Anda di halaman 1dari 11

NEW SOLIDARITY

October 13, 1979

Page 4

The American Factory System And the Mills of Manchester


by Ginny Baier

The Amoskeag Mills of Manchester at the turn of the 20th century.

Recently I had the opportunity of visiting Manchester, New Hampshire where the Citizens for LaRouche headquarters in that state is located. The Merrimack River running below the main street is lined with old textile mills. My curiosity about them led me to the Manchester Historical Association, where the staff introduced me to Manchester's history as a mill city. Their understanding of the importance of that industry to the development of New Hampshire made me reflect on the high moral quality of the citizens of that state, who so seriously evaluate the candidates and the issues brought before them during the presidential primary. The people of New Hampshire still recall the vital industrial boom which occurred after the American Revolution, because the waterways and mills, and the ideas that shaped them have shaped their lives and thinking as well. Like the staff at the Manchester Historical Association, the people of New Hampshire understand the importance of the Seabrook nuclear power plant as the necessary advanced technology which will provide the energy resource for industrial expansion. Seabrook maintains the traditions of "American Perfectability" and "Yankee Ingenuity"not as cliches in some liberal candidate's mouth but as the indomitable spirit of progress which once ruled our country. Just as New Hampshire citizens once welcomed the Amoskeag Mills into their rural countryside, they welcome Seabrook as a means to return industry to New England, because they know that just as the mills did, it will qualitatively improve their lives. The great textile mills of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and other New England cities are now abandoned. Many closed down in this century or

moved to the south, leaving thousands of skilled workers jobless. Today those who would return America to its "unblemished" primitive origins talk of the mills as though their creation were a criminal offense. Through examining the origin of the mills however, we are moved to awe and admiration of the American System. There was a time when Americans believed they could do anything. They believed it because they had already done the impossible. Manchester is part of that story. A Planned City Manchester, N.H. was a planned city, planned and built beginning in the 1830s along the banks of the Merrimack River, where only a small farming village had previously existed. The city represents a unique example of the rapid industrial expansion which occurred during the early part of the nineteenth century in this country. It was created by a group of men who had a "new idea" for the production of textiles which encompassed not only the building of the Amoskeag Mills, but the city in which its workforce would live. This top-down concept of industrialization proved to be so successful that Manchester became within a short time of its origin the largest textile manufacturing city in the world. A report in a New England newspaper in 1847 gave the following account: In the year 1838, I passed through this place when the first factory and block of boarding houses were being erected. Since that time . . . A city has sprung up as if by magic; for it seems but last year that I saw the place as above described. But now those sandy plains are covered with long broad streets, magnificent stores and hotels, princely mansions, beautiful carriages, spacious school houses and elegant churches. The writer goes on to describe the core of what made this possible: Between the main street and the river are the boarding houses, the railroad with its extensive and very convenient depot, the canal and the factories with all their appurtenances, all of which are so arranged as to render Manchester one of the most delightful manufacturing cities in the world. This kind of planning initiated the American system of manufacturing. It produced the highest skilled labor force and the greatest industrial output in the world by controverting the policies of Great Britain, which maintained

its colonies and even sovereign nations as enslaved peoples, looting their raw materials and maintaining them in technological backwardness as "captive markets" for British goods. Great Britain even passed laws making it a crime for British residents or travelers to export or explain British plans and technology to citizens of any other country. Consequently America's industrialization was a bootstrap operation, which demanded of our founding scientists, engineers and inventors that they not only achieve the technical standard set by Europe, but surpass it, if they were to survive the continued repressive tactics of the British. This attitude has become known as "Yankee ingenuity," but few now realize what this meant. The Power Loom The water power loom for the manufacture of textiles was first introduced into this country by Francis Cabot Lowell and his financial backers, Patrick T. Jackson and Nathan Appleton. In 1858 Appleton wrote an account of The History of the Power Loom and the Origin of Lowell, Mass. He describes the circumstances as follows. "The power loom was at this time (1811) just being introduced in England but its construction was kept very secret, and after many failures, public opinion was not favorable to its success." He describes how he and Jackson approached Lowell while he was in England on vacation about looking into the Manchester mills. Like many inventive Americans of the early nineteenth century, Lowell proved himself to be a mechanical genius. He had to memorize the plans for the power loom in order to avoid imprisonment by the British. When he returned to the United States, Lowell immediately began to improve its design. The end result was a radically different machine that worked. The necessary capital of $400,000 to perfect and produce the loom was raised between Lowell, Patrick T. Jackson and Appleton. "I well recollect the state of admiration and satisfaction with which we sat by the hour watching the beautiful movement of this new and wonderful machine, destined as it evidently was to change the character of all the textile industry," Appleton later recalled. It was not the power loom by itself which changed the character of the textile industry, but a grand design for the maximum benefit of its invention to the country's economy and the quality of life of its citizens. Lowell and

Power canals supplied swift-running water to turn the original mill wheels (above). Innovations, like the continuous cylinder printing used for calico, were a constant labor-saving feature of the early mills (below). The mill girls (inset) were respected members of the community. They received an education, and often became teachers and community leaders after they left the mills.

his backers were conscious of earlier attempts in this country toward mechanization in a battle to gain rapid economic growth. It was a continuing battle against the British imposed slave system, and laborious craft methods. It prompted them to seriously consider every aspect of the production process and take the necessary steps to assure its success. They quietly bought up land and water rights to avoid real estate speculation, and maintained tight control over their second venture, the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester. They were determined to prove that it was not manufacturing, but the British method of manufacturing, which had such an oppressive effect on its population. Essential to their venture was fast running water as an energy resource. New England had an abundance of waterways and newly created canals whose locks provided artificial falls in which to place their millwheels. Next, they had to consider the specific components of this new mill to assure smooth operation. In addition to the loom, Lowell invented other new technologies in order to save labor in passing from one process to another. He approached other inventors and when they stalled in the hopes of increasing their personal return on inventions, Lowell was capable of immediately improving their designs and creating better machinery, just as he had done with the new power loom. From the beginning he was driving towards an entirely new system of manufacture. This led him to another important consideration. The Labor Force Once Lowell and his financial backers had the necessary technology, the immediate question facing them was the implementation of the factory concept. The mechanization of the textile process demanded a larger workforce than the classes of cottage weavers and supplementary hands formerly employed in the craft process. The new industry instantly created a labor shortage. Where were they to find sufficient skilled labor to man the mills? The question was asked in terms of the purpose for building the mills in the first place. Appleton writes:

The introduction of cotton manufacture was a new idea. What would be its effect on the character of our population was a matter of deep interest. The operatives in the manufacturing cities of Europe were notoriously of the lowest character for intelligence and morals. The question therefore rose, was deeply considered, whether this degradation was the result of the peculiar occupation [of factory worker] or other causes. We could not perceive why this peculiar description of labor should vary in its effect upon character from all other occupations. This concern for the "operative" of the mills differed sharply from the way the mills of Manchester's namesake in England were run. Americans were keenly aware that in England, the imperfectly mechanized textile (and other) mills brought in young children, deprived them of an education, and so brutalized them throughout their lives with harsh treatment and poor wages that most, as adults, were degraded to little more than animals. Previous to Lowell's fresh approach to manufactures, Samuel Slater, an Englishman, had been welcomed in the U.S.A. because he offered to bring with him the secret plans of early partially mechanized looms. So eager were Americans for such knowledge, they gave him a whole factory. But Slater did not have the wit to solve the complex problems that arose. He could not improve on what he brought with him, and this first factory in America instantly created the same problem the Lowell group faced . . . a complete lack of skilled labor. In desperation, children were hired, but even though farm children were accustomed to work at an early age, and the factory children were treated well, it was considered imperative by Americans that children first receive a basic education. Another solution had to be found. When household manufacture ceased with the advent of textile mills, it freed women to work. "There was little demand for female labor," states Appleton, but "there was in New England a fund of labor, well educated and virtuous." The Amoskeag manufacturers called in the farm girls from the surrounding rural area of New Hampshire and offered high wages and comfortable housing. "It was not perceived how a profitable employment has any tendency to deteriorate the character." Once the waterways and necessary land were purchased, machinery developed, and a workforce found, the manufacturing group who planned to build the Amoskeag Mills, just as they had first built the Lowell Mills,

carried out their plan by starting from scratch and carefully building not only the mill factories, but the town which received so much acclaim from all who visited it. They hired architects and engineers to plan the roads, bridges and structures of the town. The beautiful brick mills with their large-paned windows to keep them light and airy still stand today. Between each such building a mill yard was planned and careful attention was paid to its gates and masonry to produce an "aesthetic effect" on the workers. The houses, offered by the company at negligible interest to its employees, were built at right angles to the mills, up the sides of the hill which slopes to the river. Between them lay the boarding houses for the populations of mill girls. Lots were sold at auction to encourage supportive industries, churches were given land. The mill owners zoned the town to avoid overcrowding. They encouraged the rapid development of a school system, establishment of a library, and the Lyceum, which later presented lectures by visiting scientists and educators. The men and women who flocked to the new city from the rural areas considered the work in the mills to be the finest education available. Manchester was never a company town. It had no company store. It sold its own housing to its employed families, and provided the lowest rents in town in its boarding houses. The factory was there to benefit the citizens. The Amoskeag Mills In 1910 the Amoskeag Mill agents described their factories and town with pride. Pop. 70,000 (will be 100,000 in 1920) Employees 15,000 paid $150,000 weekly Produces $50,000,000 of manufactured goods annually Yearly payroll $10,000,000 Produces 50 miles of cloth per hour Reasons why you should live in Manchester: healthful climate, inexhaustible pure water supply, splendid school system, perfect fire protection, superb park systems and its fine, regularly arranged well shaded streets. It is the best lighted city in the country. Low tax rate, small public debt and equable system of evaluation.

Center of six steam railway lines and rapid transit interurban electric lines. Has hydraulic developed electric power. During 75 years of continual growth, the original town planning shaped this city with a unity of purpose which in this century has lost its impetus but is not forgotten. At its peak the world's largest textile plant had thirty mills, each equivalent to a major mill, set along two miles of the Merrimack. It had 24 separate cloth making houses, manufacturing everything from traditional ginghams to newly invented domestic cloths like drills, and brocades. "A large capital is essential to success," said Appleton, one of the original investors in Lowell's loom and the eventual shaping of the Amoskeag factories. "Lowell, Mass. was financed on the principle that not more than 2/3 to go into fixtures and machinery, with 1/3 to carry. One thing is certain, manufactures cannot be carried on to any great extent in this country in any other manner than a joint stock company." This joint stock company was at first composed of a handful of men, including Lowell and his brother; Patrick T. Johnson; Appleton, who performed the important service of selling the American public on domestic goods; and the Boott brothers, who handled the purchase of land and water rights, and who actively continued to work on their development. The Amoskeag Mills were built twenty years after the first mills of Lowell, and by this time Lowell had died and the corporation had grown considerably. The factories themselves were run by company agents. The directorships were filled "with men of the highest character and talent that could be obtained. It has been thought and found to be the case that the best economy is to pay such salaries as will command the entire services of such men." The directors were also stock holders. That each man made an important contribution in addition to financial backing can be seen in the case of John and Kirk Boott who had the responsibility for maintaining the energy source for the mills. The first great feat of mechanical genius which Americans accomplished was the building of the canal system of waterways at the beginning of the 19th century to facilitate the transportation of goods. These first "highways" were the training ground of civil engineers with the outlook of those trained at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

