The Scrap Book, Volume 1, No. 5 July 1906

by: Various

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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The Latest Viewpoints of Men Worth While

An Old Business Man Testifies to the Progress the World Has Made Since Seventy Years Ago—Lewis Carroll's Advice on Mental Nutrition—Rudyard Kipling Defines What Literature Is—Richard Mansfield Holds That All Men Are Actors—Professor Thomas Advances Reasons for Spelling-Reform—Helen Keller Pictures the Tragedy of Blindness—With Other Expressions of Opinion From Men of Light and Leading.

Compiled and edited for The Scrap Book.


Stephen A. Knight, an Aged Cotton Manufacturer,
Tells of Work and Wages
Seventy Years Ago.

The more deeply one looks into the conditions of life in the "good old times" the more likely is he to find reason for exclaiming, "Thank Heaven, I live in the Now!" Life held out comparatively little for the American working man three-quarters of a century ago. Wages were very small, education was exceedingly hard to obtain, and the comforts of life were few in comparison with the present time.

At the recent meeting of the National Association of Cotton Manufacturers, in Boston, Stephen A. Knight, of Providence, a former president of the association, gave his reminiscences of old-time mill work. Mr. Knight began as a bobbin boy in a mill at Coventry, Rhode Island, in 1835. After the lapse of seventy years he says:

My work was to put in the roving on a pair of mules containing two hundred and fifty-six spindles. It required three hands—a spinner, a fore side piecer, and a back boy—to keep that pair of mules in operation. The spinner who worked alongside of me died about two years ago at the age of one hundred and three, an evidence that all do not die young who spend their early life in a cotton-mill. I am hoping to go one better.

The running time for that mill, on an average, was about fourteen hours per day. In the summer months we went in as early as we could see, worked about an hour and a half, and then had a half-hour for breakfast. At twelve o'clock we had another half-hour for dinner, and then we worked until the stars were out.

From September 20 until March 20 we went to work at five o'clock in the morning and came out at eight o'clock at night, having the same hours for meals as in the summer-time.

For my services I was allowed forty-two cents per week, which, being analyzed, was seven cents per day, or one-half cent per hour.

The proprietor of that mill was accustomed to make a contract with his help on the first day of April for the coming year. That contract was supposed to be sacred, and it was looked upon as a disgrace to ignore the contracts thus made. On one of these anniversaries a mother with several children suggested to the proprietor that the pay seemed small.

The proprietor replied: "You get enough to eat, don't you?"

The mother said: "Just enough to keep the wolf from the door."

He then remarked, "You get enough clothes to wear, don't you?" to which she answered, "Barely enough to cover our nakedness."

"Well," said the proprietor, "we want the rest." And that proprietor, on the whole, was as kind and considerate to his help as was any other manufacturer at that time.

The opportunities for an education among the factory help were exceedingly limited, as you can well see, both from the standpoint of time and from the standpoint of money.

But, gentlemen, we are living in better days. We work less hours, get better pay, live in better homes, and have better opportunities to obtain an education.

In place of eighty-four hours we now work fifty-eight hours per week, a difference of twenty-six hours, and as an employer of help I am glad of it. We are not allowed to employ children at the tender age that was in vogue seventy-one years ago; as an employer of help, I am glad of that.

We get better pay for our services. There is at least an advance of two hundred per cent, and in many cases more than that.

More Opportunity To-Day.

We live in better homes; our houses are larger, better finished, and kept in better repair. When I was a boy, if we wanted a room re-papered or painted, or even whitewashed, we had to do it at our own expense. It is quite different now. Every village of any size employs painters and other help enough to keep our houses in good, neat, and healthy condition, while the sanitary condition receives especial care. Many of our employees have homes of their own, built with money earned in our manufactories—a thing almost unknown seventy years ago.

I have many times been asked if, in my opinion, the young man of to-day had as good a chance to make his mark in the business world as did his elders? My answer is—never since our Pilgrim Fathers landed on the shores of Plymouth were the opportunities for the young man's success greater than they are to-day. It is for him to determine whether he will be a success or not. The gates and the avenues are open to him, and it is for him to elect whether he will or will not avail himself of the golden opportunities awaiting him.

Such a comparison as Mr. Knight draws from his actual experience does the work of volumes of argument. That the span of one man's life could bridge extremes so widely separated is evidence enough that our country has made remarkable progress.

A Paper by the Late Lewis Carroll, in
Which the Desirability of Feeding the
Intellect Is Dwelt Upon.

The late Lewis Carroll was, first of all, professionally a mathematician, though few readers of "the Alice books" knew it. And his name, of course, was Charles L. Dodgson, and he wrote mathematical treatises. To the time of his death—he was born in 1832 and died in 1898—his readers hoped for more volumes like "Alice in Wonderland" or "The Hunting of the Snark," but Mr. Dodgson's literary output was small. The May Harper's reprints a hitherto unpublished paper from his pen, on "Feeding the Mind," in which he says:

Breakfast, dinner, tea; in extreme cases, breakfast, luncheon, dinner, tea, supper, and a glass of something hot at bedtime....