The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Meet Aurore Eaton
Saturday, Aug. 22, 1 p.m.: Toadstool Bookshop, 614 Nashua St., 673-1734
Wednesday, Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m.: Derry Public Library, 64 E. Broadway, 432-6140
Saturday, Sept. 19, 2-4 p.m.: Millyard Museum, 200 Bedford St., Manchester, 622-7531 (included with admission: $8 adults, $6 students/seniors, $4 children)

Tooting Manchester’s horn
Author explores Millyard history

By Kelly Sennott

 When Manchester author Aurore Eaton worked at the Millyard Museum, guests would often come up to her and ask for a comprehensive history book about the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.

And whenever this happened, Eaton, who was the Manchester Historic Association director from 2008 to 2014, had to inform them that, sadly, they were 100 years too late. Sure, there were books about the place — like Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory City, written in 1978, and also local photographer Gary Samson’s book about the mills — but the last attempt at a full company history was by George Waldo Browne in 1915.
Needless to say, when she eventually came to write and put together The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company: A History of Enterprise on the Merrimack River, her first book, she knew there would be an audience. And probably a large audience, when you consider the role the company played in the city’s stature today.
“Manchester is a unique city. It really was developed by this one company,” Eaton said during an interview over coffee in Manchester last week.
Owners chose the location because of the power of the water that flowed over Amoskeag Falls in the Merrimack River. There was also little developed here back in 1831.
“These were some of the same people who developed Lowell and Waltham, Mass., and when they came here, they were just better able to really gain a whole lot more control of the landscape,” she said. “If you’ve ever come to Manchester on an airplane and looked out the window, you see it’s all developed on a grid system, which is not like any other city in New England. … It’s almost like a Midwestern city, the way it’s laid out.”
Streets were straight, blocks were square, and the millyard sat at the center, with brick workers’ housing on the outskirts. But Amoskeag’s influence didn’t end architecturally.
“The company also had a lot of [political] influence in the city because it was always the major employer until it closed in 1936,” she said. “The local managers who worked there would also be members in the committee planning the sewer system, the water system. … There was a lot of overlap between the municipal government and the way the companies would run.”
Eaton wrote the book chronologically and divided it into short, thematic chapters, telling of the company during wars, floods, child labor, strikes and a flywheel disaster. Between those are lots of photos, many courtesy of the Manchester Historic Association, and personal stories that help illustrate these themes.
Her former job and her own curiosity meant she already had lots of information and resources before she decided to write the book. Unlike most contracts, hers started with History Press reaching out to her; reps at the publishing company had seen her weekly Union Leader columns, “Looking Back,” which she’d been writing since 2011, and asked if she’d be interested in publishing a collection of them.
“Which ... would have worked to some extent, but I really wanted it to be cohesive, rather than just a series of columns,” she said.
Plus, she had this whole list of topics she’d been itching to look into but couldn’t yet justify taking the time to do so. So, in 2014, she began delving into Manchester Historic Association archives, old newspapers and articles to finally write that Amoskeag history book. She found tidbits and narratives that surprised even her — for instance, that there were workers at Amoskeag who helped develop one of the first fire engines. That even when child labor laws came into effect, there were people who bypassed them. (She points to Valeda Tourigny, who began working in the mills at age 11 by using her dead sister Cora’s birth certificate. From then on, everyone called her Cora.) She found some quotes from Thoreau about his trip through Manchester’s transportation canal.
She hopes the book will bring about some more appreciation of the old city. 
“Lowell has a national park, so I think people are more familiar with what happened in Lowell, and because they have the whole mill girl history, which was coming to an end by the time Manchester got started,” she said. “But I think Manchester doesn’t toot its own horn nearly as much as it should about its own importance.” 
As seen in the August 20th 2015 issue of the Hippo. 

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