Vogel Prize 2008 – Patrick M. Malone

At the 2008 Annual Business Meeting in San Jose, the Vogel Prize was presented to Professor Patrick M. Malone’s for his article, Surplus Water: Hybrid Power Systems and Industrial Expansion in Lowell, published in lA, Vol. 31, No.1 (2005), pp. 23-40.

He has discerned that the sale and use of surplus water by the proprietor of locks and canals above and beyond the textile mill’s normally contracted allotment was the key to business operations of the entire Lowell hydraulic system. Working in concert with stationary steam engines created the need for interconnected prime movers in a place where surplus was cheap, but not always available.

As Professor Malone makes clear, not all rivers are suited for industrial development. Early nineteenth century industrialists looked for factory sites with both a substantial drop and an annually steady flow. They also strove to make use of additional or “surplus” water. Perhaps the pioneering leader in this quest was James B. Francis who served for many years as the agent and chief engineer of the Proprietors of Locks and Canals at Lowell.

James B. Francis gained international fame for his successful development of sophisticated devices and techniques for the precise measurement of the water that was used by each of the mills in the interconnected Lowell canal system. He was the first investigator to gauge the importance of surplus water to the mill operations and developed a proportional system for the rates that the Locks and Canal Company would charge or the additional water flows that the mills would utilize. His work was directly responsible for the rapid replacement of breast wheels by far more efficient hydraulic turbines at the Lowell mills during the 1860’s.

As early as 1858, Francis has predicted, “The result of the surplus power at Lowell will be , I think, to run it in connection with steam.” As Professor Malone concludes, it is probable that the industrial expansion of Lowell would have stalled in the 1870’s without the use of surplus power.

Professor Malone’s article is cogent, well-written, and exhibit much original research. He has shined the light of inquiry on a previously neglected aspect of Lowell as one of America’s earliest planned water-powered industrial communities.

Lance Metz
Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums