AMERCAN NOTES: TRAVELS IN AMERICA
A TOUR IN THE UNITED STATES
Gloucester, Cape Anne, July 22, 1848
We left Hartford on Monday last, travelling to Boston on a very well constructed railway, passing through a country neither fertile nor beautiful, except along the banks of the Connecticut river, where the soil is comparatively rich and the trees luxuriant. We spent the afternoon of Monday and the whole of Tuesday in Peninsulate Boston--the Venice of New England; but the weather being intolerably hot, we resolved to proceed to Lowell on Wednesday morning, distance twenty-six miles, by one of the numerous railways which branch out from the capital of Massachusetts. I found this new manufacturing town a much larger and more important place than I had anticipated. A description written half a dozen years ago is now out of date, so rapid has been the progress. In 1822 the population was only 200; in 1825 it had increased to 2,500; in 1836, to 18,000; and it is now 33,000! From the statistics now lying before me, in this sea side retreat, I am enabled to give an account of the extent of its principal manufactures, and the number of persons employed in each.
The general rate of increased production during the last twelve years is indicated by the increase at three of the principal factories.
The Merrimack Company, in 1836, had 35,704 spindles, used 2,288,000 pounds of cotton, and produced 9,568,000 yards of cloth. In 1848 it has 68,000 spindles, uses 4,100,000 pounds of cotton, and produces 18,000,000 yards of cloth.
The Lawrence Company, in 1836, had 31,000 spindles, used 3,328,000 pounds of cotton, and produced 10,400,000 yards of cloth. In 1848 it has 45,000 spindles, uses 5,000,000 pounds of cotton, and produces 13,500,000 yards of cloth.
The Massachusetts Company, established in 1840, has now 45,700 spindles,
uses 7,800,000 pounds of cotton, and produces 25,000,000 yards of (drillings)
The overseers are to be always in their rooms at the starting of the mill, and not absent unnecessarily during working hours. They are to see that all those employed in their rooms are in their places in due season, and keep a correct account of their time and work. They may grant leave of absence to those employed under them, when they have spare hands to supply their places, and not otherwise, except in cases of absolute necessity.
All persons in the employ of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company are to observe the regulations of the room where they are employed. They are not to be absent from their work without the consent of the overseer, except in cases of sickness, and then they are to send him word of the cause of their absence. They are to board in one of the houses of the company, and give information at the counting-room where they board, when they begin, or whenever they change their boarding place; and are to observe the regulations of their boarding-house.
Those intending to leave the employment of the company, are to give at least two weeks' notice thereof to their overseer.
All persons entering into the employment of the company, are considered as engaged for twelve months, and those who leave sooner, or do not comply with all these regulations, will not be entitled to a regular discharge.
The company will not employ any one who is habitually absent from public worship on the Sabbath, or known to be guilty of immorality.
A physician will attend once in every month at the counting room, to vaccinate all who need it, free of expense.
Any one who shall take from the mills or the yard, any yarn, cloth, or other article, belonging to the company, will be considered guilty of stealing, and be liable to prosecution.
Payments will be made monthly, including board and wages. The accounts will be made up to the last Saturday but one in every month, and paid in the course of the following week.
These regulations are considered part of the contract, with which all
persons entering into the employment of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company
engage to comply.
The tenants of the boarding-houses are not to board, or permit any part of their houses to be occupied by any person except those in the employ of the company, without special permission.
They will be considered answerable for any improper conduct in their houses, and are not to permit their boarders to have company at unreasonable hours.
The doors must be closed at ten o'clock in the evening, and no person admitted after that time, without some reasonable excuse.
The keepers of the boarding-houses must give an account of the number, names, and employment of their boarders when required, and report the names of such as are guilty of any improper conduct, or are not in the regular habit of attending public worship.
The buildings, and yards about them, must be kept clean and in good order; and if they are injured, otherwise than from ordinary use, all necessary repairs will be made, and charged to the occupant.
The sidewalks, also, in front of the houses, must be kept clean, and free from snow, which must be removed from them immediately after it has ceased falling; if neglected, it will be removed by the company at the expense of the tenant.
It is desirable that the families of those who live in the houses, as well as the boarders, who have not had the kinepox, should be vaccinated, which will be done at the expense of the company, for such as wish it.
Some suitable chamber in the house must be reserved, and appropriated
for the use of the sick, so that others may not be under the necessity
of sleeping in the same room.
The hours of attendance at the mills are thirteen and a half; an hour and a half is allowed for meals, making the actual working time twelve hours. From what cause has the large amount of manufactures in this new town arisen, and how have the proprietory companies attained the power to dictate such regulations in a country where labour is so scarce?
