- RSS Channel Showcase 8649426
- RSS Channel Showcase 5151879
- RSS Channel Showcase 1149652
- RSS Channel Showcase 1405854
Articles on this Page
- 03/07/13--20:32: _1848 Rules for the ...
- 03/07/13--20:33: _1845 Report of Labo...
- 03/07/13--20:34: _1835-48 Mill Girls ...
- 03/07/13--20:34: _Lucy Larcom 1824-18...
- 03/07/13--20:35: _1827 The Textile Sp...
- 03/09/13--04:14: _Women Working - 182...
- 03/09/13--05:11: _Everyday Life for W...
- 03/09/13--06:03: _1800s Women Working...
- 03/09/13--18:27: _Dwellings of Africa...
- 03/09/13--18:35: _American Slaves - Food
- 03/09/13--18:39: _American Slaves Wor...
- 03/09/13--18:40: _American Slaves - C...
- 03/10/13--09:38: _American Slaves & Rice
- 03/19/13--11:28: _A glimpse of everyd...
- 04/20/13--05:58: _American Women by J...
- 05/06/13--07:33: _A Few Quirky, Folky...
- 05/19/13--03:42: _19th-century Pennsy...
- 05/25/13--01:00: _American Landscape ...
- 05/27/13--07:33: _Memorial Day
- 05/27/13--07:37: _Memorial Day
- 03/07/13--20:32: 1848 Rules for the Girls at Lowell, Massachusettes
- 03/07/13--20:33: 1845 Report of Labor Conditions at Lowell, MA Textile Mills
- 03/07/13--20:34: 1835-48 Mill Girls at Lowell, Massachusettes
- 03/07/13--20:34: Lucy Larcom 1824-1893 Poet and Mill Girl
- 03/07/13--20:35: 1827 The Textile Spinning Girls of Lowell, Massachusetts
- 03/09/13--04:14: Women Working - 1824 "Proper" Occupaions for Women in America
- 03/09/13--05:11: Everyday Life for Women in 1800s America
- 03/09/13--06:03: 1800s Women Working at Schools
- 03/09/13--18:27: Dwellings of African Americans before & after the Civil War
- 03/09/13--18:35: American Slaves - Food
- 03/09/13--18:39: American Slaves Working
- 03/09/13--18:40: American Slaves - Clothing
- 03/10/13--09:38: American Slaves & Rice
- 04/20/13--05:58: American Women by Jacob Eichholtz 1776-1842
- 05/06/13--07:33: A Few Quirky, Folky Portraits of Early 19th-Century American Women
- 05/25/13--01:00: American Landscape Painter George Inness 1825-1894
- 05/27/13--07:33: Memorial Day
- 05/27/13--07:37: Memorial Day
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 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, 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 the regulations of their boarding-house.
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 comply.
JOHN AVERY, Agent.
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
In 1775, the American Manufactory at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, introduced to America the spinning jenny, a machine for spinning thread. In 1814, a Waltham, Massachusetts, factory became the 1st American site with a power loom for the mechanized weaving of cloth. During the 1800s, textile manufacture became the largest American industry, employing millions of people, mostly women and children. The earliest textile manufacturer in the United States, such as the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, employed mostly children. Child labor was generally accepted in the 1700s-1800s, since children were already accustomed to working long hours on their families’ farms. Certain of the working conditions — such as 12 to 14 hour workdays 6 days a week for both adult & child workers; low wages; deafening noise; dangerous machinery; unhealthful air; & overcrowded housing— prompted growing criticism of workers’ exploitation as the century progressed.
Massachusetts House Investigation into Labor Conditions 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.
A Description of Factory Life by an Investigator 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, poorl y 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 entering 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.
For further research into New England mill workers...
See the magazine American Ancestors: New England, New York, and Beyond published by theNew England Historic Genealogical Society. Their Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 2013 focues on Researching the Lives of Nineteenth-Century New England Mill Workers.
Online sources for further study...
The Center for Lowell History regularly adds primary records and secondary sources to its website.
Especially useful website features include Mill Life in Lowell, 1820–1880, a collection of links to specific topics; the Lowell Corporation Hospital Association Registry of Patients, 1840–1887; and the Lowell Institute for Savings Bank Records, 1829–1992.
The Harvard University Library, through its Open Collections Program “Women Working, 1800–1930”, has available published texts, manuscripts, & images — a number of which relate to the textile industry & its workers.
You might wish to contact Judith A. Ranta, PhD, who has written books and articles about nineteenth-century American mill workers, including Women and Children of the Mills (1999) and The Life and Writings of Betsey Chamberlain: Native American Mill Worker (2003). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harriet Jane Hanson Robinson (1825-1911) was born in Boston, one of 4 children of William and Harriet Hanson. When she was six years old, her father died. To support the children, her mother moved to Lowell, Massachusettes, to manage one of the boarding houses there operated for the girls who worked in the mills. When she was 10, Harriet began working in the mills intermittently from 1835 to 1848. She left at 23 to marry.
Excerpts from her book Loom and Spindle; or, Life among the Early Mill Girls
"The first factory for the manufacture of cotton cloth in the United States was erected in Beverly, Mass., in 1787, and in 1790 Samuel Slater established the cotton industry in Pawtucket, R.I.; but the first real effort to establish the enterprise was in Lowell, where a large wooden building was erected at the Wamesit Falls, on the Concord River, in 1813.
