The Industrial Worker in Pennsylvania, 1800-1840

By William A. Sullivan | Go to book overview
Save to active project

VII
LABOR STRIFE AMONG THE UNSKILLED WAGE EARNERS

THE POLITICAL DEMOCRACY which ushered in the Jackson Era had its repercussions in the labor movement. The skilled and the unskilled, the men and women workers, all on one occasion or another expressed their disapproval of existing conditions. Shorter hours and Sunday work, higher wages and the union shop caused many bitter conflicts between capital and labor. Provocative efforts by the entrepreneurs to lower wages, the speed up, and the introduction of new machinery often initiated a spirited resistance by the wage earners. But the disputes over hours and wages overshadowed all others in the "Age of Jackson."

Probably nowhere can a better expression of this insurgent democracy be found, than in the struggles of the factory operatives and the manual laborers to raise their status in society. In the fall of 1828, the cotton spinners of Philadelphia and its suburbs struck against a proposed reduction of twenty-five percent in their wages.2 They complained of the "avarice of their employers, who are attempting to reduce the prices of labour, although they already accumulate in the form of profits more than is obtained by the journeymen as wages."3 While the spinner could make only "from $7.50 to $8.50 per week . . . by working the full period of twelve hours," the strikers contended that, "in doing this he actually earned for the millowners, from $40 to $50 dollars per week."4 As the strike progressed, feeling between the strikers and those who persisted in working grew taut. At Norristown, a few children sneered at a scab and were taken to court and charged with assault.5 Three striking spinners at Manayunk were bound over by the Philadelphia County Court to keep the peace because it was alleged that they had threatened strike breakers.6 Despite a standout of over three months and

____________________
1
Paper read before the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Historical Association which convened at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penna., October 1949. Printed in Pennsylvania History, 17, January 1950, pp. 23-38.
2
The Mechanic's Free Press, November 15, 1828 and April 17, 1830.
3
Ibid., December 20, 1828.
4
As cited in Commons, History of Labour, I, p. 418.
5
Mechanic's Free Press, Nov. 15, 1828.
6
Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, III, Jan. 17, 1829, p. 39.

-145-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Industrial Worker in Pennsylvania, 1800-1840
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 253

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?