ARTISANS IN THE
By the middle of the nineteenth century, a work ethic pushed by manufacturers developed, based on the concept of the discipline of time. Its symbol was the milltower clock. This work ethic, powerfully argued for by the clergy and intellectuals, was nevertheless challenged by craftsmen and workers whose traditions clashed with factory discipline and the growing ethic of commercialism. The challenge was reflected in the persistence of work habits that frustrated and angered managers who could not understand the indifference of factory hands to steady work, being on time, and being at the workplace every day.
The nineteenth-century work force was a patchwork quilt of attitudes and cultures that varied according to skill level, ethnic background, religion, race, region, occupation, gender, and country of origin. There was no typical worker and no typical adjustment to factory discipline. It did not come easy to overcome traditional values of European peasants or the pride and independence of craftsmen. Small-town textile mills shut down when the circus came to town. Skilled craftsmen objected when factory gates were locked because it violated their view that they could come and go as free men. Blue Monday absenteeism, immigrant festivals, farm chores, and fishing jaunts that took priority over showing up for work were all evidence that nineteenth-century workers were not yet ready for the routine of an industrial society. Artisans did not want to give up time-honored work habits that they associated with the good and moral life. David Johnson, a shoemaker, recalled with pleasure the festivals, fairs, games, and excursions that were common rituals among Lynn, Massachusetts, cobblers. Samuel Gompers, remembered with delight how New York cigarmakers paid a fellow craftsman to read a newspaper to them while they worked.
The functional autonomy of craftsmen in the nineteenth century was based on the superior knowledge that gave them a sense of independence. This applied to