The establishment of manufactures is mainly to be attributed to the
English Corn Law, the operation of which gave rise to a general desire
throughout the states that a home market for agricultural produce should
be created. The more immediate impulse was given by the war of 1813, occasioned
by our impolitic Orders in Council, and our rigorous enforcement of the
right of search. "The interrupted commerce and high prices," says Mr. Miles
in his Lowell As It Is, "which attended the last war with England,
turned the attention of monied
Water in abundance, and the use of mechanical means for its economical application, the question was, where were the workpeople to come from? To obtain the supply of labour there was an admirable union of philanthropy and worldly wisdom. The sagacious founders of the town knew that unless the various manufacturing establishments made a moral provision which would satisfy parents, in a country where much of the religious strictness of the early puritans prevailed, young people would not be permitted to become mill operatives. Amongst the well-educated community of New England, where the standard of morality stands confessedly high, it was necessary to offer high moral temptations--to give unequivocal assurance not only that there should be none of the evil communications which corrupt good manners, but that the means of religious, moral, and intellectual teaching should be amply provided. In reading the regulations of the boarding-houses the Englishman wonders why, in a country where labour is scarce, the workpeople submit to so much strictness of rule. The fact is, that without strict regulation workpeople could not be had. The managers have to exercise the strictness of parental rule that parents may feel the conviction that their children are safe. Mr. White says:--
"The productiveness of these works depends upon one primary and indispensable
condition--the existence of an industrious, sober, orderly, and moral class
of operatives. Without this, the mills in Lowell would be worthless. Profits
would be absorbed by cases of irregularity, carelessness, and neglect;
while the existence of any great moral exposure in Lowell would cut off
the supply of help from the virtuous homesteads of the country. Public
morals and private interests, identical in all places, are here seen to
be linked together in an
"There is one consideration bearing upon the character of our operatives, which must all the while be borne in mind. We have no permanent factory population. This is the wide gulf which separates the English manufacturing towns from Lowell. Only a very few of our operatives have their homes in this city. The most of them come from the distant interior of the country.
"To the general fact, here noticed, should be added another, of scarcely less importance to a just comprehension of this subject,--the female operatives in Lowell do not work, on an average, more than four and a half years in the factories. They then return to their homes, and their places are taken by their sisters, or by other female friends from their neighbourhood. Returns will hereafter be given which will establish the fact of the average above named.
"Here, then, we have two important elements of difference between English and American operatives. The former are resident operatives, and are operatives for life, and constitute a permanent, dependent factory caste. The latter come from distant homes, to which in a few years they return, to be the wives of farmers and mechanics of the country towns and villages. The English visiter to Lowell, when he finds it so hard to understand why American operatives are so superior to those of Leeds and Manchester, will do well to remember what a different class of females we have here to begin with--girls well educated in virtuous rural homes; nor must the Lowell manufacturer forget that we forfeit the distinction, from that moment, when we cease to obtain such girls as the operatives of the city.
"To obtain this constant importation of female hands from the country, it is necessary to secure the moral protection of their characters while they are resident in Lowell. This, therefore, is the chief object of that moral police referred to.
"It should be stated, in the outset, that no persons are employed on
the Corporations who are addicted to intemperance, or who are known to
be guilty of any immoralities of conduct. As the parent of all other vices,
intemperance is most carefully excluded. Absolute freedom from intoxicating
liquors is understood, throughout the city, to be a pre-requisite to obtaining
employment in the mills, and any person known to be addicted to their use
is at once dismissed. This point has not received the attention, from writers
upon moral condition of Lowell, which it deserves; and we are surprised
that the English traveller and divine, Dr. Scoresby, in his recent book
upon Lowell, has given no more notice to this his subject. A more strictly
and universally temperate class of persons cannot be found, than the nine
thousand operatives (now 13,000) of this city; and the fact is as well
known to all others living here, as it is of some honest pride among themselves.
In relation to other immoralities, it may be stated, that the suspicion
of criminal conduct, association with suspected persons, and general and
habitual light behaviour and conversation, are regarded as sufficient reasons
for dismissions, and for which delinquent operatives are discharged."
The Savings' Bank was incorporated in 1829, since which time it has received two millions five hundred thousand dollars, and paid out one million eight hundred thousand. Of the two thousand depositors in the bank, about one-half are factory girls, the amount of whose funds is a hundred and twenty thousand dollars, or £25,000 sterling. Many of the young women have £40 or £50 deposited, and some have as much as £100. Two per cent. interest is paid every six months, which, if not withdrawn, is added to the the principal, thus compounding interest every year. New England being rather a sterile country, many of the young men emigrate to the far west, carrying with them the sober, industrious, and moral habits of their fatherland--and young wives of similar habits, with a "tocher" or portion derived from their labour and saved by their economy at Lowell.
There are in Lowell twenty-three regularly-constituted religious societies,
viz., one Episcopal, four Congregational Orthodox, one Congregational Unitarian,
three Baptist, three Universalist, two Episcopal Methodists, two Wesleyan
Methodists, two Roman Catholics, two Free-will Baptists, two Christians,
and one Free Chapel, connected with the Ministry at large. These societies
have erected nineteen churches, at a cost of three hundred and eight thousand
dollars; and two new churches have been commenced this season. They are
served at the present time by twenty-two ministers, whose support, with
I had occasion, in a previous letter, to remark on the comparative absence of rancourous feeling amongst the various religious sects in this country. Mr. White, the historian of a city which has only a twenty years' history, says of the above numerous body:--
"A better feature still of the Lowell churches is that higher kind of
charity, which the Apostle has placed above the bestowing even of all one's
goods to feed the poor. Few are the places which, on the whole, are more
exempt from bigotry, intolerance, and the little arts of persecution and
censoriousness so often suggested by sectarian zeal. The clergymen of the
city often meet together, to consult and act in concert, to promote some
moral end; and such meetings have encouraged generous feelings between
the professors of different forms of faith. The factory girl, who comes
to Lowell, finds a church professing the creed in which she has been educated;
and many become interested in their Sunday-school, and attached to their
pastor, and have occasion to remember this city with gratitude, as the
birth-place of that higher life to which they have here been awakened."
[ Top Of Page ] [ Home Page ] [ Special Collections ] [ Index ]