Lowell Mills: Factory Rules from the Handbook to Lowell, 1848
REGULATIONS TO BE OBSERVED by all persons employed in the factories of the
Hamilton Manufacturing Company. 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 a ll 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, exc ept 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 over-seer, except in cases of
sickness, and then t hey 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 t he regulations of their
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 any one 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.
Any one 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
JOHN AVERY, Agent.
Massachusetts Investigation into Labor Conditions
Excerpted from Massachusetts House Document, no. 50, March of 1845.
The Special Committee to which was referred sundry petitions relating to the
hours of labor, have considered the same and submit the following Report:
... On the 13th of February, the Committee held a session to hear the
petitioners from the city of Lowell. Six of the female and three of the male
petitioners were present, and gave in their testimony.
... Miss Sarah G. Bagely said she had worked in the Lowell Mills eight years and
a half, six years and a half on the Hamilton Corporation, and two years on the
Middlesex. She is a weaver, and works by the piece. She worked in the mills
three years befo re her health began to fail. She is a native of New Hampshire,
and went home six weeks during the summer. Last year she was out of the mill a
third of the time. She thinks the health of the operatives is not so good as the
health of females who do house-w ork or millinery business. The chief evil, so
far as health is concerned, is the shortness of time allowed for meals. The next
evil is the length of time employed -not giving them time to cultivate their
minds. She spoke of the high moral and intellectual character of the girls. That
many were engaged as teachers in the Sunday schools. That many attended the
lectures of the Lowell Institute; and she thought, if more time was allowed,
that more lectures would be given and more girls attend. She thought tha t the
girls generally were favorable to the ten hour system. She had presented a
petition, same as the one before the Committee, to 132 girls, most of whom said
that they would prefer to work but ten hours. In a pecuniary point of view, it
would be better , as their health would be improved. They would have more time
for sewing. Their intellectual, moral and religious habits would also be
benefited by the change. Miss Bagely said, in addition to her labor in the
mills, she had kept evening school during th e winter months, for four years,
and thought that this extra labor must have injured her health.
... From Mr. Clark, the agent of the Merrimack Corporation, we obtained the
following table of the time which the mills run during the year.
From 1st May to 31st August, at 5o clock.
From 1st September to 30th April, as soon as they can see.
From 1st November to 28th February, before going to work.
From 1st March to 31st of March, at 7 ¼ o'clock.
From 1st April to 19th September, at seven o'clock.
From 20th September to 31st October, at 71/2 o'clock. Return in h alf an hour.
Through the year at 12 ½ o'clock.
From 1st May to 31st August, return in 45 minutes.
From October, at 7 ½ o'clock.
Return in half an hour.
Through the year at l2 ½ o'clock.
From 1st May to 31st August, return in 45 minutes.
From 1st September to 30th April, return in 30 minutes.
From 1st May to 31st August, at 7 o'clock.
From 1st September to 19th September, at dark.
From 20th September to 19th March, at 7 ½ o'clock.
From 20th March to 30th April, at dark.
Lamps are never lighted on Saturday evenings. The above is the time which is
kept in all the mills in Lowell, with a slight difference in the machine shop;
and it makes the average daily time throughout the year, of running the mills,
to be twelve hour s and ten minutes.
There are four days in the year which are observed as holidays, and on which the
mills are never put in motion. These are Fast Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving
Day, and Christmas Day. These make one day more than is usually devoted to
pastime in any o ther place in New England. The following table shows the
average hours of work per day, throughout the year, in the Lowell Mills:
Hours Minutes Hours Minutes
January 11 24 July 12 45
February 12 August 12 45
March 11 52 September 12 23
April 13 31 October 12 10
May 12 45 November 11 56
June 12 45 December 11 24
A Description of Factory Life by an Associationist in 1846
...We have lately visited the cities of Lowell and Manchester, and have had an
opportunity of examining the factory system more closely than before. We had
distrusted the accounts, which we had heard from persons engaged in the Labor
Reform, now beginning to agitate New England; we could scarcely credit the
statements made in relation to the exhausting nature of the labor in the mills,
and to the manner in which the young women, the operatives, lived in their
boarding-houses, six sleeping in a room, poorly ventilated.
We went through many of the mills, talked particularly to a large number of the
operatives, and ate at their boarding-houses, on purpose to ascertain by
personal inspection the facts of the case. We assure our readers that very
little information is po ssessed, and no correct judgments formed, by the public
at large, of our factory system, which is the first germ of the Industrial or
Commercial Feudalism, that is to spread over our land.
In Lowell live between seven and eight thousand young women, who are generally
daughters of farmers of the different States of New England; Some of them are
members of families that were rich the generation before.
