QUESTION

What was the impact of industrialization on the mid-19c worker? How was the mid-19c workplace transformed?

 

DOCUMENT A

Dear Mary:

"It looked very pleasant at first, the rooms were so light, spacious, and clean, and the girls so pretty and neatly dressed, and the machinery so brightly polished or nicely painted. The plants in the windows, or on the overseer's bench or desk, gave a pleasant aspect to things..."

"...I could have had work in the dressing-room, but chose to be a weaver; and I will tell you why. I disliked the closer air of the dressing-room, though I might have become accustomed to that. I could not learn to dress so quickly as I could weave, nor have work of my own so soon, and should have had to stay with Mrs.C. two or three weeks before I could go in at all, and I did not like to be "lying upon my oars" so long. And, more than this, when I get well learned I can have extra work, and make double wages, which you know is quite an inducement with some..."

"...At first the hours seemed very long, but I was so interested in learning that I endured it very well; and when I went out at night, the sound of the mill was in my ears, as of crickets, frogs, and jewsharps [small musical instrument; it twangs], and all mingled together in strange discord. After that it seemed as though cotton-wool was in my ears, but now I do not mind it at all. You know that people learn to sleep with the thunder of Niagara in their ears, and a cotton mill is no worse, though you wonder that we do not have to hold our breath in such a noise..."

"...It makes my feet ache and swell to stand so much, but I suppose I shall get accustomed to that too. The girls generally wear old shoes about their work, and you know nothing is easier; but they almost all say that when they have worked here a year or two they have procure shoes a size or two larger than before they came. The right hand, which is the one used in stopping and starting the loom, becomes larger than the left; but in other respects the factory is not detrimental to a young girl's appearance..."

"... You wish to know minutely of our hours of labor. We go in at five o'clock; at seven we come out to breakfast; at half-past seven we return to our work, and stay until half past twelve. At one, or quarter-past one four months in the year, we return to our work, and stay until seven at night. Then the evening is all our own, which is more than some laboring girls can say, who think nothing is more tedious than a factory life..."

"...The only punishment among the girls is dismission from their places. They do not, as many think, withhold their wages; and as for corporal punishment- mercy on me! To strike a female would cost any overseer his place. If the superintendents did not take the affair into consideration the girls would turn out [go on strike], as they did at the Temperance celebration, "Independent days"; and if they didn't look as pretty, I am sure they would produce as deep an impression..."

Source:  A Lowell Mill Worker Describes Her Work And Life, 1844 

 

DOCUMENT B

"...In America, where space is of far less consequence....these same girls have no private apartments, and sometimes sleep six or eight in a room, and even three in a bed. This is very bad..."

"...Now are the days when these gregarious habits should be broken through...If the change be not soon made, the American factory population, with all its advantages of education and of pecuniary sufficiency, will be found, as its numbers increase, to have been irreparably injured by its subjection to a grievance...to which poverty exposes artisans in old countries..."

Source:  Morals of Manufactures, 1837  

 

DOCUMENT C

"Before 1836 the era of mechanical industry in New England had hardly begun, the industrial life of its people was yet in its infancy, and nearly every article in the domestic use that is now made by the help of machinery was the "done by hand." It was, with few exceptions, a rural population, and the material for clothing was grown on the home-farm, and spun and woven by the women..."

"...This was the genius of mechanical industry, which would build the cotton-factory, set in motion the loom and the spinning-frame, call together an army of useful people, open wider fields of industry for men and (which was quite as important at that time) for women also..."

"...Before 1840, the foreign element in the factory population was almost an unknown quantity. The first immigrants to come to Lowell were from England. The Irishman soon followed; but not for many years did the Frenchman, Italian, and German come to take possession of the cotton-mills..."

Source:  Harriet Robinson Remembers Pre-industrial Lowell, 1836

 

DOCUMENT D

"...But in a short time the prejudice against factory labor wore away, and the Lowell mills became filled with blooming and energetic New England women. They were naturally intelligent, had mother-wit, and fell easily into the ways of their new life. They soon began to associate with those who formed the community in which they had come to live, and were invited to their houses. They went to the same church, and sometimes married into some of the best families. Or if they returned to their secluded homes again, instead of being looked down upon as "factory girls" by the squire's or the lawyer's family, they were more often welcomed as coming from the metropolis, bringing new fashions, new books, and new ideas with them..."

Source:  The Lowell Work Force Described, 1840

 

DOCUMENT E

"...The first petition which was referred to your committee, came from the city of Lowell, and was signed by Mr. John Quincy Adams Thayer, and eight hundred and fifty others, "peaceable, industrious, hard working men and women of Lowell." The Petitioners declare that they are confined "from thirteen to fourteen hours per day in a unhealthy apartments," and thereby "hastening through pain, disease and privation, down to a premature grave." They therefore ask the Legislature 'to pass a law providing that ten hours shall constitute a day's work," and that no corporation or private citizen "shall be allowed, except in cases of emergency, to employ one set of hands more than ten hours per day..."

