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1880 59,685 84,539 28,320 172,544
1890 88,837 106,607 23,432 218,876
1900 134,354 123,709 39,866 297,929
1910 190,531 141,728 38,861 371,120

In percentages these figures express themselves as follows:

_Men_ _Women_ _Children_
1870 31.5 51.4 17.1
1880 34.6 49.0 16.4
1890 40.6 48.7 10.7
1900 45.1 41.5 13.4
1910 51.3 38.2 10.5

The question of nationality has had an important bearing upon the
development of the industry in the United States. The constant influx
into the country of successive waves of immigration from the different
countries of Europe has often served in a decade to change the whole
complexion of the labor question. In the original New England mills, the
employees were of almost pure English stock. The sons and daughters of
the Yankee farmers entered the mills, not as a permanent occupation, but
merely as a means of getting a start in life.

Just before the Civil War, the Irish began to come rapidly, and the
actual advent of that struggle saw a great number of the remaining
natives leaving for the army, or thrown out of work. When the fighting
was over they did not return, but the Irish came in even greater numbers.
The next decade saw the arrival of the French Canadians in the New
England states, and there also came, in quick succession, natives of
Italy, and of the various states of eastern Europe.

[Illustration: _Baled cloth being put aboard waiting freight cars_]

This change in the national complexion had two very important results. It
brought into the country a constant stream of cheap labor, polyglot, and
lacking in homogeneity, and consequently slow at first to unionize and
strike. This characteristic brought another in its train - a lack of
stability, and a proneness to transiency. The second result was hardly
less important. It meant that though labor was relatively plentiful, much
of it was unskilled. This lack of skill put a premium upon quantity
production, and led to efforts to develop automatic machinery and
labor-saving devices of all kinds. It compelled most American
manufacturers to specialize upon the coarser kinds of yarns and cloths,
made in simple weaves and patterns, in the making of which the minimum
amount of skilled labor was required.

Native Stock
in Southern Mills

Conditions in the South were somewhat different. From the beginning, the
employes here have been almost entirely of native stock. They came from a
class which previously had little opportunity for any employment of a
regular character outside of farming. When the mills were built these
folks were given, for the first time, an opportunity for continuous
employment. Whole families entered the mills, fathers, mothers and
children serving in different or in the same departments. The South at
first specialized on ducks, twills, denims, and such coarse work. Now,
however, there is a growing tendency to diversify the product. The reason
is found in the increasing capability of the workers, many of whom have
by now spent many years of their lives in the mills, and whose fathers
before them were operatives. Unless present conditions change and the
South becomes the mecca of immigrants - a development probably less likely
now than in the years before the war - there seems to be a strong
possibility that a class of operatives, rivalling eventually in skill
those of the English mill towns, will be developed. The stock is the
same, and the latent capabilities are all there. The determining factors
will probably be the economic changes of the next few years.

A remaining factor in the organization of the mill is the size of the
individual plant, the number of spindles and looms it contains, the
number of workers employed, etc. It is in just this particular that some
of the most characteristic developments of the American industry are
found. About the time of the Civil War, the average New England mill had
less than ten thousand spindles. Today the average is probably between
fifty and one hundred thousand, and perhaps nearer the latter figure than
the former. Some of the mills have nearly, if not quite, a full million
spindles in several buildings. The average in the South is much less than
the New England average. The industry in the older section is definitely
localized, even to the extent of having whole towns devoted almost
exclusively to the manufacture of single grades of cloth. In the South
the mills are more widely scattered, advantage having been taken of labor
supply, water power, and other conditions. Local pride has sometimes
caused the establishment of mills in regions economically unfitted for
them. Such mills do not long survive. The advantage of large scale
production has thus been seized chiefly by the New England mills, but the
generally lower wages of the South have tended to equalize the

[Illustration: _Original Whitney cotton gin, preserved in Smithsonian
Institute in Washington_]

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Online LibraryGuaranty Trust Company of New YorkThe Fabric of Civilization → online text (page 7 of 7)