"The history of Lowell, Mass., is not identical with that of other manufacturing places in New England, and for two reasons: first, because here were gathered together a larger number of factory people, and among them were the first who showed any visible sign of mental cultivation; and, second, because it was here that the practice of what was called " The Lowell factory system " went into operation, a practice which included the then new idea, that corporations should have souls, and should exercise a paternal influence over the lives of their operatives...
"In 1832, Lowell was little more than a factory village. Five "corporations" were started, and the cotton mills belonging to them were building. Help was in great demand and stories were told all over the country of the new factory place, and the high wages that were offered to all classes of workpeople; stories that reached the ears of mechanics' and farmers' sons and glave new life to lonely and dependent women in distant towns and farmhouses .... Troops of young girls came from different parts of New England, and from Canada, and men were employed to collect them at so much a head, and deliver them at the factories...
"The early millgirls were of different ages. Some were not over ten years old; a few were in middle life, but the majority were between the ages of sixteen and twentyfive. The very young girls were called "doffers." They "doffed," or took off, the full bobbins from the spinningframes, and replaced them with empty ones. These mites worked about fifteen minutes every hour and the rest of the time was their own. When the overseer was kind they were allowed to read, knit, or go outside the millyard to play. They were paid two dollars a week. The working hours of all the girls extended from five o'clock in the morning until seven in the evening, with one halfhour each, for breakfast and dinner. Even the doffers were forced to be on duty nearly fourteen hours a day. This was the greatest hardship in the lives of these children. Several years later a tenhour law was passed, but not until long after some of these little doffers were old enough to appear before the legislative committee on the subject, and plead, by their presence, for a reduction of the hours of labor...
"The most prevailing incentive to labor was to secure the means of education for some male member of the family. To make a gentleman of a brother or a son, to give him a college education, was the dominant thought in the minds of a great many of the better class of millgirls. I have known more than one to give every cent of her wages, month after month, to her brother, that he might get the education necessary to enter some profession. I have known a mother to work years in this way for her boy. I have known women to educate young men by their earnings, who were not sons or relatives. There are many men now living who were helped to an education by the wages of the early millgirls.
"It is well to digress here a little, and speak of the influence the possession of money had on the characters of some of these women. We can hardly realize what a change the cotton factory made in the status of the working women. Hitherto woman had always been a money saving rather than a money earning, member of the community. Her labor could command but small return. If she worked out as servant, or "help," her wages were from 50 cents to $1 .00 a week; or, if she went from house to house by the day to spin and weave, or do tailoress work, she could get but 75 cents a week and her meals. As teacher, her services were not in demand, and the arts, the professions, and even the trades and industries, were nearly all closed to her.
"As late as 1840 there were only seven vocations outside the home into which the women of New England had entered. At this time woman had no property rights. A widow could be left without her share of her husband's (or the family) property, an " incumbrance" to his estate. A father could make his will without reference to his daughter's share of the inheritance. He usually left her a home on the farm as long as she remained single. A woman was not supposed to be capable of spending her own, or of using other people's money. In Massachusetts, before 1840, a woman could not, legally, be treasurer of her own sewing society, unless some man were responsible for her. The law took no cognizance of woman as a moneyspender. She was a ward, an appendage, a relict. Thus it happened that if a woman did not choose to marry, or, when left a widow, to remarry, she had no choice but to enter one of the few employments open to her, or to become a burden on the charity of some relative.
"The life in the boarding-houses was very agreeable. These houses belonged to the corporation, and were usually kept by widows (mothers of mill-girls), who were often the friends and advisers of their boarders.
"Each house was a village or community of itself. There fifty or sixty young women from different parts of New England met and lived together. When not at their work, by natural selection they sat in groups in their chambers, or in a corner of the large dining-room, busy at some agreeable employment; or they wrote letters, read, studied, or sewed, for, as a rule, they were their own seamstresses and dressmakers.
"The boarding-houses were considered so attractive that strangers, by invitation, often came to look in upon them, and see for themselves how the mill-girls lived. Dickens, and his "American Notes," speaks with surprise of their home life. He says, "There is a piano in a great many of boardinghouses, and nearly all the young ladies sub- scribed to circulating libraries." There was a feeling of esprit de corps among these households; any advantage secured to one of the number was usually shared by others belonging to her set or group. Books were exchanged, letters from home were read, and "pieces," intended for the Improvement Circle, were presented for friendly criticism.
"There was always a best room in the boarding-house, to entertain callers in; but if any of the girls had a regular gentleman caller, a special evening was set apart each week to receive him. This room was furnished with a carpet, sometimes with a piano, as Dickens says, and with the best furniture, including oftentimes the relics of household treasures left of the old-time gentility of the housemother.
"This mutual acquaintanceship was of great advantage. They discussed the books they read, debated religious and social questions, compared their thoughts and experiences, and advised and helped one another. And so their mental growth went on, and they soon became educated far beyond what their mothers or their grandmothers could have been. The girls also stood by one another in the mills; when one wanted to be absent half a day, two or three others would tend an extra loom or frame apiece, so that the absent one might not lose her pay. At this time the mule and spinning-jenny had not been introduced: two or three looms, or spinning-frames, were as much as one girl was required to tend, more than that being considered "double work."
"The inmates of what may be called these literary house. holds were omnivorous readers of books, and were also subscribers to the few magazines and literary newspapers; and it was their habit, after reading their copies, to send them by mail or stage-coach to their widely scattered homes, where they were read all over a village or a neighborhood; and thus was current literature introduced into by and lonely places.
