THE WAGE EARNERS -- PART II
WHILE THE FACTORY operative was experiencing all the stresses and strains which modern industrial society imposes upon the wage earner, the stolid worker on the iron plantations was isolated from the main stream of American life. He lived on the huge holdings of the ironmaster and found his life more closely akin to that of the medieval serf than the industrial worker. He looked to the ironmaster for his job and his home; made his purchases at his store, and often found himself heavily in debt and his freedom seriously circumscribed by his obligations to him.1
None of the turbulence which characterized the relations between labor and management in the textile industry was in evidence among the iron works scattered throughout the State. His hours of work were long, equally as long as those of the factory hands. The nature of his work was hard and gruelling, physically far more strenuous than that of the operative.2 Working in minepit, and forest, or at furnace and forge was "man's" work and the names of women rarely appeared on the ironmaster's pay roll. However, boys were frequently employed.
The ironworker's was a rural existence and probably here lay a partial explanation for the comparative peace which prevailed in the iron industry in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although hardship and poverty were his lot, he was never as completely at the mercy of those fickle economic forces which brought so much misery and unrest to the city worker. In contrast with the factory hand who lived more often than not in crowded and unsanitary dwellings, the ironworker and his family were sometimes provided not only with a home but with a sizable plot of land for gardening, pasturing his animals, and firewood. The labor contract which defined the relations between the ironmaster and his workmen, especially with the more highly skilled -- the founders, the fillers, the guttermen, the coalers,____________________