Working Conditions in Shirtwaist Factories (Sweatshops)

This blog aims to take a look into the hazardous conditions faced by workers in the shirtwaist factories of New York. Dating back to the early 1900’s, the conditions and environment of shirtwaist factories were notorious for being harmful towards the well being of workers. The purpose of this blog is analyze the work environment of the shirtwaist factory while also answering the questions concerned with why and how their environment came to the way it was. The lasting impact of these working conditions will additionally be supplemented and addressed.

Background and History of Shirtwaist Factories

By most definitions, shirtwaist factories are indeed known as sweatshops. Long hours accompanied by cramp quarters and dim lighting make more a very dismal work environment. The majority of the workers in these factories were immigrants, most notably, young women and children. Much like the majority of the industries during this time period, the well being and safety of the workers was not of an immediate concern in the eyes of owners. Cutting corners through the hiring of cheap immigrant labor made profits grow exponentially. In addition to hiring immigrants, long days and crowded, dark environments made working for shirtwaist factories a living hell.

Sweatshop conditions in the early 1900’s, National Archives (1911)

Clara Lemlich, a former shirtwaist worker, detailed her testimony of the working conditions of the factory. In terms of the work and the conditions, she described in great detail how severe they were. “Well, there is just one row of machines that the daylight ever gets to – that is the front row, nearest the window. The girls at all the other rows of machines back in the shops have to work by gaslight, by day as well as by night.” She later went on to describe the strictness of the work itself. “Whenever we tear or damage any of the goods we sew on, or whenever it is found damaged after we are through with it, whether we have done it or not, we are charged for the piece and sometimes for a whole yard of the material.”

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Disaster

In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located on the top floors a business building,  caught on fire in the heart of New York City, killing over 100 people in the process. This was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City.  Started accidentally from a match or cigarette butt, the roaring fire claimed the lives of garment and fabric workers through asphyxiation and jumping from the building. Since the building was not adequately equipped with safety and fire escape measures, workers were subject to their demise. Workers tried to extinguish the fire through the use of a fire hose, but it was not up to code and was not functional. Additionally, the owners of the factory commonly would lock the doors to the stairs and the exits, in order to prevent workers from taking unnecessary breaks and theft. Broken down elevators along with rusted a fire escape that collapsed could have been the lifesavers for these innocent workers.

Waist Factory Fire, New York Times (1911)

This disaster was a direct result of the harsh working conditions  experienced by the workers. Due to the inadequate factory conditions, lives were lost. By maintaining the building codes and practicing safety measures, the fire, along with the massive casualties could have been avoided.

Impact of Factory Working Conditions

Days after the fire, a massive funeral was held for the victims of the fire. As a direct result of the factory fire, legislation was put in place requiring significant improvement in factory safety standards. Additionally, the emergence of workers’ unions served as a catalyst for better working conditions for sweatshop employees. As a result of such a travesty, the company owners were indicted on charges of manslaughter. However, they were found to be not guilty and were simply required to pay reparations for victims. This incident served as a cautionary tale which ultimately redefined the industrial workplace. The Sullivan – Hoey fire prevention law was eventually enacted in order to make sprinkler and fire control units mandatory for all factories.

Aftermath of Fire, National Archives (1911)

Link to Environmental History

The environment is always changing due to a gamut of factors. The most notable driving forces for these changes comes from socioeconomic as well as cultural influences. The immigrants working in the shop had no choice but to accept the circumstances and description of the job because of how poor and desperate they were. By answering the questions stated at the beginning of this blog, of how and why these conditions came to be, we can gain insight into how this can be prevented in the future. Additionally, the regulations that came from the shirtwaist fire also lead to a paradigm shift within the industrial workplace. Even though the legislation and policies put in place came at the expense of the victims of the fire, it served as a lesson learned in order to prevent future loss of life. The lasting impact of the policies can still be shown in today’s society, which shows the value of knowing the environmental history of such a time period as this.