"From an article in The Lowell Offering, ("Our Household," signed H.T.,) I am able to quote a sketch of one factory boarding-house interior. The author said, "In our house there are eleven boarders, and in all thirteen members of the family. I will class them according to their religious tenets as follows: Calvinist Baptist, Unitarian, Congregational, Catholic, Episcopalian, and Mormonite, one each; Universalist and Methodist, two each; Christian Baptist, three. Their reading is from the following sources: They receive regularly fifteen newspapers and periodicals; these are, the Boston Daily Times, the Herald of Freedom, the Signs of the Times, and the Christian Herald, two copies each; the Christian Register, Vox Populi, Literary Souvenir, Boston Pilot, Young Catholic's Friend, Star of Bethelehem, and The Lowell Offering, three copies each. A magazine, one copy. We also borrow regularly the Non-Resistant, the Liberator, the Lady's Book, the Ladies ' Pearl, and the Ladies' Companion. We have also in the house what perhaps cannot be found anywhere else in the city of Lowell,-a Mormon Bible."
"Novels were not very popular with us, as we inclined more to historical writings and to poetry. But such books as "Charlotte Temple," "Eliza Wharton," "Maria Monk," "The Arabian Nights," "The Mysteries of Udolpho," "Abellino, the Bravo of Venice," or "The Castle of Otranto," were sometimes taken from the circulating library, read with delight, and secretly lent from one young girl to another.
"Our religious reading was confined to the Bible, Baxter's "Saints' Rest," "The Pilgrim's Progress," "The Religious Courtship," "The Widow Directed," and Sunday-school books.
"It was fortunate for us that we were obliged to read good books, such as histories, the English classics, and the very few American novels that were then in existence."
Source: Harriet Jane Hanson Robinson. Loom and Spindle; or, Life among the Early Mill Girls. T. Y Crowell & Company, 1898.
Tintype. University of Massachusettes at Lowell
American poet Lucy Larcom (1824-1893) was the ninth of ten children. Her sea captain father died when she was very young. When she was 11 years old, her family moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, where her mother got a job as superintendent of a female dormitory at the local textile mill. Lucy herself worked in the mills for 10 years.
Excerpt from An Idyl of Work 1875
The carding room, with its great groaning wheels,
Its earthquake rumblings, and its mingled smells
Of oily suffocation;
Long clean alleys, where the spinners paced
Silently up and down, and pieced their threads,
The spindles buzzing like then thousand bees.
The Long threads were wound from beam to beam,
And glazed, and then fanned dry in breathless heat.
Here lithe forms reached across wide webs, or stooped
To disentangle broken threads, or climbed
To where their countenances glistened pale
Among swift belts and pulleys.
The door, swung in on iron hinges, showed
A hundred girls who hurried to and fro,
With hands and eyes following the shuttle’s flight,
Threading it, watching for the scarlet mark
That came up in the web, to show how fast
Their work was speeding. Clatter went the looms,
Click-clack the shuttles. Gossamer motes
Thickened the sunbeams into golden bars,
And in a misty maze those girlish forms,
Arms, hands, and heads, moved with the moving looms,
That closed them in as if all were one shape,
Source: Lucy Larcom, Lucy Larcom: Life, Letters, and Diary by Daniel Dulany Addison, Houghton, Mifflin, 1894.
American Textile History Museum
Bobbin Girl by Winslow Homer, Lowell National Historical Park
In 1775, the American Manufactory at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, introduced into the British America colonies the spinning jenny, a machine for spinning thread. After the Revolution & as the Early Republic gained interest in producing goods for trade, in 1814, a Waltham, Massachusetts, factory became the 1st American site with a power loom for the mechanized weaving of cloth. During the 1800s, textile manufacture became the largest American industry, employing millions of people, mostly women & children.
Young women in Lowell, Massachusetts 1827
"On the 12th of October, we made an expedition from Boston to the largest manufacturing establishment in New England, or, I suppose, in America, at Lowell, on the banks of the Merrimack. This river had been allowed to dash unheeded over the Falls in that neighbourhood, from all time, until the recent war gave a new direction to industry, and diverted capital heretofore employed in commerce or in agriculture, into the channel of manufactures. A few years ago, the spot which we now saw covered with huge cotton mills, smiling villages, canals, roads, and bridges, was a mere wilderness, and, if not quite solitary, was inhabited only by painted savages...
"The stuffs manufactured at Lowell, mostly of a coarse description, are woven entirely by power looms, and are intended, I was told, chiefly for home consumption. Every thing is paid for by the piece, but the people work only from daylight to dark, having half an hour to breakfast and as long for dinner.
"The whole discipline, ventilation, and other arrangements, appeared to be excellent; of which the best proof was the healthy and cheerful look of the girls, all of whom, by the way, were trigged out with much neatness and simplicity, and wore high tortoise-shell combs at the back of their heads.
"I was glad to learn that the most exemplary purity of conduct existed universally amongst these merry damsels—a class of persons not always, it is said, in some other countries, the best patterns of moral excellence. The state of society, indeed, readily explains this superiority: in a country where the means of obtaining a livelihood are so easy, every girl who behaves well is so sure of being soon married.
"In this expectation, they all contrive, it seems, to save a considerable portion of their wages; and the moment the favoured swain has attained the rank of earning a dollar a-day, the couple are proclaimed in church next Sunday, to a certainty. The fortune, such as it is, thus comes with the bride; at least she brings enough to buy the clothes, furniture, and the other necessaries of an outfit.
