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State of Pennsylvania,



JUNE, 1840.

Practical and Theoretical Mechanics and Chemistry.

Arts and Artisans at Home and Abroad: with sketches of the progress of Foreign manufactures. By JELINGER C. SYMONS, Esq., one of the assistant Commissioners on the hand-loom inquiry, &c.


Wages in France and Physical condition of the Artisans.

Monsieur Dupin has stated 2 fr. 26 cent. per day as the average payment in the northern, and 1 fr. 90 cent. as the average in the southern provinces. I believe this to be perfectly correct. There are numbers of trades wherein 1 fr. 50 cent. is the average rate of wages per day, but a far greater number earn 2 fr., which, taking France through, I believe to be as near an estimate as can be formed. They who subsist entirely on the profits of weaving plain goods, fall below 1 fr. 25 cent. or 18. per day net wages, but these form a small and insignificant fraction of the working adults of the country.

I will give the rates of wages in the chief departments of manufacturing labour seriatim as I visited the districts. Alsace is the chief cotton district.

In Messrs. Schlumberguer's and Bocard's mills at Guebwillers, the wages were stated to me to be

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In the "Rapport," however, given in by these gentlemen in the year 1829, to a government commission of inquiry in France, I find the following different return:-.

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The increased aptitude of the workmen since 1829, may in some degree account for this discrepancy; but from other inquiries, I am convinced the former of these statements is the maximum, rather than the average rate of payment.

The hours of labour always exceed 13, and are often 14 of actual work, children as well as adults. There is no factory regulation law in France. The wages of the hand-loom weavers are on the whole, the cost of living being taken into account, higher than in Scotland. In Normandy and in some few places in Alsace they are as low; everywhere else they are higher, or to speak more correctly, every where else have the hand-loom weavers of France a greater amount of the necessaries and comforts of life.

I have shown that the reverse is the case with all other employments. It is unnecessary to detail the wages of the hand-loom weavers, which vary for the most skilled class from 6 to 9 fr. per week; for the second rate class from 4 fr. 50 cent. to 6 fr.; and for women and children, forming the third or lowest class, from 2 fr. to 4 fr. 50 cent. These are net wages; the manufacturers either beaming the warps and furnishing the looms in factories, or paying equivalently. Something more, however, is generally earned in the factories; for the weavers prefer usually working at their own homes. The average net wages of an adult Alsace weaver will not exceed 5 francs; that is, a piece of calico of 70 porters, (French) 28 shots in a quarter of an inch, is paid about 5 fr. the cut of 25 French ells (of 44 inches); a good weaver will perhaps weave five ells per day, including lost time, or 6 francs gross wages.

The homes of the working classes are, for the most part, dirty, comfortless, and evincing every symptom of bad management and poverty combined. Even those who have children in the cotton mills, do not keep up any appearance of comfort. I am aware that, passing immediately from Switzerland, where the cottages are pictures of neatness and comfort, I was apt to be too unfavourably impressed with the very inferior condition of the Alsacian artisans. I shall, however, corroborate my own view of the matter, by a quotation from the opinion of one eminently qualified to form a judgment of the mental as well as bodily condition of those around him. In the mean time, I may remark, that I believe that the Alsacian weavers are, generally speaking, not without a sufficiency of food, though in all other respects they are certainly ill off. In the mountains of the Vosges, the peasantry are worse off still, and there looms are also found, but chiefly on the system of the "customer" weavers of Scotland, though not exclusively, for there are some who weave for manufacturers at very low wages.

On this subject, Mr. Nicholas Schlumberguer of Guebwiller, an eminent manufacturer, thus writes to me:

"On the question which is engaging your attention, it may be said in general, that upon the whole the working class can live much more cheaply in France than in England, and consequently the rate of wages is lower in our country than in yours. It may also be said that the working classes are less given to the vice of drunkenness in France than in England; but they

are not moral for all that; their want of prudence is excessive; they live from hand to mouth (du jour le jour); the least illness, or want of work at all prolonged, plunges them into a state of profound misery. They feed themselves irregularly; their houses are dirty, which contributes to render their physical state worse than that of the English workmen.