As more and more wheels were entered into streams, canals were built to provide more falls, but the investors quickly realized that they were not using their resources efficiently. "Instead of more canals, the turbine wheel was introduced." "As the old wheels decayed they have been replaced by turbines." The first railroads in the country were built in the New England area shortly after the introduction of the mills. There followed greater use of steam engines, and Amoskeag became a locomotive building center as well. During the course of the company's growth it constantly invested in and researched new power resources, until at its peak it boasted three major steam power plants and the hydroelectric plant which made the electrical system of Manchester the most advanced in the country. This concern and awareness of the necessity for the development of new energy resources is characterized today by the nuclear power installation of Seabrook. New Hampshire has always been at the fore in terms of energy technology. The American factory system created the confidence Americans have always fundamentally had that "We can do anything." During the nineteenth century it was called the perfectibility of America. This is part of an international humanist tradition. The republicans of this new country planned for rapid economic growth in a manner similar to the republicans of the Renaissance. The Arno Valley project which the great creative genius Leonardo da Vinci proposed in the 15th century was also planned around the energy resource of water. After surveying the area he proposed the digging of a canal which included careful plans to engineer tunnels that would not be built for another hundred years. He planned the irrigation of farm land, and the factories that should be located on the banks of the canals. He even worked out the manpower requirements necessary for the project and designed the machinery. Most importantly the canal would connect Florence to the sea so that the goods she produced, raw and manufactured could be traded. America has seen such dreams realized, through the American System. It was the continual emphasis on improving human creative powerstechnological innovation, high wages, capital intensive investmentthat built Manchester. As Nathan Appleton put it: It was the Americans who first introduced the manufacture of heavy goods by the application of the least amount of labor to

the greatest quantity of raw materials, thus producing a description of goods far cheaper to the consumer than heretofore existing. This system the English have been obliged to follow. . . . The contrast in the population of our manufacturing companies (to that of Britain) has been the admiration of the most intelligent men who have visited us. The effect has been to more than double the wages of that description of labor from what they were before its introduction. To make this possible, Lowell organized the owners of unmechanized textile mills "to assure them that the introduction of the power loom put a new face on manufacturing . . . by degrees they woke up to the fact that the power loom was an instrument which changed the nature of manufacturing." In this way he also assured them that a low tariff on foreign imports would be sufficient and would maintain a foreign market for the mass production of goods. His mathematical capability enabled him to perfect the original English fly frame which was without any fixed principle for regulating the changing movements necessary to fill in a spool and he asked for the first mathematical patent in the country, much to the astonishment of the courts. Together, Lowell and his partners changed the course of American history. In summarizing his 1858 pamphlet from which these quotes have been taken, Appleton again praised the many labor saving devices, and the process Lowell worked out: It is remarkable how few changes have been made since. The Battle with the British The powerful statements made by Appleton were in fact a defense of the factory system he had helped develop against the British. Even before the Amoskeag Mills were built, the southern planters had become agents of British policy. Commented Appleton, "In 1818 Mr. Calhoun visited the establishment at Waltham with apparent satisfaction of having himself contributed to its success. It is lamentable to think that in 1832, under the alluring vision of a separate Southern Confederacy, he should become the active enemy of manufacturing which was doing so much for the southern planters . . . The cotton planters themselves have ever been the most deadly enemies of the manufacture."

Throughout the 19th century, the British never ceased their efforts to undermine and destroy the American "city-builder," through manipulation of world financial markets and through British agents and dupes in the U.S.A. itself. Andrew Jackson's presidency destroyed Hamilton's Bank of the United States, set up to insure credit to industry and agriculture, and fomented the backward British against which this nation had fought the American Revolution. The cottage mentality, similarly that of the present day "environmentalist," actively demonstrated against the introduction of new inventions and clung to the backbreaking slave labor methods. Economic pressures in this country and Europe, brought on by Britain's speculative "boom-bust" "free enterprise" methods, eventually began to sap the mills. "Cost-cutting" anti-labor policies became institutionalized. Immigrants were hired as mill workers at progressively lower wages. As mill technology stagnated and plant and equipment wore out the mill owners tried to "improve productivity" with 16 hour days and seven day work weeks, which provoked the first strikes at the mills. The mill owners had lost sight of what had made the American industrial system work. In spite of this, Manchester, the birthplace of successful industrialization, still clung to an idea of progress and continued to grow. Manchester's Amoskeag Mills closed after a long and bitter strike in 1922 which finished off the company. Forty years after the company had shut down the skilled workers of Manchester still called themselves Amoskeag men. Tamara Harenan in her book, Life and Work in an American City quotes one such worker: It's too bad to see so many beautiful buildings in ruins and to think that so many people earned their living there. Today everything is falling down. If our old parents who worked so much in these mills, if they could see them now, it would break their hearts. It would break their hearts too to see the attack being waged on magnificent advanced technology of Seabrook. In New England, and in other parts of the country most Americans have a gut notion of progress. We'll boast again, "the Yankee nation can beat all creation."