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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/599

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579
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

cution of them for their immediate livelihood. The new stocking-frames as they were introduced were accordingly destroyed by the handicraft workmen as opportunity favored (over one thousand in a single burst of popular fury), houses were burned, the inventors were threatened and obliged to fly for their lives, and order was not finally restored until the military had been called out and the leading rioters had been arrested and either hanged or transported. Looking back over the many years that have elapsed since this special labor disturbance (one of the most notable in history), the first impulse is to wonder at and condemn what now seems to have been extraordinary folly and wrong on the part of the masses, in attempting to prevent by acts of violence the supersedure of manual labor engaged in making stockings through the introduction and use of ingenious stocking-making machinery. But, on the other hand, when one remembers the number of persons who, with very limited opportunity for any diversity of their industry, and with the low social and mental development incident to the period, found themselves all at once and through no fault of their own deprived of the means of subsistence for themselves and their families, and are further told by the historian of the period[1] that, from the hunger and misery entailed by this whole series of events, the larger portion of fifty thousand English stocking-knitters and their families did not fully emerge during the next forty years, there is a good deal to be set down to and pardoned on account of average human nature. The ultimate result of the change in the method of making stockings and its accompanying suffering has, however, unquestionably been that for every one person poorly fed, poorly paid, badly clothed, and miserably housed, who at the commencement of the present century was engaged in making stockings on hand-looms or in preparing the materials out of which stockings could be made, ten at least are probably now so employed for a third less number of hours per week, at from three to seven times greater average wages, and living under conditions of comfort that their predecessors could hardly have even anticipated.[2]

In strong contrast also with the report of the pitiful distress of the displaced hand-loom weavers of Saxony comes this other statement from many sources: That in all the great manufacturing centers of Germany, and especially in the cities of Chemnitz (where the handlooms are being rapidly displaced), in Crefeld, Essen, and in Düssel-

  1. "History of the Machine-wrought Hosiery Manufactures," by William Felkin, Cambridge, England, 1867.
  2. The wages of the stocking-knitters in Leicestershire in the early years of this century were among the very lowest paid in any branch of industry in Great Britain, and did not exceed on an average six shillings a week. In 1880 the wages paid first-class operatives (men) in the hosiery-factory of the late A. T. Stewart, at Nottingham, England, were 44s. 5d. per week, and for girls of similar capabilities 16s. 6d. Within more recent years further improvements in machinery, by creating a disproportion between the supply of the labor of framework-knitters and the demand for it, has again greatly disturbed the condition of the work-people in this branch of industry in England.