"The moral and physical condition of the working class in general remains nearly stationary; there are made, here and there, efforts for its amelioration which have had happy results, but, up to this time, the opposition of the great majority of the manufacturers has prevented the Government from proposing to the chambers any regulations analogous to those which exist in England, on the age of admission of children in the factories, and in the duration of work."

At Lyons the long stagnation incidental to the American crisis, caused, since Dr. Bowring's visit, considerable distress; from the effects of which, the recent development of trade has but just relieved them. Neither have all the departments of Lyonese weaving yet resumed their former rates of wages. In the plain goods (articles unis,) in which Zürich is very successfully competing with France, little is now done at all in Lyons. This description of goods has been carried (since Dr. Bowring's visit in 1834) almost entirely into the country, where, of course, food and lodging are to be had at much lower prices, and where, as the workmen are more scattered and less able to concert measures for keeping wages up, wages are more easily lowered. The necessity for lowering them, however, was apparent to me whilst at Zürich; and I was as much convinced by what I saw there, that Lyonese wages in plain silks must fall, as if I had already ascertained the fact.

The conflict which formerly existed between the chefs d'attelier (who are the owners of the workshops, containing from one to ten looms,) and their journeymen called compagnons, goes on in the country just as much as it formerly did in Lyons. In the town much greater harmony subsists as wages have for the most part risen. It is usual for the chef d'attelier to share the wages paid with the weaver or compagnon who weaves the web, the former supplying lodging and upholding the loom and defraying every contingent expense.

The following are examples of the changes in the rate of payment by the fabricant:

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There are among the figured silks for waistcoats, articles paid for as high as 5 and 6 fr. the ell. There is a new description of shawls, of which the ground is thick satin with velvet flowers, having the appearance of being embossed on it, of singular beauty and elaborate design, for which as much as 12 fr. per day gross wages are paid to the chef d'atteliers.

If a chef gained 2 fr. clear per day in 1834, he will gain at least 2 fr. 50 and the compagnon must be an idle follow if he earns less than 1 fr. 75 cent. Many earn upwards of 2 fr. per day.

cent. now,

It appeared also that a great moral improvement had taken place in Lyons, in consequence of the removal of some of the lower paid weavers to the country.

The independence of the weavers of Lyons is very great, and this is caused by the character of the industrial system pursued. The fabricant, of whom there are between 500 and 600 in Lyons, merely gives out the pattern and silk to the chef d'attelier, to whom is intrusted the entire task of producing the web through all the manifold difficulties of the complex operations incidental to the manufacture. The money paid is the object of separate barter, and is generally fixed at joint meetings of weavers and the fabricans. Continual disputes used to occur between them, which are now for the most part transferred to the chef d' atteliers and their compagnons, the latter having become extremely exorbitant in their demands. These form the least respectable class of weavers in Lyons. Having no fixed home they are a fluctuating population, and have neither the stability nor the activity of those who are intrusted with the responsibility, and to whom it imparts respectability. They sometimes, however, amass considerable savings, and occasionally, though not often, establish themselves as chef d' attelier.

In addition to the compagnons, or journeymen, there are also apprentices of both sexes to whom the master teaches his trade, either for a sum of money, or a period, during which the profits of the apprentice's labour belong to the master. When they are sufficiently practised in their art, the master gives the apprentices a task to perform, and whatever they do above is their own profit. If they fail in doing it, an indemnity is recoverable by

the master.

With the high wages gained by the weavers, they are of course enabled to live well, and spend no inconsiderable sum on the aggregate in their Monday and Sunday recreations. The usual meals, and their cost, of a compagnon or common weaver, are thus accurately stated by Dr. Bowring:

"14 lb. of bread, 30 cent., or 3d. (the pound being 18 ounces, and the best bread); one-fourth litre of wine, 124 cent.; dinner, 25 cent.; cheese, 10 cent.; supper, 10 centimes." The dinner will consist generally of soup, and often of a bit of meat in it. Rent varies from L.3 to L.5 per annum, for two or three rooms. Many of the compagnons are boarded by their employers at about 5d. per day. Hours of work vary from 12 to 15.