References:

  • New York Times (1911), 141 Men and Girls Die in Waist Factory Fire; Trapped High Up in Washington Place Building; Street Strewn with Bodies; Piles of Dead Inside. Newspaper. (December 12, 2017).
  • Literary Digest (1912), 147 Dead, Nobody Guilty. Magazine. (December 12, 2017).
  • Lemlich, Clara (1909), Life in the Shop. Testimonial. (December 12, 2017)

Working Conditions in the Coal Mines

The purpose of this blog is to take a deeper look into the harsh working conditions of coal miners, more specifically in West Virginia during the 1800’s. One of the earlier blogs took a broad look at industrialization as a whole and briefly touched on the occupational hazards of working in the coal mines. This blog will hope to provide additional insight into the specific reasons why this environment changed and as well as how it was fixed, along with its lasting impact on the laborers. On the surface, basic economic, social and political factors created an environment that served as unfavorable for these people. However, this is a shallow observation and in order to gain insight into the environment, we have to dig much deeper, more specifically into the mindsets and cultural changes surrounding the coal mining environment. A journalist for the New York Journal stated in a newspaper that “An ordinary coaldigger can mine from two and one-half to three tons of coal per day, and with thousands of the men the advance will be about 30 cents per day.” (New York Journal, 1897)

Exposition of Coal Mining

From the 18th century until the mid 20th century, coal was the primary source of energy for industry and transportation. Originally, anthracite coal was the main coal source for fuel in cities. However, over time bituminous coal became the main source of fuel for locomotives and steam engines in the 1800’s. As the demand for coal as a primary source of fuel for industry, businesses and corporations began to commercially mine coal. Additionally, skilled labor was of high demand but along with it came a slew of problems. However, even though skilled labor was desired, the wage at which they would work at would not be ideal.

Aside from the economic reasons for the environment surrounding the coal miners, there are cultural implications as well. Throughout the history of the United States, men have been expected to assume the role of the  patriarch. Working in such hazardous and life threatening conditions come with a sense of pride and respect for the miners. Acquiescing to cultural tendencies in terms of the coal miners, resulted in a need to work in these conditions and provide for their families. This is part of the reason why the environment went untouched for so long, as the hard labor and treacherous landscape was a part of the cultural identity associated with working as a coal miner. this next paragraph will provide further details on the specific risks assumed by these men.

Coal Miners – Bain News Service (1910)

Hazards of the Workplace

Working in coal mines during the 19th century was extremely treacherous and full of hardships. Coal miners would have to, in some cases, trek miles down dark and cramped mine shafts to get to where the coal was being mined. Workers would spend 10 hour days hunched over and crawling, without a single opportunity to stand up or stretch. Additionally, the underground mines were hot and damp. The musty coal infested air had the potential hazard of being flammable. This gas, also mixed with methane, had serious health effects associated with it. Some of these effects include numbness, violent headaches, partial deafness, and of course the risk of choking on the thick dust. The most notable health effect associated with the inhalation of the coal dust is known as black lung. Aside from chronic health issues, the risk of injury also of concern while working in the mine shafts. Falling equipment and the collapsing of shafts are common occurrences that make these hazards an obvious concern.

Group of coal miners, Williamson, West Virginia (1935)

Solutions to Hazardous Conditions

One example of an early solution put in place in order to alleviate some of the harsh conditions associated with working in the coal mines included the installation of furnace and air intake system at the bottom of the shaft. The furnace acted in the same manner as a chimney, sucking up the warm air and blowing it out of the top of the system while the air intake system continually brought fresh air into the shaft to replace the warm air.  This was only a minor fix that would not solve the immediate health issues associated with working in the coal mines. Congress would not implement health regulations for another century. In 1947 Congress authorized the creation of federal regulations for mine safety. Five years later, the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act was enacted and provided the need for annual inspections. Years later the Coal Act of 1969 required additional inspections for coal mines as well as the enforcement of penalties for violating safety protocol. From this, stricter safety standards were created and also led to monetary compensation for miners diagnosed with black lung from years of prolonged exposure.

Although steps have been taken in order to alleviate the adverse health effects and risk associated with coal mining, there are still issues and hazards in today’s society that have not changed. Most notably (although not specifically coal mining), miners in Chile were trapped a half mile down in a mine shaft for a total of 69 days.  Although the environment and mentality surrounding coal mining and the hazards associated with those responsible for the mining of it has been altered, the risks are still very apparent and still pose threats to those working in these mines. These risks will always be prevalent, but knowing the history of how dangerous this line of work is can help to prevent future incidents of this magnitude.

