Proprietors of Locks and Canals

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The Proprietors of Locks and Canals on the Merrimack River is a limited liability corporation founded on June 27, 1792,[1] making it one of the oldest corporations in the United States.

The company was founded for the purpose of constructing a transportation canal around the Pawtucket Falls on the Merrimack River in what is today Lowell, Massachusetts. Over a mile long with four lock chambers, the canal was finished in 1796. Although the canal allowed for lumber and other goods to be transmitted from New Hampshire to the shipyards of Newburyport, the competing Middlesex Canal, a direct route to Boston, opened just ten years later, ruining the Pawtucket's business.

In 1821, The Boston Manufacturing Company of Waltham, Massachusetts, purchased the charter of the Proprietors of Locks and Canals, incorporated it into the new Merrimack Manufacturing Company, and widened and deepened the Pawtucket Canal. This allowed them to use it for hydropower purposes. In 1825, the canal company was reorganized again and separated from the Merrimack Manufacturing Company, under the leadership of Kirk Boott. This allowed the city of Lowell to grow quickly, as many other manufacturing corporations were founded in Lowell to take advantage of the waterpower sold by the Proprietors of Locks and Canals. Paul Moody was one of their first chief engineers. In the mid-19th century, the company was under the leadership of James B. Francis, inventor of the Francis Turbine, after he took over when George Washington Whistler left to work on Russia's railway system.[2]

The company still exists today, housed in the same building as Boott Hydropower (a division of Italian power company Enel),[3] which has a small power plant on the Northern Canal in Lowell.


  1. ^ "Towpath Topics - November 1967". Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  2. ^ Janet Pohl. "University of Massachusetts Lowell Center Lowell History". Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  3. ^ "Home - Enel Green Power - North America". 2011-03-21. Retrieved 2013-05-25.