Source:  A Lowell Workers' Petition and the Legislative Response, 1845 

 

DOCUMENT F

"The operatives are well dressed, and we are told, well paid. They are said to be healthy, content and happy. This is the fair side of the picture; the side exhibited to distinguished visitors. There is a dark side moral, as well as physical. Of the common operatives, few, of any, by their wages acquire a competence..."

"...But the great mass wear out their health, spirits and morals, without becoming one whit better off than when they commenced labor. The bills of morality in their factory villages are not striking, we admit, for the poor girls when they can toil no longer go home to die. The average life, working life we mean, of the girls that come to Lowell....we have been assured is only about three years. What becomes of them then? Few of them every marry, fewer still return to their native places with their reputations unimpaired. "She has worked in a factory" is almost enough to damn to infamy the most worthy and virtuous girl..."

Source:  Orestes Brownson Questions the Lowell System, 1840   

 

DOCUMENT G

"...There are among us all sorts of girls. I believe that there are few occupations which can exhibit so many gradations of piety and intelligence; but the majority may at least lay claim to as much of the former as females in other stations in life... The Improvement Circle, the Lyceum and Institute, the social religious meetings, the circulating and other libraries, can bear testimony that the little time they have is spent in a better manner. Our well filled churches and lecture halls, and the high character of our clergymen and lecturers, will testify that the state of morals and intelligence is not low."

Source:  Lowell Worker Defends the System, 1841  

 

 

DOCUMENT H

[An Englishman's View]

"...It is much easier to obtain employment, at present, in the United States than in England; but in this respect they are getting into a worse and worse condition. The manufacturers, in the East, have introduced all our improvements in machinery, (and the effects are the same as in this country) they are making very large quantities of goods; competition is increasing, prices are very much reduced, and the wages of labour, generally, throughout the States and Canada, have been reduced from thirty to fifty per cent within the last four years, and wages are still reducing in some parts of the country, in spite of their trades unions and democratic institutions; and, if competition continue, no parties can prevent wages from falling as low there as they are in England, and this within a comparatively short period..."

"...The price of fuel, and the rents of houses for labourers are very high in all the eastern states; food is also much higher there than in the west. It is highest at Boston and New York, but even there, food is from 25 to 50 per cent cheaper than in Liverpool. Rents are high in all parts of the Union, and clothing is higher than it is with us. Wood fuel can be had for merely the expense of cutting and preparing in most parts of the west..."

Source:  Two Foreign Travelers' Observations, 1843   

 

 

DOCUMENT I

"...In some four or five of our larger cities ship-work is something more continuous and reliable; but even they are by no means exempt from depressions and sudden fluctuations; and whenever the "slack time" comes if the ship-carpenter, caulker, joiner, etc., is not absolutely discharged, his wages are reduced until he finds himself wondering "what he will do with it," his remuneration, at the highest figure, being no greater than that of some half a dozen other classes of mechanics, whose employment is constant and always under shelter, so that whatever time they may lose is voluntary..."

Source:  A Ship Carpenter's Day, 1830s   

 

 

DOCUMENT J

"...Five hundred persons were employed at the time of my visit. The girls earn two, and sometimes three, dollars a week, besides their board. The little children earn one dollar a week. Most of the girls live in the houses provided by the corporations which accommodate from six to eight each..."

"...Some have thus cleared off mortgages from their father's farms; others have educated the hop of the family at college; and many are rapidly accumulating an independence. I saw a whole street of houses built with the earnings of the girls, some with piazzas and green Venetian blinds, and all neat and sufficiently spacious..."

"...The minister's salary (eight hundred dollars last year) is raised by a tax on the pews. The corporation gave them a building for a lyceum, which they have furnished with a good library, and where they have lectures every winter-- the best that money can procure. The girls have, in many instances, private libraries of some merit and value..."

Source:  Harriet Martineau Finds a Working Girls' Paradise, 1834

 

 

DOCUMENT K

"...It is a fact of great importance...on the subject of the relation of manufactures to the landed interest, that non of the productions of the earth, whether of natural growth or the fruits of cultivation, in the middle, northern and eastern states, which can be considered as "raw materials," are now exported in an unmanufactured condition to foreign markets..."

Source:  Cotton Cultivation and Textile Factories, 1810  

 

 

DOCUMENT L

"...The results which have been obtained in the United States, by the application of machinery wherever it has been practicable to manufactures, are rendered still more remarkable by the fact, that combinations to resist its introduction there are unheard of. The workmen hail with satisfaction all mechanical improvements, the importance and value of which, as releasing them from the drudgery of unskilled labour, they are enabled by education to understand and appreciate. With the comparatively superabundant supply of hands in this country. therefore a proportionate difficulty in obtaining remunerative employment, the working classes have less sympathy with the progress of invention..."