"Generally, however, these good folks, as well as many of the more wealthy class of the community, do not think of setting up an establishment of their own at first, but live at boardinghouses. This apparently comfortless mode of life, is undoubtedly far the most economical; besides which, it saves the mistress of the family from the wear and tear of domestic drudgery, always unavoidably great in a country where menial service is held to be disgraceful.
"What happens when a parcel of youngsters make their appearance I forgot to enquire; but before that comes about to any great extent, the parties have probably risen in the world; —for every thing in America relating to population, seems to be carried irresistibly forward by a spring-tide of certain prosperity. There is plenty of room—plenty of food—and plenty of employment ; so that, by the exercise of a moderate share of diligence, the young couple may swell their establishment to any extent they please, without those doubts and fears, those anxious misgivings, which attend the setting out of children in older and more thickly peopled countries...
"On the 13th October, at six o'clock in the morning, I was awakened by the bell which tolled the people to their work, and on looking from the window, saw the whole space between the ' Factories' and the village speckled over with girls, nicely dressed, and glittering with bright shawls and showy-coloured gowns, and gay bonnets, all streaming along to their business, with an air of lightness, and an elasticity of step, implying an obvious desire to get to their work."
Source: Basil Hall. Travels in North America, in the years 1827 and 1828, Volume 2.
From James Fenimore Cooper, Notions of the Americans
NEW-ENGLAND. 1824. On the Proper Occupations of Women in America.
There is something noble and touching, in the universal and yet simple and unpretending homage with which these people treat the weaker sex. I am sure a woman here has only to respect herself in order to meet with universal deference. I now understand what Cadwallader meant when he said that America was the real Paradise of woman...The condition of women in this country is solely owing to the elevation of its moral feeling. As she is never misplaced in society, her influence is only felt in the channels of ordinary and domestic life.
I have heard young and silly Europeans, whose vanity has probably been wounded in finding them selves objects of secondary interest, affect to ridicule the absorbed attention which the youthful American matron bestows on her family; and some have gone so far in my presence, as to assert that a lady of this country was no more than an upper servant in the house of her husband...To me, woman appears to fill in America the very station for which she was designed by nature.
In the lowest conditions of life she is treated with the tenderness and respect that is due to beings whom we believe to be the repositories of the better principles of our nature. Retired within the sacred precincts of her own abode, she is preserved from the destroying taint of excessive intercourse with the world.
She makes no bargains beyond those which supply her own little personal wants, and her heart is not early corrupted by the harmful and unfeminine vice of selfishness; she is often the friend and adviser of her husband, but never his chapman. She must be sought in the haunts of her domestic privacy, and not amid the wranglings, deceptions, and heart-burnings of keen and sordid traffic.
So true and general is this fact, that I have remarked a vast proportion of that class who frequent the markets, or vend trifles in the streets of this city, occupations that are not unsuited to the feebleness of the sex, are either foreigners, or females descended from certain insulated colonies of the Dutch, which still retain many of the habits of thier ancestors amidst the improvements that are throwing them among the forgotten usages of another century.
The effect of this natural and inestimable division of employment, is in itself enough to produce an impression on the characters of a whole people. It leaves the heart and principles of woman untainted by the dire temptations of strife with her fellows. The husband can retire from his own sordid struggles with the world to seek consolation and correction from one who is placed beyond their influence.
The first impressions of the child are drawn from the purest sources known to our nature; and the son, even long after he has been compelled to enter on the thorny track of the father, preserves the memorial of the pure and unalloyed lessons that he has received from the lips, and, what is far better, from the example of the mother...
I saw every where the utmost possible care to preserve the females from undue or unwomanly employments. If there was a burthen, it was in the arms or on the shoulders of the man. Even labours that seem properly to belong to the household, were often performed by the latter; and I never heard the voice of the wife calling on the husband for assistance, that it was not answered by a ready, manly, an cheerful compliance.
The neatness of the cottage, the farm-house, and the inn; thc clean, tidy, healthful, and vigorous look of the children, united to attest the use fulness of this system. What renders all this more striking and more touching, is the circumstance that not only is labour in so great demand, but, contrary to the fact in all the rest of christendom, the women materially exceed the men in numbers. This seeming depature from what is almost an established law of nature is owing to the emigration westward. By the census of 1820, it appears, that in the six States of New-England there were rather more than thirteen females to every twelve males over the age of sixteen.
Jerome Thompson (American painter, 1814-1886) Taking Lunch to the Workers Noonday in Summer 1852
Charles Frederic Ulrich (American expatriate artist, 1858–1908) Children in a Schoolroom
Constant Mayer (French-born Amerian artist, 1832–1911) The Sewing School
Winslow Homer (American artist, 1836-1910) The Country School
Winslow Homer (American artist, 1836-1910) The Noon Recess
Winslow Homer (American artist, 1836-1910) Country School
The dwellings of African Americans did not change dramatically after the Civil War, except that families usually occupied one cabin. Before freedom, slaves usually slept in community cabins. Theodore Weld collected descriptions of slave dwellings in the 1830s. Genre painter William Aiken Walker painted many scenes of African American homes after the Civil War.
Mr. Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skaneateles, N. Y. who has lived in Alabama. "The huts where the slaves slept, generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor.''
Mr. George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester, N. Y. who lived four years in Virginia. "Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Va., I can not call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; anything that a northern laborer, or mechanic, white or colored, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition, to separate the sexes.''
