Woonsocket in Providence County, Rhode Island — The American Northeast (New England)
The City's Cultural Tapestry
When the first textile mills were built at Woonsocket Falls in the early 1800s, mill workers were recruited from nearby Yankee farm families. But as the city expanded into six distinct villages, each with several mills, mill owners were required to recruit workers from far and wide, bringing an international flavor to Woonsocket.
The first wave of immigrants were the Irish, who came to the Blackstone Valley in the 1820s to help con- struct the Blackstone Canal and remained to become mill workers and build the railroad. The Irish were the largest immigrant group in the Blackstone Valley until the Civil War, when the demand for military goods, like tents and uniforms, combined with the number of men who went off to fight, led to another worker shortage. At about the same time, mills in the Blackstone Valley began to convert to steam power, allowing the construction of new and larger mills. To meet the labor shortage caused by these factors, mill owners began to recruit the Quebecois. By the turn of the century nearly 90% of Woonsocket was of at least partial French Canadian decent. French became the
boom days of the late 19th and early 20th Other nationalities came to call Woonsocket home during the Centuries including Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Italian. Today, new faces are coming to Woonsocket to find work in the textile mills some from Central and South America and Southeast Asia. Each of these groups adds to the rich cultural diversity of the city.
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— Aram Pothier (1854-1928), an immigrant from Quebec, was elected as Woonsocket’s first French Canadian Mayor in 1894. Pothier then served as Lt. Governor of Rhode Island (1897-98) before being elected as Governor of Rhode Island for seven terms, totaling ten years in office (1909-15 and 1925-28) the longest tenure of any Governor of Rhode Island since the colonial era. Among Pothier's many achievements, perhaps the most important was his effort to bring French and Belgian investors to Woonsocket to build textile mills during the early 1900s.
— Woonsocket's ethnic diversity can still be seen on store fronts across the city.
— Joseph Bannigan, an Irish immigrant, was the first president of the Woonsocket Rubber Company, which began by making washing machine wringers and rubberized cloth. From the small stone mill
In background — Statue for Museum of Work and Culture. Photos: (left & center) courtesy of the Woonsocket Harris Library Local History Slide Collection (right) Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1894.
Location. 41° 59.97′ N, 71° 31.023′ W. Marker is in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, in Providence County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and River Street, on the right when traveling south on Main Street. Located in Market Square. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Woonsocket RI 02895, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Blackstone River Valley (here, next to this marker); Community Development (here, next to this marker); Woonsocket Falls (within shouting distance of this marker); Blackstone Canal (within shouting distance of this marker); Market Square (within shouting distance of this marker); Power Trenches (within shouting distance of this marker); Cross of Malta (approx. 0.2 miles away); Veterans Memorial Park (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Woonsocket.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 1, 2022. It was originally submitted on May 1, 2022, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut. This page has been viewed 48 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 1, 2022, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.