References:

  • New York Journal. Army Returns to Work. New York Journal (1896). Newspaper (December 8th, 2017)
  • Bain News Service. Coal miners. Library of Congress (1910). Image (December 8th, 2017)
  • Shahn, Ben. Group of coal miners, Williamson, West Virginia. Library of Congress (1935). Image (December 8th, 2017)
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration, History of Mine Safety and Health Legislation. United State Department of Labor. Website (December 8th, 2017)
  • Stover, Gracie. Coal Mining, The Early DaysWest Virginia Genealogy Project. Website (December 8th, 2017)

Working Conditions for Railroad Workers in the 1800’s

This blog will take a look into the working conditions experienced by railroad workers. In order to provide a more concise and accurate analysis, immigrant workers will be the main topic of discussion in this blog. Set in the 1800’s, immigrants were not granted the same respect and rights as their American counterparts. This post is going to dive into why they were not granted these same rights as well as how their environment affected the nature of the work, as well as their conditions. In addition to analyzing the nature of their work and how harsh it was, an analysis of how this effected the environment around them should also be taken into consideration.

The Need for Railroad Expansion

Due to high tourism demand, railroad expansion was of immediate need. Travel by railroad was the most popular mode of transportation during the mid 1800’s. In order to make transportation all the way to the western United States possible, a continental railroad needed to be built. What would follow would lead groups of immigrants to work in life threatening conditions in order to accomplish a goal that would make country wide travel a dream come true.

Chinese Immigrants and the Transcontinental Railroad

One of the most notable examples of harsh working conditions stems from the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Dating back to the early 1860’s, the transcontinental railroad was a railway that would eventually connect the west to the rest of the United States. The project took approximately six years to complete, while relying predominantly on the help of Irish and Chinese immigrants. The majority of these ethnic groups emigrated into America in order to escape poverty and social inequality that plagued their home countries. During this time period, the gold rush in California lead to a massive influx of immigrants with the hope of wealth. Once the rush had ended, many of these immigrants performed other jobs in order to survive. One of those jobs was working on the transcontinental railroad under the Central Pacific Railroad Company.

During this time there was widespread prejudice over hiring ethnic groups. What enticed these companies to hire these immigrants was the fact that they were willing to work in harmful and dangerous areas for extremely low pay. Much like the motives behind during the Industrial Revolution, businesses wanted to achieve maximum profit and minimum cost. This idea came to fruition from the implementation of immigrant labor. Below is a payroll record sheet from Union Pacific. Although it may be hard to see, upon further analysis it was determined that their pay was significantly less than their counterparts.

Payroll Records for Chinese Immigrants

Aside  from the political, social and economic reasons why these laborers were faced with hardship, their mistreatment stems from years of existing prejudice and marginalization. Much like in today’s society, the issue over immigration is still widely disputed. Whenever a group of individuals immigrate into a country, they are immediately faced with adversity. In terms of the Chinese railroad workers, they came to the states in search of work, and found it in the mines of California. Once the gold rush had concluded, the immigrants went in search of work. Americans felt that the Chinese, among other ethnic groups, were taking jobs from other Americans. This created widespread aggression among the Chinese. Even though these railroad companies would eventually hire these immigrants, a lot of prejudice was projected onto these them as a result of the public’s growing annoyance and intolerance for immigrants.

Life on the Tracks

Life for laborers working for the Union Pacific Line was extremely treacherous. Daily work consisted of the use of explosives to break through boulders and mountains. In a first hand account, a Chinese laborer discussed the sheer horror associated with working for the Union Pacific Line: “Twenty charges were placed and ignited, but only eighteen blasts went off. However, the white foreman, thinking that all of the dynamite had gone off, ordered the Chinese workers to enter the cave to resume work. Just at that moment the remaining two charges suddenly exploded. Chinese bodies flew from the cave as if shot from a cannon. Blood and flesh were mixed in a horrible mess. On this occasion about ten or twenty workers were killed.” Incidents such as this were daily occurrences on the railroad construction sites. Immigrants continued to work despite the low pay and devastating working conditions.

Additionally, racial prejudice and suspicion lingered among the Chinese. Their white colleagues were entitled to certain company policies that did not apply to their counterparts. Caucasian railway workers were entitled to higher wages as well as meals and shelter. The Chinese were not compensated for any of these basic human needs. Workers had to find their own food and tents and in some cases, slept in the underground tunnels they were working on.

Chinese immigrant working in the Sierra Nevada

Without the work of these immigrants on the Transcontinental Railroad, it would cease to exist. The discrimination and marginalization of the Chinese would only get worse in the coming years. Laws prohibiting them from voting and becoming citizens only heightened the already existing prejudice in the United States. Luckily, our environment has changed in such a way that has decreased the marginalization of minorities in the United States.