William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine. President of the American Peace Society, formerly a slaveholder in Florida. "The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto leaf. The door, when they had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments, except the guinea negroes had sometimes a small inclosure for their 'god house.' These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays.''
Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, Pastor Pres. Church, Castile, Greene Co., N. Y., who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837. "The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors, and have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together.''
Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational Church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave states. "On old plantations, the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards, seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies from 8 by 10, to 10 by 12, feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass in any. In the new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of similar dimensions.''
Mr. Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian Church in Farmington, Ohio. Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-8. "Their houses were commonly built of logs, sometimes they were framed, often they had no floor, some of them have two apartments, commonly but one; each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted of a man and his wife and children, while in other instances persons of both sexes, were thrown together without any regard to family relationship.''
The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves. "They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect, and sometimes no floor, and seldom raised from the ground, ill ventilated, and surrounded with filth.''
Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of his life in Madison, Co. Alabama. "The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from 10 to 12 feet square, often without windows, doors, or floors, they have neither chairs, table, or bedstead.''
Reuben L. Macy of Hudson, N. Y. a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19. "The houses for the field slaves were about 14 feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.''
Mr. Lemuel Sapington of Lancaster, Pa. a native of Maryland, formerly a slaveholder. "The descriptions generally given of negro quarters, are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter.''
Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee. "When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber."
Philemon Bliss, Esq. Elyria, Ohio., who lived in Forida, in 1835. "The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment and very generally without floors.'' Mr. W. C. Gildersleeve, Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia. "Their huts were generally put up without a nail, frequently without floors, and with a single apartment.'' Hon. R. J. Turnbull, of South Carolina, a slaveholder. "The slaves live in clay cabins.''
Quotes from American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
Hon. Alexander Smyth, a slave holder, and for ten years, Member of Congress from Virginia, in his speech on the Missouri question. Jan 28th, 1820. "By confining the slaves to the Southern states, where crops are raised for exportation, and bread and meat are purchased, you doom them to scarcity and hunger. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are ILL FED.''
Rev. George Whitefield, in his letter, to the slave holders of Md. Va. N C. S. C. and Ga. published in Georgia, just one hundred years ago, 1739. "My blood has frequently run cold within me, to think how many of your slaves have not sufficient food to eat; they are scarcely permitted to pick up the crumbs, that fall from their master's table.''
Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee, and for some year's a preacher in slave states. "Thousands of the slaves are pressed with the gnawings of cruel hunger during their whole lives.''
Report of the Gradual Emancipation Society, of North Carolina, 1826. Signed Moses Swain, President, and William Swain, Secretary. Speaking of the condition of slaves, in the eastern part of that state, the report says, "The master puts the unfortunate wretches upon short allowances, scarcely sufficient for their sustenance, so that a great part of them go half starved much of the time.''
Mr. Asa A. Stone, a Theological Student, who resided near Natchez, Miss., in 1834-5. "On almost every plantation, the hands suffer more or less from hunger at some seasons of almost every year. There is always a good deal of suffering from hunger. On many plantations, and particularly in Louisiana, the slaves are in a condition of almost utter famishment, during a great portion of the year.''
Mr. Tobias Boudinot, St. Albans, Ohio, a member of the Methodist Church. Mr. B. for some years navigated the Mississippi. "The slaves down the Mississippi, are half-starved, the boats, when they stop at night, are constantly boarded by slaves, begging for something to eat.''
Hon. Robert Turnbull, a slaveholder of Charleston, South Carolina. "The subsistence of the slaves consists, from March until August, of corn ground into grits, or meal, made into what is called hominy, or baked into corn bread. The other six months, they are fed upon the sweet potato. Meat, when given, is only by way of indulgence or favor.''
Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver Co., Penn., who resided in Mississippi, in 1836-7. "The food of the slaves was generally corn bread, and sometimes meat or molasses.''
Reuben G. Macy, a member of the Society of Friends, Hudson, N. Y., who resided in South Carolina. "The slaves had no food allowed them besides corn, excepting at Christmas, when they had beef.''
Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, and recently of Madison Co., Alabama, now member, of the Presbyterian Church, Delhi, Ohio. "On my uncle's plantation, the food of the slaves, was corn pone and a small allowance of meat.''
Thos. Clay, Esq., of Georgia, a slave holder, in his address before the Georgia Presbytery, 1833. "The quantity allowed by custom is a peck of corn a week!"
The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, May 30, 1788. "A single peck of corn a week, or the like measure of rice, is the ordinary quantity of provision for a hard-working slave; to which a small quantity of meat is occasionally, though rarely, added.''
W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, and Elder in the Presbyterian Church, Wilksbarre, Penn. "The weekly allowance to grown slaves on this plantation, where I was best acquainted, was one peck of corn.''
Wm. Ladd, of Minot, Maine, formerly a slaveholder in Florida. "The usual allowance of food was one quart of corn a day, to a full task hand, with a modicum of salt; kind masters allowed a peck of corn a week; some masters allowed no salt.''
Mr. Jarvis Brewster, in his "Exposition of the treatment of slaves in the Southern States,'' published in N. Jersey, 1815. "The allowance of provisions for the slaves, is one peck of corn, in the grain, per week.''
Rev. Horace Moulton, a Methodist Clergyman of Marlboro', Mass., who lived five years in Georgia. "In Georgia the planters give each slave only one peck of their gourd seed corn per week, with a small quantity of salt.''