"...In every State in the Union, and particularly in the north, education is, by means of the common schools, placed within the reach of each individual, and all classes avail themselves of the opportunities afforded. The desire of knowledge so early implanted is greatly increased, while the facilities for diffusing it are amply provided through the instrumentality of an almost universal press. No taxation of any kind has been suffered to interfere with the development of this powerful bent for promoting the intelligence of the people, and the consequence is, hat where the humblest labourer can indulge in the luxury of his daily paper, everybody reads, and thought and intelligence penetrate through the lowest grades of society. The benefits which thus result from a liberal system of education and a cheap press to the working classes of the United States can hardly be over-estimated in a national point of view..."

Source: The American System of Manufactures, 1854   

 

 

Full Bibliographical Reference of the Above Documents

Document A:
Kutler, Stanely I.
"A Mill Worker Describes Her Work and Life." The Lowell Offering (June and August, 1844). Fourth Edition: Selected Historical Documents to Accompany America's History--Volume 1: to 1877. David L. Carlton. (Vanderbilt University). Bedford/St. Martin's Publishing Company (Boston, NY). Reprint 1979.

Document B:
Martineau, Harriet
"Morals of Manufactures." Society in America. Fourth Edition: Selected Historical Documents to Accompany America's History--Volume 1: to 1877. David L. Carlton. (Vanderbilt University). Bedford/St. Martin's Publishing Company (Boston, NY). Reprint 1979. 1837.

Document C:
Lorence, James J.
"Harriet Robinson Remembers Pre-industrial Lowell, 1846." Lowell 60 years Ago. 1898. Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Document D:
Lorence, James J.
"The Lowell Worforce Described, 1840." The characteristics of Early Factory Girls. Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Document E:
Lorence, James J.
"A Lowell Workers' Petition and the Legislative Response." The 1st Official Investigation into Labor conditions by the Massachuisetts House 50 (March 1845). Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Document F:
Brownson, Orestes
"Orestes Brownson Questions the Lowell System, 1840." The Labor Classes. Boston Quarterly Review, Vol. 3 (June 1840." Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Document G:
Lorence, James J.
"A Lowell Worker Defends the System." Factory Girls. Lowell Offering, Series 1 (December 1841). Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Document H:
Commons, John R.
"Two Foreign Travelers' Observations." A Documentary History of the American Industrial Society. (Cleveland 1910). Retrieving the American Past: 1810-1860: 2002 Advanced Placement Edition. (Warren R. Vantine). Pearson Custom Publishing.

Document J:
Martineau, Harriet
"Harriet Martineau Finds a Working Girls Paradise, 1834." The Heritage of America. Edited by Henry Steele Commager and Allan Nevins. Little Brown and Company (Boston). Copyright @ 1939, 1949 by Henry Steel Commager and Allan Nevins.

Document K:
Coxe, Tench
"Cotton Cultivation and Textile Factories." A Statement of the Arts and Manufactures of the US of America for the year 1810. 1814. Fourth Edition: Selected Historical Documents to Accompany America's History--Volume 1: to 1877. David L. Carlton. (Vanderbilt University. Bedford/St. Martin's Publishing Company.

Document L:
Whitworth, Joseph
"The American System Manufactures." Special Report of Mr. Joseph Whitworth. 1854, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1969). Fourth Edition: Selected Historical Documents to Accompany America's History--Volume 1: to 1877. David L. Carlton. (Vanderbilt University. Bedford/St. Martin's Publishing Company.

Bibliography of Works Referenced

Byllesby, Langdon
"The Sources and Effects of Unequal Wealth." (New York, 1826)
Http://www.geocites.com/collegepark/quad.64601/clot/826Bysllesby.html

Commons, John R.
"Factory Regulations In Lowell." A Documentary History of American Industrial Society (Cleveland, 1910). Retrieving the American Past: 1810-1860: 2002 Advanced Placement Edition. (Warren R. Vantine). Pearson Custom Publishing.

Duckworth, Christopher S.
"Regulations Governing Worker's Conduct at the Springfield Armory." Man, Manpower, and Machines at the Springfield Armory: The Superintendency of Roswell Lee, 1815-1833. MA thesis, the Ohio State University, 1975. Retrieving the Amperican Past: 1810-1860: 2002 Advanced Placement Edition. (Warren R. Vantine). Pearson Custom Publishing.

Larcom, Lucy
"A Worker's Memories of the Mills." A New England Girlhood. 1840s (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1889). Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. James J. Lorence. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Lorence, James J.
"The Lowell Offering Emphasizes the Dignity of Labor." Lowell Offering, Series 2, Vol. 3. 1842. Enduring Voices. Document Sets to Accompany the Enduring Vision. A History of the American People. Fourth Edition. Volume 1: to 1877. James J. Lorence. Copyright @ 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Palmer, R.
"The Factory Bell." Poverty Knock. 1826. (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1974).
http://oassis.gcal.ac.uk/teaching.historyweb/cdromteaching/SOCIAL/text/factbela.htm

 

DBQ Question created by:

Maryann Marvucic
Ericka A. Silva
Maria Regina H. S.
Hartsdale, NY
2002