The operatives work thirteen hours a day in the summer time, and from daylight
to dark in the winter. At half past four in the morning the factory bell rings,
and at five the girls must be in the mills. A clerk, placed as a watch, observes
those who a re a few minutes behind the time, and effectual means are taken to
stimulate to punctuality. This is the morning commencement of the industrial
discipline- (should we not rather say industrial tyranny?) which is established
in these Associations of this m oral and Christian community. At seven the girls
are allowed thirty minutes for breakfast, and at noon thirty minutes more for
dinner, except during the first quarter of the year, when the time is extended
to forty-five minutes. But within this time they must hurry to their
boarding-houses and return to the factory, and that through the hot sun, or the
rain and cold. A meal eaten under such circumstances must be quite unfavorable
to digestion and health, as any medical man will inform us. At seven o'clock in
the evening the factory bell sounds the close of the days work.
Thus thirteen hours per day of close attention and monotonous labor are exacted
from the young women in these manufactories. . . So fatigued-we should say,
exhausted and worn out but we wish to speak of the system in the simplest
language-are numbers o f the girls, that they go to bed soon after their evening
meal? and endeavor by a comparatively long sleep to resuscitate their weakened
frames for the toils of the coming day. When Capital has got thirteen hours of
labor daily out of a being, it can get nothing more. It could be a poor
speculation in an industrial point of view to own the operative; for the trouble
and expense of providing for times of sickness and old age could more than
counterbalance the difference between the price of wages and the e xpense of
board and clothing. The far greater number of fortunes, accumulated by the North
in comparison with the South, shows that hireling labor is more profitable for
Capital than slave labor.
Now let us examine the nature of the labor itself, and the conditions under
which it is performed. Enter with us into the large rooms, when the looms are at
work. The largest that we saw is in the Amoskeag Mills at Manchester. It is four
hundred feet l ong, and about seventy broad; there are five hundred looms, and
twenty-one thousand spindles in it. The din and clatter of these five hundred
looms under full operation, struck us on first entering as something frightful
and infernal, for it seemed such a n atrocious violation of one of the faculties
of the human soul, the sense of hearing. After a while we became somewhat inured
to it, and by speaking quite close to the ear of an operative and quite loud, we
could hold a conversation, and make the inquiri es we wished.
The girls attend upon an average three looms; many attend four, but this
requires a very active person, and the most unremitting care. However, a great
many do it. Attention to two is as much as should be demanded of an operative.
This gives us some id ea of the application required during the thirteen hours
of daily laborer. The atmosphere of such a room cannot of course be pure; on the
contrary it is charged with cotton filaments and dust, which, we were told, are
very injurious to the lungs. On enter ing the room, although the day was warm,
we remarked that the windows were down; we asked the reason, and a young woman
answered very naively, and without seeming to be in the least aware that this
privation of fresh air was anything else than perfectly n atural, that "when the
wind blew, the threads did not work so well." After we had been in the room for
fifteen or twenty minutes, we found ourselves, as did the persons who
accompanied us, in quite a perspiration, produced by a certain moisture which we
o bserved in the air, as well as by the heat.
The young women sleep upon an average six in room; three beds to a room. There
is no privacy, no retirement here; it is almost impossible to read or write
alone, as the parlor is full and so many sleep in the same chamber. A young
woman remarked to us , that if she had a letter to write, she did it on the head
of a band-box, sitting on a trunk, as there was not space for a table. So live
and toil the young women of our country in the boarding-houses and
manufactories, which the rich and influential of our land have built for them.
The Editor of the Courier and Enquirer has often accused the Associationists of
wishing to reduce men "to herd together like beasts of the field." We would ask
him whether he does not find as much of what may be called "herding together in
these modern industrial Associations, established by men of his own kidney as he
thinks would exist in one of the Industrial Phalanxes, which we propose.
Boarding House Rules from the Handbook to Lowell, 1848
REGULATIONS FOR THE BOARDING-HOUSES of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company.
The tenants of the boarding-houses are not to board, or permit any part of their
houses to be occupied by any person, except those in the employ of the company,
without special per mission.
They will be considered answerable for any improper conduct in their houses, and
are not to permit their boarders to have company at unseasonable hours.
The doors must be closed at ten o'clock in the evening, and no person admitted
after that time, without some reasonable excuse.
The keepers of the boarding-houses must give an account of the number, names and
employment of their boarders, when required, and report the names of such as are
guilty of any improper conduct, or are not in the as are guilty of any improper
conduct, or are not in the regular habit of attending public worship.
The buildings, and yards about them, must be kept clean and in good order; and
if they are injured, other-wise than from ordinary use, all necessary repairs
will be made, and charged to the occupant.
The sidewalks, also, in front of the houses, must be kept clean, and free from
snow, which must be removed from them immediately after it has ceased falling;
if neglected, it will be removed by the company at the expense of the tenant.
It is desirable that the families of those who live in the houses, as well as
the boarders, who have not had the kine pox, should be vaccinated, which will be
done at the expense of the company, for such as wish it.
Some suitable chamber in the house must be reserved, and appropriated for the
use of the sick, so that others may not be under the necessity of sleeping in
the same room.
JOHN AVERY, Agent.
The Illinois Labor History Society
28 E. Jackson, Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: (312) 663-4107