Mr. F. C. Macy, Nantucket, Mass., who resided in Georgia in 1820. "The food of the slaves was three pecks of potatos a week during the potato season, and one peck of corn, during the remainder of the year.''
Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, a member of the Baptist Church in Waterford, Conn., who resided in North Carolina, eleven winters. "The subsistence of the slaves, consists of seven quarts of meal or eight quarts of small rice for one week!"
William Savery, late of Philadelphia, an eminent Minister of the Society of Friends, who travelled extensively in the slave states, on a Religious Visitation, speaking of the subsistence of the slaves, says, in his published Journal, "A peck of corn is their (the slaves,) miserable subsistence for a week.''
The late John Parrish, of Philadelphia, another highly respected Minister of the Society of Friends, who traversed the South, on a similar mission, in 1804 and 5, says in his "Remarks on the slavery of Blacks;'' "They allow them but one peck of meal, for a whole week, in some of the Southern states.''
Richard Macy, Hudson, N., Y. a Member of the Society of Friends, who has resided in Georgia. "Their usual allowance of food was one peck of corn per week, which was dealt out to them every first day of the week. They had nothing allowed them besides the corn, except one quarter of beef at Christmas.''
Rev. C. S. Renshaw, of Quincy, Ill., (the testimony of a Virginian.) "The slaves are generally allowanced: a pint of corn meal and a salt herring is the allowance, or in lieu of the herring a "dab'' of fat meat of about the same value. I have known the sour milk, and clauber to be served out to the hands, when there was an abundance of milk on the plantation. This is a luxury not often afforded."
Professor A. G. Smith, of the New York Medical College; formerly a physician in Louisville, Kentucky. "I have myself known numerous instances of large families of badly-fed negroes swept off by a prevailing epidemic; and it is well known to many intelligent planters in the south, that the best method of preventing that horrible malady, Chachexia Africana, is to feed the negroes with nutritious food."
Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, and member of the Presbyterian church, who lived in Florida, in 1834, and 1835. "The slaves go to the field in the morning; they carry with them corn meal wet with water, and at noon build a fire on the ground and bake it in the ashes. After the labors of the day are over, they take their second meal of ash-cake.''
Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver county, Penn., who resided in Mississippi in 1836 and 1837. "The slaves received two meals during the day. Those who have their food cooked for them get their breakfast about eleven o'clock, and their other meal after night.''
Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Conn., who spent eleven winters in North Carolina. "The breakfast of the slaves was generally about ten or eleven o'clock.''
Rev. Phineas Smith, Centreville, N. Y., who has lived at the south some years. "The slaves have usually two meals a day, viz: at eleven o'clock and at night.''
Rev. C. S. Renshaw, Quincy, Illinois, —the testimony of a Virginian. "The slaves have two meals a day. They breakfast at from ten to eleven, A. M., and eat their supper at from six to nine or ten at night, as the season and crops may be.''
American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839.
Mr. George Westgate, of Quincy, Illinois, who has spent several years in the south western slave states, says: “Their time, after full dark until four o'clock in the morning is their own; this fact alone would seem to say they have sufficient rest, but there are other things to be considered; much of their making, mending and washing of clothes, preparing and cooking food, hauling and chopping wood, fixing and preparing tools, and a variety of little nameless jobs must be done between those hours.”
Hon. Alenxander Smyth, a slaveholder, and member of Congress from Virginia, in his speech on the "Missouri question,'' Jan. 28, 1820. "Is it not obvious that the way to render their situation more comfortable, is to allow them to be taken where there is not the same motive to force the slave to INCESSANT TOIL that there is in the country where cotton, sugar, and tobacco are raised for exportation. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are HARD WORKED, that they may be rendered unproductive and the race be prevented from increasing...The proposed measure would be EXTREME CRUELTY to the blacks...You would...doom them the HARD LABOR.''
W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, an elder of the Presbyterian Church at Wilkesbarre, says: “The corn is ground in a handmill by the slave after his task is done—generally there is but one mill on a plantation, and as but one can grind at a time, the mill is going sometimes very late at night.”
Mr. Cornelius Johnson, Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi in the years 1837 and 38, says: “On all the plantations where I was acquainted, the slaves were kept in the field till dark; after which, those who had to grind their own corn, had that to attend to, get their supper, attend to other family affairs of their own and of their master, such as bringing water, washing clothes, &c. &c., and be in the field as soon as it was sufficiently light to commence work in the morning.”
W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, a native of Georgia. "It was customary for the overseers to call out the gangs long before day, say three o'clock, in the winter, while dressing out the crops; such work as could be done by fire light (pitch pine was abundant,) was provided.''
Mr. Asa A. Stone, a theological student, near Natchez, Mississippi, in 1834 and 1835. "Everybody here knows overdriving to be one of the most common occurrences, the planters do not deny it, except, perhaps, to northerners.''
Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer of Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1834 and 1835. "During the cotton-picking season they usually labor in the field during the whole of the daylight, and then spend a good part of the night in ginning and baling. The labor required is very frequently excessive, and speedily impairs the constitution.''
Hon. R. J. Turnbull of South Carolina, a slaveholder, speaking of the harvesting of cotton, says: "All the pregnant women even, on the plantation, and weak and sickly negroes incapable of other labor, are then in requisition.''
Asa A Stone, theological student, a classical teacher near Natchez, Mississippi, 1835. "It is a general rule on all regular plantations, that the slaves be in the field as soon as it is light enough for them to see to work, and remain there until it is so dark that they cannot see."