References:

  • Judy Yung, Gordon H. Chang, and Him Mark Lai, eds., Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 40-41 (December 1, 2017).
  • United States Citizenship, Chinese Immigration and the Transcontinental Railroad. Website. (December 1, 2017).
  • Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum, Transcontinental Railroad History. Website. (December 1, 2017).
  • California State Railroad Museum. Central Pacific Railroad Payroll Records. Letter. (December 1, 2017).

 

 

Working Conditions in the Meat Packing Industry

The motif from these blogs is the working conditions experienced by laborers as a direct result of a changing environment. In this particular case, the meat packing industry in major cities in the United States will be analyzed. The time period for these poor working conditions was around the early 1900’s, during a time of unregulated business and a lack of sanitation standards. This blog aims to take a deeper look inside the working conditions of the meat packing industry while also taking into account the environment that was changed a certain way that directly affected the well being of these workers.

As discussed in previous blog entries, the concept of reducing costs and promoting efficiency was the primary thing on the minds of business owners. In the realm of the meat packing industry, there were no regulations put in place in order to aid the laborers that were exposed to such heinous working hazards. Not only were the conditions treacherous, the quality of product being distributed from such factories were not sanitary and quite possibly contaminated. Since washing and personal protective equipment was not a note of concern for business owners, remnants of hair, sweat and dirt would often find their way into the packed meat. These upcoming paragraphs will give further detail on the subject of the working conditions in the meat packing industry, as well as how the conditions were eventually remedied.

More Meat for the Grinder

During the early 1900’s a novel was published by a young journalist by the name of Upton Sinclair. His book, The Jungle, brought to light the sheer horror of the meat packing industry. This was one of the most stunning discoveries that created such a prolific ripple effect that ultimately lead to enactment of the of many food safety laws. Even though the main inspiration for the book was to bring attention to the living and working conditions of the workers, the main topic of discussion as a result of the book was the making and packing of the meat in the factories. Sinclair himself said “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit in the stomach.”

Poster advertising THE JUNGLE, Upton Sinclair’s novel attacking the political corruption and unsanitary conditions of the meat

As an aside, I will give a brief overview of the disgusting nature of the process of making and processing the meat to draw parallels with the working environment. Workers would take scraps and chunks of meat that had fallen off of the hoppers and would simply put the meat right back into the mechanism. The disturbing issue with this was that the meat that had fallen onto the floor was trampled by workers as well as the infestation of rats that would defecate on the rotting meat. In addition to recycling tainted meat, the remnants of burnt ends and chunks of meat would be placed in waste barrels. These barrels would ferment and fester for months on end. Workers would clean out these barrels that contained a plethora of dirt and rust. In order to give the meat a “smoky” flavor, these barrels would be added to the hoppers.

Carving of Meat During the Early 1900’s

Aside from the putrid and repulsive processing of the meat, the working conditions were equally as jaw dropping. Working in the cutting part of the plants required the use of heavy machinery. Fingers and hands were scarred and commonly ripped off in the packing plant. Workers in the tank rooms accepted the risk of falling into open vats. What was truly devastating about this revelation is that, prior to increased inspection regulations, these poor souls that fell into the vats were processed and eventually shipped out with the packaged meat. The working hours added to the misery experience by impoverished laborers during this time.  As stated in my previous blog discussing the Industrial Revolution, companies minimized the amount of pay for workers in order to increase overall profits. Additionally, laborers were required to work around 10 hours every day in the factories.

The working conditions in the meat packing industry during the early 1900’s was primal and barbaric. Stemming directly from the environment, workers had no choice but to endure these conditions. The need for economic growth and profits took precedence over the well being of laborers. It was not until the Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, that legislation became enacted. Not only did it preserve the workers themselves, it also made the final product safer for public consumption. The environment was changed immensely as a result of the Industrial Revolution and was changed even further from the working conditions experienced in the meat packing industry. Much like the effect of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the discovery of a harmful environment created legislation that changed the current status of the environment. These are not the only isolated events of one person’s pursuit causing a paradigm shift in society’s environment. Being able to identify the reasons why and how the environment was changed can help to alter it to our benefit.

References:

  • “Conditions in Meatpacking Plants (1906, by Upton Sinclair).” Dictionary of American HistoryEncyclopedia.com. (November 25, 2017).
  • National Safety Council, Meat Industry Safety Guidelines (Chicago, 1979), p. 33. (November 25, 2017).
  • “Inside a Russian Slaughterhouse, It’s a Far Cry from ‘The Jungle’.” Image.  National Geographichttp://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/26/inside-a-russian-slaughterhouse-its-a-far-cry-from-the-jungle/. (November 25, 2017).
  • “The Meatpacking Industry During The Early 1900’s.” Image.  History Bloghttp://lilmisshistory.blogspot.com/2010/11/meatpacking-industry-during-early-1900s.html.  (November 25, 2017).

