Factory life and rules at Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.

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Factory life and rules at Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
      Lowell was begun with the high-minded purpose of proving that the wretched working conditions in English factories were not a necessary by-product of industrialization. The original workers at Lowell were New England girls of "good family." They were set up in carefully supervised boardinghouses in the company town and were provided with a library and a variety of "uplifting" activities, including religious instruction. In the late 1840s, however, life at Lowell began to change. Wages were lowered, the workload and hours were increased, and the living quarters deteriorated. The change was in part due to rigorous competition from less idealistic producers. In addition, after 1846 cheap immigrant labour became increasingly available, especially from Ireland. Meanwhile, the relationship between owners and operatives became less paternalistic.

      The following set of regulations was laid down by one of the factories for its employees in 1848 (source: Handbook to Lowell [1848], pp. 42-44).

      Regulations to be observed by all persons employed...

● The overseers are to be always in their rooms at the starting of the mill, and not absent unnecessarily during working hours. They are to see that all those employed in their rooms are in their places in due season and keep a correct account of their time and work. They may grant leave of absence to those employed under them when they have spare hands to supply their places, and not otherwise, except in cases of absolute necessity.
● All persons in the employ of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company are to observe the regulations of the room where they are employed. They are not to be absent from their work without the consent of the overseer, except in cases of sickness, and then they are to send him word of the cause of their absence. They are to board in one of the houses of the company and give information at the counting room: where they board, when they begin, or whenever they change their boarding place; and are to observe the regulations of their boardinghouse.
● Those intending to leave the employment of the company are to give at least two weeks' notice thereof to their overseer.
● All persons entering into the employment of the company are considered as engaged for twelve months, and those who leave sooner or do not comply with all these regulations will not be entitled to a regular discharge.
● The company will not employ anyone who is habitually absent from public worship on the Sabbath or known to be guilty of immorality.
● A physician will attend once in every month at the counting room to vaccinate all who may need it, free of expense.
● Anyone who shall take from the mills or the yard any yarn, cloth, or other article belonging to the company will be considered guilty of stealing and be liable to prosecution.
● Payment will be made monthly, including board and wages. The accounts will be made up to the last Saturday but one in every month and paid in the course of the following week.
      These regulations are considered part of the contract with which all persons entering into the employment of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company engage to comply.

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Universalium. 2010.

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