Mr. Cornelius Johnson, of Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi a part of 1837 and 1838. "It is the common rule for the slaves to be kept at work fifteen hours in the day, and in the time of picking cotton a certain number of pounds is required of each. If this amount is not brought in at night, the slave is whipped, and the number of pounds lacking is added to the next day's job; this course is often repeated from day to day.''
Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Connnecticul., a resident in North Carolina eleven winters. "The slaves are obliged to work from daylight till dark, as long as they can see.'' Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who resided in Florida in 1834 and 1835. "The slaves commence labor by daylight in the morning, and do not leave the field till dark in the evening.''
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
Hon. T. T. Bouldin, a slave-holder, and member of Congress from Virginia, in a speech in Congress, Feb. 16, 1835. Mr. Bouldin said "he knew that many negroes had died from exposure to weather,'' and added, "they are clad in a flimsy fabric, that will turn neither wind nor water.''
George Buchanan, M. D., of Baltimore, member of the American Philosophical Society, in an oration at Baltimore, July 4, 1791. "The slaves, naked and starved, often fall victims to the inclemencies of the weather.''
Wm. Savery of Philadelphia an eminent Minister of the Society of Friends, who went through the Southern states in 1791, on a religious visit: after leaving Savannah, Ga., we find the following entry in his journal, 6th, month, 28, 1791. "We rode through many rice swamps, where the blacks were very numerous, great droves of these poor slaves, working up to the middle in water, men and women nearly naked.''
Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee. "In every slave-holding state, many slaves suffer extremely, both while they labor and while they sleep, for want of clothing to keep them warm.''
John Parrish, late of Philadelphia, a highly esteemed minister in the Society of Friends, who travelled through the South in 1804. "It is shocking to the feelings of humanity, in travelling through some of those states, to see those poor objects, [slaves,] especially in the inclement season, in rags, and trembling with the cold.'' "They suffer them, both male and female, to go without clothing at the age of ten and twelve years.''
Rev. Phineas Smith, Centreville, Allegany, Co., N. Y. Mr. S. has just returned from a residence of several years at the south, chiefly in Virginia, Louisiana, and among the American settlers in Texas. "The apparel of the slaves, is of the coarsest sort and exceedingly deficient in quantity. I have been on many plantations, where children of eight and ten years old, were in a state of perfect nudity. Slaves are in general wretchedly clad .''
Wm. Ladd, Esq., of Minot, Maine, recently a slaveholder in Florida. "They were allowed two suits of clothes a year, viz. one pair of trowsers with a shirt or frock of osnaburgh for summer; and for winter, one pair of trowsers, and a jacket of negro cloth, with a baize shirt and a pair of shoes. Some allowed hats, and some did not; and they were generally, I believe, allowed one blanket in two years. Garments of similar materials were allowed the women.''
Mr. Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skeneateles, N. Y., who resided sometime in Alabama. "I was at Huntsville, Alabama, in 1818-19, I frequently saw slaves on and around the public square, with hardly a rag of clothing on them, and in a great many instances with but a single garment both in summer and in winter; generally the only bedding of the slaves was a blanket.''
Reuben G. Macy, Hudson, N. Y. member of the Society of Friends, who resided in South Carolina, in 1818 and 19. "Their clothing consisted of a pair of trowsers and jacket, made of 'negro cloth.' The women a petticoat, a very short 'short-gown,' and nothing else, the same kind of cloth; some of the women had an old pair of shoes, but they generally went barefoot.''
Mr. Lemuel Sapington, of Lancaster, Pa., a native of Maryland, and formerly a slaveholder "Their clothing is often made by themselves after night, though sometimes assisted by the old women, who are no longer able to do out-door work; consequently it is harsh and uncomfortable. And I have very frequently seen those who had not attained the age of twelve years go naked.''
Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1834 and 35. "It is very common to see the younger class of slaves up to eight or ten without any clothing, and most generally the laboring men wear no shirts in the warm season. The perfect nudity of the younger slaves is so familiar to the whites of both sexes, that they seem to witness it with perfect indifference. I may add that the aged and feeble often suffer from cold.''
Richard Macy, a member of the Society of Friends, Hudson, N. Y., who has lived in Georgia. "For bedding each slave was allowed one blanket, in which they rolled themselves up. I examined their houses, but could not find any thing like a bed.''
W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia. "It is an every day sight to see women as well as men, with no other covering than a few filthy rags fastened above the hips, reaching midway to the ankles. I never knew any kind of covering for the head given. Children of both sexes, from infancy to ten years are seen in companies on the plantations, in a state of perfect nudity. This was so common that the most refined and delicate beheld them unmoved.''
Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, now a member of the Presbyterian Church, in Delhi, Ohio. "The only bedding of the slaves generally consists of two old blankets.''
From American Slavery As It Is
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839
Slaves and Rice Cultivation in South Carolina
The intricate steps involved in planting, cultivating, harvesting, and preparing rice required an immense labor force employing both men and women. Planters stated that African slaves were particularly suited to provide that labor force for two reasons: 1) rice was grown in some areas of Africa and there was evidence that some slaves were familiar with the methods of cultivation practiced there, and 2) it was thought that the slaves, by virtue of their racial characteristics, were better able than white laborers to withstand the extreme heat and humidity of the tidal swamps and therefore would be more productive workers. Rice cultivation resulted in a dramatic increase in the numbers of slaves owned by South Carolinians before the American Revolution.
