Immigration and Labor: The Economic Aspects of European Immigration to the United States

By Isaac A. Hourwich | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE COTTON MILLS

THE cotton mills furnish a good field for the study of the effects of immigration upon the condition of labor in the United States. According to the investigation of the Immigration Commission, 68.7 per cent of the operatives in the New England States were of foreign birth. The races of the "old immigration" were represented by 37.8 per cent, and those of the "new immigration" by 30.9 per cent.1 The latter are mostly recent arrivals. In 1900 the proportion of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and their American-born children varied from 3.1 per cent in New Hampshire to 13.2 per cent in Massachusetts.2

The Immigration Commission has obtained from one of the largest and oldest mill corporations figures showing the movement of wages since 1875.3 The movement may be divided into two periods: (1) from 1875 to 1898 and (2) from 1899 to 1908. The first period, when the cotton-mill operatives were practically all English-speaking, was one of intermittent advances and reductions; on the whole wages remained stationary. The second period, which is marked by the advent of the Southern and Eastern Europeans into the cotton mills, is conspicuous by an uninterrupted upward movement of wages, which was checked only by the crisis of 1908. Still, even after the reduction

____________________
1
Reports of the Immigration Commission vol. 10, Table 7, pp. 14-15.
2
Ibid., Table 19, p. 36.
3
Ibid., p. 291.

-375-

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