 

Slavery Life and Conditions as a Result of a Changing Environment

This blog aims to examine the harsh working conditions experienced by workers as a result of their changing environment. This entry in particular will tackle the harsh laboring conditions of slaves, more specifically as it relates to picking cotton in the United States. As well as how these slaves were subjected to such devastating condition as they relate to the ever-changing environment, from a variety of different perspectives.

This blog will also specify the specific timeline for when this change in environment occurred as well as why it came to be. Before I take a deeper look into why these slaves experienced such hardship, we must compartmentalize the factors that directly effect their environment. The environment can be broken down into social and economic factors that act as catalysts for changing the environment. These variables act in a way that negatively impacted many people, but in this case, we will be examining how these factors affected slaves in the southern United States in the 1800’s.

How Slavery Came to be

A good starting point for this analysis would be how these slaves ended up where they did. This answer stems from both economic and social driving forces that created a sense of acceptance among the culture of slavery. African slavery did not make its way over to the United States until the late 17th century. Due to an overpopulation of slaves in the sugarcane region of the Barbados, planters in the newly established colonies of the Americas were able to use the labor. This would only be the beginning of a long journey for African Americans in the New World. Aside from the implementation of slavery, there was a wide range of factors that led to the justification of slavery in the minds of plantation owners.

As the years progressed, continual economic growth and development from implementing slave labor created widespread implementation of slavery in the United States. From an economic standpoint, slavery was the most viable option for labor during this time period. The economy of these plantations were extremely reliant on the use of slave labor to harvest crops. Crops such as tobacco, indigo, and most notably cotton, helped to stimulate the economy. Implementing slavery into the harvesting of these crops only cut down cost and increased productivity, making plantation owners very wealthy.  Along with this enormous growth in profit came with it a growing sense of immorality. That will be detailed in this upcoming section.

From a social perspective, the idea of slavery was not seen as immoral in the eyes of plantation owners, as well as the southern United States. The main driving force for the social acceptance of widespread enslavement was the work of powerful governments. The policies enacted by the federal and local governments degraded the rights of people of color, bringing along with it a collective toleration for these policies, making it seem like the right thing to do. Much like how a child’s upbringing, the American people learn by example and from directly from their environment. Being shown and taught that slavery enacted a credence that much like the analogy of child rearing, will actually be passed down from generation to generation. This upcoming section will aim to take a deeper look into the specific treatment and conditions that African Americans had to endure as a result of the environmental changes previously outlined in this blog.

Moral Priorities: ‘If we free slaves, who will pick cotton in the fields?’ – David McElroy

Living in a World of Hell

When one thinks about slavery, one of the first things that comes to mind is whipping. Whipping was a tactic used in order to curb certain behaviors perpetrated by slaves. If they were not working to full capacity, slaves were taken to the whipping post and given lashes. Lacerations and gashes covered the backs of these slaves as they would bleed. These strikingly noticeable wounds would serve as warnings to the other slaves on the plantation. In addition to whipping, some ancillary punishments from slave owners consisted of shackling, starvation, solitary confinement, and even torture. These methods of punishment were both cruel and inhumane. This picture below is one of the most famous representations of the severity of whipping.

This famous photograph is known as the “Scourged Back”

Aside from the looming possibility of torture, daily conditions for these slaves made their world a living hell. Normally the work day consisted of working from sunrise to sunset, with limited food and limited breaks. Back breaking labor accompanied with a hot and muggy climate brought the comparison of Hell even closer to reality. The Narrative of Frederick Douglass provides a first hand account of the daily life experienced by slaves during the 1800’s. After the long hours of laboring in the fields, the slaves struggled to find time to sleep. Douglass wrote in his narrative that: “Very many of their sleeping hours are consumed in preparing for the field the coming day; and when this is done, old and young, male and female, married and single, drop down side by side, on one common bed, the cold, damp floor, each covering himself or herself with their miserable blankets; and here they sleep till they are summoned to the field by the driver’s horn.” These conditions are not humane by any stretch of the imagination. Slaves had to deal with abusive environments without any free will. This environment was created as a result of political, environmental, and societal factors that created a world in which a group of people were enslaved as a result of the color of their skin. Luckily we live in a world today where no such thing exists, however, we should take a look at the environmental history in order to learn from our previous generations.

