns was just over 7,000 people.
In 1880, the millyard had reached the peak of its development. The complex of buildings had gradually developed beginning in 1812 with mills and other buildings being added steadily from that time. The buildings had been built for textile manufacturing. Amesbury played a significant role in this industry that shaped many New England towns in the 19th century.
In 1880, around the time the map was published, the Hamilton Woolen Company became the new owner of what had been known as the Salisbury Manufacturing Company. Their acquisition revived textile production and restored life to the millyard after a two-year shut down. Around 1,000 people worked in the mills.
Approximately half of the buildings that stood in 1880 are with us today. The Powow River no longer turns the water wheels or turbines, and the steam engines and textile machinery are long gone. The buildings that still stand have transitioned over time from industrial to mixed uses of all types.
The study of Amesbury’s industrial history provides us with an understanding of how our town developed. We learn about the people and events that shaped the city.