The Industrial Worker in Pennsylvania, 1800-1840

By William A. Sullivan | Go to book overview

III
THE WAGE EARNERS -- PART II

The Iron Workers

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,

____________________
1
James M. Swank, History of the Manufacture of Iron in All Ages ( Philadelphia, 1892), p. 189.
2
Arthur C. Bining, Pennsylvania Iran Manufacture in the Eighteenth Century ( Harrisburg, 1938), p. 19.

-59-

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The Industrial Worker in Pennsylvania, 1800-1840
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • PENNSYLVANIA HISTORICAL AND MUSEUM COMMISSION ii
  • Preface iii
  • TABLE OF CONTENTS vii
  • I - THE INDUSTRIAL SETTING 1
  • II - THE WAGE EARNERS 29
  • III - THE WAGE EARNERS -- PART II 59
  • IV - GROWTH OF TRADE UNIONS 85
  • V - LABOR ORGANIZATION DURING THE AGE OF JACKSON 99
  • VI - THE SKILLED ARTISANS AND INDUSTRIAL STRIFE 119
  • VII - LABOR STRIFE AMONG THE UNSKILLED WAGE EARNERS 145
  • VIII - LABOR AND POLITICS DURING THE JACKSON ERA 159
  • IX - THE WAGE EARNERS AND SOCIAL REFORM 209
  • Appendix A 217
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 247
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