In appearance, the weavers are an emaciated, miserable-looking set of beings. They are diseased and undersized. The parts of the dirty town of Lyons in which the weavers are principally located, are close and filthy, especially those lying between the Saone and the Mountains de St. Just and de Fourvières. Many individuals are often crowded together in a small apartment, one room frequently containing the man and his wife, two or three children, and a workman and his wife.

Lyons, however, is peculiarly exempt from epidemic disease, and was wholly free from cholera, though exactly in the line it took in 1832, and built, moreover, on the banks of two large rivers. I am persuaded that it owes this entirely to the large lime-kilns in the suburbs; the exhalation of which perceptibly impregnates the atmosphere; and I believe this to be a perfect preventive of cholera.

Tarare, near Lyons, is the chief muslin district of France, and the following extract from a letter, from an intelligent manufacturer, conveys the chief information I collected.

"A portion of our weavers in the country, gain only 75 cent. (7 d.) to 1 fr. 25 cent. (18.) per day; those of the town, from 2 fr. to 2 fr. 50 cent.,

and sometimes 3 fr. according to their skill. The manufacturer furnishes only the reed and the upper mounting, all the rest being at the expense of the workmen. No deduction is made from the wages for the use of these articles.

"Those who are in the town weave all the year, those in the country, at the outside, not above seven months in the year; the remaining five months being occupied in agricultural employment. As nearly all the fathers of our weavers in the country are small proprietors themselves, the weavers are connected with the land, and are consequently not turbulent. Our industry, therefore, escaped the disasters, of which Lyons was the theatre in 1824 and 1832. PHIL. LEUTNER, Pére."

It appears to me, however, that the actual earnings of the weavers have not fallen in the same proportion as the rate of wages; except for the town weavers, it is, I need hardly remark, impossible to form any accurate estimate of their real condition, by the mere money-wages they receive; for the profits of agricultural occupation render their weaving wages merely an indefinite portion of their total income, which can only be estimated approximately.

It may be safely assumed, that a town weaver nets on the average 30. sous per day, and the country weaver 25, for 14 hours' work. They appear to me to work as hard as the Scottish weavers, though scarcely in the same manner: the latter will work desperately for three or four hours, in order that he may loiter and stand at his door an hour; the Tarare weaver, and the remark holds good elsewhere in France, keeps continually shuffling along, if I may so express it, and completes as much in 14 hours' sluggish work, as the Scottish weaver by broken portions of quicker work, extended over the same period.

The character of the Tarare weavers, is that of a quiet simple people, who have few wants, and but limited intelligence, in spite of the recent efforts of the priests to enlighten them.

In Normandy, the wages are very low among hand-loom weavers, who scarcely gain as much as those in the west of Scotland. They are the worst off in France, simply because they are rather more numerous in comparison with the demand for their labour. And the reason why they are so numerous, results from the easy sort of work done in that part of the country. Instead of muslins and silks, as at Tarare, Mulhousen, or Lyons, requiring skilled hands, and, therefore, limiting the number of those in the field of competition, Normandy produces pullicates, domestics, and other coarser articles. Consequently, I found the weavers there, who had no means of other employment, as badly off, or very nearly so, as in the west of Scotland, with which the goods produced by the Norman looms are in direct competition in third markets, whilst they nearly exclude us from their own.

At the same time, whilst the wages of Norman weavers are, if anything, lower than in Scotland, it must not be forgotten, that provisions are at least twenty per cent. cheaper, so that no great difference is perceptible in the condition of the two classes. And were I to be forced (putting love of country aside) to choose, whether I would be a pullicate weaver in Scotland or in Normandy, I think I should be sorely puzzled which to select; or rather which to consider the greater infliction.

The farmers here adopt the same custom towards the artisans as in Scotland, of allowing them land to set potatoes in, a custom very prevalent in Normandy.

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