The Laboring Classes of England/Letter 16
STATISTICAL FACTS—INCREASE OF MACHINERY—DITTO OF INDIVIDUAL LABOR—AND EARLY SUPERANNUATION OF OPERATIVES.
Spinning. Prior to the year 1767, spinning was performed by hand, every spinner tended one spindle; but after the discovery of Hargreaves, and the subsequent improvements of Arkwright, the spinning frame increased as follows. First it contained 12 spindles, then 24, 48, 144, 324, 648, and lastly 1028. After this, the system of coupling 2, 3, 4, and even 5 pairs of spinning mules was introduced. In 1841, a friend of mine was working five pair of spinning mules in a factory in Manchester, containing in all 3360 spindles. He was thus doing the work of 5 men, and breaking down his own constitution at the same time. His wages were about 27 shillings per week, ($6,48) which is about as much as each of the 5 men could earn on a single pair of mules in 1829. Another friend was spinning at the same time in Bolton, on 3 pair of frames containing 2400 spindles. It is said that working these frames will break the strongest constitution in six years.
In Manchester there were in 1829, 2650 spinners, working 1,229,204 spindles; in 1841, 1037 spinners worked 1,431,619.
In Bolton in 1835, there were 30 cotton factories at work, in which were 601,226 spindles; giving employment to 798 spinners, and 2527 piecers. In 1841, of 40 factories, 38 were working, in which were 751,555 spindles, employing 737 spinners and 2457 piecers.
In addition to the increase of spindles, there is also a great advantage gained in the increase of speed. In 1817, a machine for spinning cotton yarn, called a throstle, with twelve dozen spindles, would spin one hank (containing 840 yards of cotton thread) per spindle, per day, which was considered a fair day's work. In 1841, the same sort of machine, worked by the same number of hands, and in which are eighteen dozen spindles, will spin four hanks per spindle, per day, of the same description of yarn.
According to McCullock, there were in the united kingdom in 1834, upwards of 9,000,000 of spindles employed in the cotton manufacture.
Weaving. In 1784, at a public table in Matlock, in Derbyshire, the conversation turned upon the subject of the newly invented machines for spinning cotton yarn. It was observed by some of the company present, that if this new mode of spinning by machinery should be generally adopted, so much more yarn would be manufactured than our own weavers could work up, that the consequence would be a considerable export to the continent, where it might be woven into cloth so cheaply as to injure the trade in England. Dr. Cartwright being one of the company, replied to this observation, that the only remedy for such an evil would be to apply the power of machinery to the art of weaving as well as to that of spinning, by contriving looms to work up the yarn as fast as it was produced by the spindle. Some gentlemen from Manchester who were present, and who, it may be presumed, were better acquainted with the subject of discussion, would not admit of the possibility of such a contrivance, on account of the variety of movements required in the operation of weaving. Dr. Cartwright, who, if he ever had seen weaving by hand, had certainly paid no particular attention to the process by which it was formed, maintained that there was no real impossibility in applying power to any part of the most complicated machine (producing as an instance, the automaton chess-player); and that whatever variety of movements the art of weaving might require, he did not doubt but that the skilful application of mechanism might produce them. The discussion having proceeded to some length, it made so strong an impression on Dr. Cartwright's mind, that immediately on his return home he set about endeavoring to construct a machine that should justify the proposition he had advanced, of the practicability of weaving by machinery.
In 1787, three years after the above conversation took place, the Rev. gentleman established a spinning and weaving factory in Doncaster. This factory contained 20 power looms, 10 for weaving muslin, 8 for common cottons, 1 for sail-cloth, and 1 for colored check; the machinery was all worked by a bull, and not till 1789 by steam power.
Imperfect as Dr. Cartwright's early machinery may seem to be, we find several eminent individuals complimenting him upon the beauty of its productions, and among others, Dr. Thurlow, bishop of Durham, to whose lady the inventor had presented a piece of muslinette. The bishop thus writes in Oct. 1787:—"Mrs. Thurlow has determined to put herself into a dress made out of the piece of muslinette you were so good to present her, and which, for its novelty, and being the first fruits of your labor and art, she prizes beyond the richest productions of the east."
Having made application to the legislature, Dr. Cartwright, in 1809, received a parliamentary grant of £10,000, ($50,000) "for the good service he had rendered the public by his invention of weaving."
There is no knowing to what extent this invention may extend. I remember being very much surprised, when for the first time I walked over a weaving room in one of the cotton mills of Lancashire. The room contained 1058 power looms, all busily at work, excepting a few that were undergoing repairs. These looms give employment to 521 weavers, chiefly young men and women; 22 overlookers, 18 twisters, 6 winders, 2 drawers, and 2 heald-pickers; in all, 571 persons. These looms are capable of weaving 3900 cuts per week, of 69 hours; each cut or piece averaging 46 yards long, 36 inches wide, 52 picks, or threads of weft to the inch. I was taken through a store-room adjoining, nearly filled with goods. I was told that there were about 300,000 pieces in that store ready for the market.
In 1835, there were 116,801 power looms in Great Britain; in 1841, the number was about 130,000, attended by about 50,000 persons, chiefly women and children.
In 1814, a hand-loom weaver could weave 2 pieces of nine-eighths shirting per week, each 24 yards long and 100 shoots of weft to the inch.
In 1823, a steam-loom weaver could weave 7 pieces; in 1826, 12 to 15 pieces; in 1833, with an assistant, 18 pieces similar to the above, in the same space of time.
By returns made to Parliament, dated 28th of March, 1836, and 20th of February, 1839, it appears that in three counties only, viz., Lancashire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, the steam and water power to turn machinery in factories was increased, in three years, from 45,836 to 65,395 horse power, or 42£ per cent. While the number of hands employed in those factories had only increased in the same period, from 242,099 to 292,179; that is, only 20½ per cent."
The following table will show the increase of trade, and the decrease of wages.
|Lbs. of cotton consumed.||Hand-weaver's wages.|
|1797,||23,000,000,||26s. 8d a week.|
|1804,||61,364,158,||20s. 0d "|
|1811,||90,309,668,||14s. 7d "|
|1818,||162,122,705,||8s. 9d "|
|1825,||202,546,869,||6s. 4d "|
|1835,||333,043,464,||5s. 6d "|
|1840,||460,000,000,||5s. 6d "|
The above is taken from McCulloch, Porter, and Fielden.
In the year 1839, there were employed in the factories of England, 419,590 persons of all ages and both sexes. Of these, 242,296 were females, and 177,294 males. Of this number, 112,119 females, and 80,768 males, were under 18 years of age.
According to the demonstrations of one of the ablest mathematicians in Europe, who was engaged to go down to the factory districts for the purpose of making calculations on the spot, a great proportion of these people walk, in attending the machinery, from 20 to 30 miles per day, in addition to their various other duties.
A very large proportion of these people die early in life; but should they live to 40, they are rendered incapable of doing their duty in the mills.
In 1832, in Lanark, of 1600 persons employed in the mills, only 10 were above 45 years of age.
In 1839, in 42 mills in Stockport and Manchester, in which 22,094 hands were employed, only 143!! were above 45 years of age.
In the large factory towns, a great proportion of the poor persons selling oranges, nuts, &c. in the streets, are worn out factory workers;—thus in Manchester, of 37 hawkers of nuts, &c., 32 were factory hands; of 28 hawkers of boiled sheep's feet, 22 were factory hands. Hard return for a life of toil and industry.