 

References:

  • McElroy, David. Moral Priorities: ‘If we free slaves, who will pick cotton in the fields?’. Blog. David McElroy. Accessed November 16th, 2017.
  • Goodyear III, Frank H. The Scourged Back: How Runaway Slave and Soldier Private Gordon Changed History. Article. America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Accessed November 16th, 2017.
  • Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Book. Library of UNC. Accessed November 16th, 2017.

How the Environment Effects Working Conditions

Industrial Revolution Working Conditions

This blog aims to take a look at different working conditions through different time periods. These harsh conditions stem from a changed environment that created a wide range of predicaments for many different workers. Taking a deep dive into various working conditions provides deeper insight into our history of the environment and how we can learn from it. This blog in particular, will take a deeper look into working conditions as they pertain to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. This is an important topic to look into because the changing environment directly impacted a specific group of people, mainly those working in these factories. By learning about such a topic we can gain a deeper understanding of our ever-changing environment and how to ensure that we alter it in a way that does not negatively impact an entire enclave of individuals.

Labor conditions during the Industrial Revolution were absolutely terrible. The technological advancements and economic boom required an uptick in workers in order to keep up with market’s demand. With such high demand, companies were resorting to putting children in the workforce. With so many workers readily available to work, the hourly rate was set extremely low. These low rates were  a direct result of the insatiable need for profits by factory owners. Relying solely on profit resulted in corner cutting in all facets of the workplace. Along with the slashing of wages, child labor was also implemented as well as a lack of maintenance in the work environment. This created horrendous working conditions for laborers.

Working in factories created a wide gamut of complications for the laborers; physically, mentally, and even emotionally.  Workers faced long and grueling hours working in factories, predominantly textiles, and even in the mines. One of the biggest issues with working in textiles is that working alongside such heavy equipment poses a higher chance of injury for children. Younger boys were used in the coal mines since their smaller bodies could easily maneuver through the shafts. The biggest issue with working in the coal mines is the fear of coal dust. The inhalation of these fine black particles can result in black lung which can have serious if not fatal health implications.

“Child Mascot of Coal Miners for Wilkes‐Barre Coal”

Aside from the physical ailments suffered daily by workers during the Industrial Revolution, their mental health was also at risk. Working more than 60 hour weeks for children can have lasting mental impacts. The continual wearing down of these poor children created an increased chance for user error while on the job. In addition to sleep deprivation, the dimly lit workshops and coal mines also wore down laborers. Health conditions in the workplace were an area of concern in terms of the well being of workers as the years progressed. Child laws were eventually put in place in order to resolve the moral dilemma of child labor. Working conditions were still of concern even after children were taken out of the workforce.

“Destitute Children Picking up Coal from Waste Piles before Winter”

In order to broaden our scope of the health conditions faced by laborers, their living conditions must also be taken into account. As a result of the massive influx of workers, the cities began to become overcrowded. Workers resided in low income housing, that was overwhelmed with disease due to terrible sanitation conditions. These poor housing developments became breeding grounds for bacteria and only worsened the living conditions of the unfortunate inhabitants. Animals such as rats, flies, cockroaches, and even bed bugs thrived in such disgusting landscapes. It would not be for another half century before the pest outbreak would start to be adequately alleviated.

The level of danger that laborers dealt with on a day to day basis is unimaginable, especially for adolescents working in the factories. One case in particular shows the severity of these working conditions. “There are several dangers connected with this work when children do it. On every hand, one can see little tots toting boxes or pans full of beans, berries or tomatoes, and it is self-evident that the work is too hard.” The letter goes onto say “Then there are machines which no young persons should be working around. Unguarded belts, wheels, cogs, and the like are a menace to careless children.” (Child Labor in the Canning Industry of Maryland). This letter is a first hand account of child labor in the canning industry in Maryland. This brings to light just how terrible laborers had it during this time.

In conclusion, the environment that was created as a result of the Industrial Revolution created hazardous working conditions for factory workers. This environment was brought about from the need to maximize profit for big business while also cutting corners in order to sustain this profit. Children were the main group that was affected by these harsh working conditions and they felt the brute force of this changing environment.

Sources:

1. “History Times: The Industrial Revolution.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Accessed November 2, 2017.

2. “American Industrial Revolution.” Syracuse University Libraries. Accessed November 2, 2017.

3. Hine, Lewis. Child Labor in the Canning Industry of Maryland. Letter. Library of Congress. Accessed November 2, 2017.