Happy 150th Anniversary to the Lowell Humane Society!

A horse-drawn wagon and employees of the Daniel Gage Ice Company of Lowell Massachusetts

In 1873, Lowell was a city of 52 mills and 45,000 people. Horses were the engines that kept the city moving. They hauled freight, transported and delivered food, pulled the fire engines to the fires, transported people including pulling the trolley cars, and performed many other important functions. They worked around the clock and in the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter.

An advertisement from the 1868 Lowell City Directory

Beginning in 1864, the Lowell Horse Railroad Company ran from Pawtucket Falls, along Merrimack and East Merrimack Streets to the base of Belvidere Hill.

From the Lowell City Directory 1886

Though they were respected, appreciated, well-fed, and well-treated by most people, some horses were overworked or suffered from neglect and abuse.

Out of concern for the horses’ health and well-being, 150 years ago, a group of citizens in Lowell created the Lowell Humane Society.

In this first installment, there is a video, a timeline of some of the milestones of the Society’s history, and a 1873 article about the formation of the Humane Society.

First - Please watch a video made for the Society’s 140th Anniversary.

This 12 minute video was created for the 140th Annniversary of the Lowell Humane Society in 2013. Click on the logo above to watch the video.

Some of the milestones in the Society's history

1873 - The formation of the “Humane Society” in Lowell. [See the article "Public meeting - Formation of the Humane Society" from the Lowell Daily Citizen and News, May 7, 1873 below this section.]

An article from the May 8,1875 Lowell Daily Citizen and News

1889 – The Lowell Humane Society is incorporated, receiving a Charter from the state of Massachusetts.  

Circa 1890 - The Society’s scope and mission extends to the care and protection of children.

1891 - The Lowell Police force become members of the Society.

An uncaptioned photograph from the 1905 Report of the Aims and Work of the Lowell Humane Society

Click here to download a pdf of the 11-page report

1929/1930 – The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children begins handling local child abuse cases. The Humane Society shifts its focus to animal issues and opens its first shelter at the Hamilton Mills on Jackson Street.


1934 – A new law passes giving the Lowell Humane Society agents special police powers to arrest individuals for violating laws preventing cruelty to animals.

1939 – The Humane Society purchases land and constructs a small animal shelter (1200 s. f.) on the corner of Broadway and Pawtucket Streets. The shelter expands its adoption and humane education programs and becomes the strong community resource and partner it is today.

1979 - The New Merrimack Valley Animal Shelter (6000 s. f.) is built and added to the old shelter building at 951 Broadway Street. The Humane Society's primary focus shifts to animal adoptions and expanding its humane education programs.

An article from the Lowell Daily Citizen and News, May 7, 1873

PUBLIC MEETING – FORMATION OF THE HUMANE SOCIETY. The meeting in Huntington Hall last evening, in the interest of a Humane Society was quite well attended, a large part of the audience being women. At a few minutes past eight o’clock, the platform was occupied by Governor Washburn, President Angell and Secretary Fay of the state society, Mayor Jewett, Hon. E. B. Patch, and others. After a selection by the French band, kindly volunteering their services for the occasion, Major Jonathan Ladd opened the meeting with brief remarks, after which prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Street. George Stevens, esq., was then introduced, and remarked that about a year ago, at a small meeting of citizens, to take steps for the organization of a society, a committee, for which he was chairman, was appointed to draft a constitution and by-laws, and to report at a future time. In compliance with instructions he submitted a constitution and form of organization, with the following names persons as officers of the society, which were accepted and adopted:

At this point, Mr. Patch, the president, was introduced, and in accepting the office said that his hearty sympathies were in the work, and it would be his endeavor to do what he might for the success of the society. – Governor Washburn was next introduced, and remarked that he was most happy to be present, to lend encouragement to the good work here organized. It was well known that in this day and country every enterprise that might hope to be successful needed some organization, and he believed that this was eminently needed to help forward the cause of these humane associations. This combined effort, by bringing minds together for counsel, by working shoulder to shoulder, was not to be too highly estimated. And yet, while he valued organization, he would not have it take the place of individual effort. He was pleased to know that the ladies interested themselves in the new society, with determination, and he knew what they were interested in the community at large would endorse. He was especially pleased to know that the children had become interested. The more he came to know the world, the more was he convinced that the labors of any good cause, to be successful, must take in the children. If a man grows up harsh, moves among men as an austere, cold and stiff person all pleadings with him will likely be unsuccessful. If, on the other hand, you would make true man, keenly and alive to the interests of humanity, your labor must be among the children. They must be made to be kind and loving to every living object, and then we shall hope for the improvement of society. - The chairman apologized for the absence of Gen. Butler, who he said has made his appearance in that ante-room, but was too ill to remain. - Mr. Angell, president of the state society, was next introduced, and read an interesting essay. In commencing he spoke of the love of man, generally, for birds, horses, and other animals, and cited several anecdotes illustrating their intelligence and affection, but he claims that in many parts of Europe ended Oriental nations our dumb beasts were treated much better than in America. This state of affairs was mostly due to the great number of humane societies there. In Europe there were between one and 200 of them in the principal cities and towns, and the number was increasing. They are composed largely of the eminent men and women in their respective countries. The Society in London gives prizes to pupils in more than 100 schools who write the best essays on kindness to animals, thus calling the attention of hundreds of thousands of children to the subject. These societies have done much to protect public health by getting good meets, &c.


In this country there are now about 50 societies, still many good people do not yet understand, and were asked their use, which Mr. Angell explained was two-fold, first to protect animals, and second to protect men. The speaker proceeded to show that the present forms of transportation were bringing to eastern markets meets of diseased animals, which cannot be easily detected, the consumption of which is attended with dangerous and sometimes fatal consequences. Mr. Angell spoke of abuses to the horse. There was no remedy for these but through organized action. In conclusion, the speaker, in answer to the question, "is not more important to form societies for the protection of men than animals?" said that from the first dawning of civilization to the present day, the great study of mankind, and all nations, had been how best to protect men. Around the 40 millions of our human population is thrown the whole protection of church and state, laws, courts, magistrates, public and private charities, while for more than 400 millions of our animal population until within the last few years, not a single effective law had ever been enacted, or a single voice raised, publicly, and their behalf. Yet all of them were created by the same God who created us, and as they depended on our mercy, so we depend on His. - Mr. Morrill was now introduced and read the following names of scholars of the public schools entitled to prizes for essays on "Kindness to Animals":

The prizes are now in the hands of Dr. Wood, who will present. As about 300 children had written competitive compositions, it was voted, as a mark of recognition of their efforts, that all be made associate members. - Mr. Fay addressed the ladies as to the work demanded of them. Time was when a lady remonstrated with a cruel driver that she would be asked, "who is driving this horse, you are me?" But whatever was said about woman's rights, generally, it was now conceded that she had a right to interfere with a brutal driver. – Samuel Beck added a few words as to the importance of the work, and what had been done in this city, after which the band played, and the audience separated. – Mr. S. V. Spaulding furnished some beautiful flowers for the occasion.

  • Lowell Daily Citizen and News, May 7, 1873

This series will be continued in upcoming Lowell Historical Society newsletters.

For more information about the Lowell Humane Society visit there website at https://www.lowellhumanesociety.org/