In 1680, four-fifths of South Carolina's population was white. However, black slaves outnumbered white residents two to one in 1720, and by 1740, slaves constituted nearly 90% of the population. Much of the growing slave population came from the West Coast of Africa, a region that had gained notoriety by exporting its large rice surpluses.
While there is no consensus on how rice first reached the American coast, there is much debate over the contribution of African-born slaves to its successful cultivation. New research demonstrates that the European planters lacked prior knowledge of rice farming, while uncovering the long history of skilled rice cultivation in West Africa. Furthermore, Islamic, Portuguese, and Dutch traders all encountered and documented extensive rice cultivation in Africa before South Carolina was even settled.
At first rice was treated like other crops, it was planted in fields and watered by rains. By the mid-18th century, planters used inland swamps to grow rice by accumulating water in a reservoir, then releasing the stored water as needed during the growing season for weeding and watering. Similarly, prior records detail Africans controlling springs and run off with earthen embankments for the same purposes of weeding and watering.
A slave's daily work on a rice plantation was divided into tasks. Each field hand was given a task--usually nine or ten hours' hard work--or a fraction of a task to complete each day according to his or her ability. The tasks were assigned by the driver, a slave appointed to supervise the daily work of the field hands. The driver held the most important position in the slave hierarchy on the rice plantation. His job was second only to the overseer in terms of responsibility.
The driver's job was particularly important because each step of the planting, growing, and harvesting process was crucial to the success or failure of the year's crop. In the spring, the land was harrowed and plowed in preparation for planting. Around the first of April rice seed was sown by hand using a small hoe. The first flooding of the field, the sprout flow, barely covered the seed and lasted only until the grain sprouted. The water was then drained to keep the delicate sprout from floating away, and the rice was allowed to grow for approximately three weeks. Around the first of May any grass growing among the sprouts was weeded by hoe and the field was flooded by the point flow to cover just the tops of the plants. After a few days the water was gradually drained until it half covered the plants. It remained at this level--the long flow--until the rice was strong enough to stand. More weeding followed and then the water was slowly drained completely off the field. The ground around the plants was hoed to encourage the growth and extension of the roots. After about three weeks, the field was hoed and weeded again, at which time--around mid-June or the first of July--the lay-by flow was added and gradually increased until the plants were completely submerged. This flow was kept on the field for about two months with fresh water periodically introduced and stagnant water run off by the tidal flow through small floodgates called trunks.
Rice planted in the first week of April was usually ready for harvesting by the first week of September. After the lay-by flow was withdrawn, just before the grain was fully ripe, the rice was cut with large sickles known as rice hooks and laid on the ground on the stubble. After it had dried overnight, the cut rice was tied into sheaves and taken by flatboat to the threshing yard. In the colonial period, threshing was most often done by beating the stalks with flails. This process was simple but time consuming. If the rice was to be sold rough, it was then shipped to the agent; otherwise, it was husked and cleaned--again, usually by hand. By the mid-19th century most of the larger plantations operated pounding and/or threshing mills which were driven by steam engines. After the rice had been prepared, it was packed in barrels, or tierces, and shipped to the market at Georgetown or Charleston. In 1850 a rice plantation in the Georgetown County area produced an average yield of 300,000 pounds of rice. The yield had increased to 500,000 pounds by 1860.
For more information See National Park Service
Richard Caton Woodville (1825-1855) was supported by his prosperous Baltimore family, who had hoped he would become a physician, in his endeavor to become an artist by trade.
His young artistic talent was stirred by his access to the art collection of early Baltimore art collector Robert Gilmore, whose collection included Dutch & Flemish genre paintings depicting domestic scenes of people in interiors.
Some of Woodville's most delightful works are his genre scenes of Baltimore's citizens. Like many genre painters working for centuries before him, Woodville's paintings depict anecdotal details as well as unresolved conflict. Woodville was a storyteller.
Richard Caton Woodville (American painter, 1825-1855) The Card Players
Woodville recorded his early life in Baltimore in the form of drawings, including those depicting his University of Maryland medical school faculty during 1842-3, when he studied medicine.
Richard Caton Woodville (American painter, 1825-1855) News About the War in Mexico 1848
He finally decided to turn from medical studies to full-time painting; and in 1845, he sailed to study art in Düsseldorf. He spent time in Europe, but his extant paintings reflect a relish for the people & interiors of American life.
Richard Caton Woodville (American painter, 1825-1855) Waiting for the Stage
While Woodville produced most of his work after leaving Baltimore in 1845 to travel widely in Germany, France & England, he continued to paint Maryland subject matter. He also sailed back to Baltimore for at least 2 visits after his 1845 departure.
Richard Caton Woodville (American painter, 1825-1855) The Sailor's Wedding 1852
Woodville died at age 30 from an overdose morphine
I first became aware of Jacob Eichholtz (1776-1842), when I roamed the halls of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore during the 1980s. He was born north of Baltimore in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he tried his hand at being a tinsmith, a cooper, & a sign painter. But his passion was for painting portraits. He wrote of his unexpected friendship with Thomas Sully in Lancaster County in 1808, "Chance about this time threw a painter into the town of my residence. This in a moment decided my fate as to the arts. Previous to the arrival of this painter, I had made some rude efforts with tolerable success, having nothing more than a bootjack for a palette, and anything in the shape of a brush, for at that time brushes were not to be had, not even in Philadelphia. At length I was fortunate enough to get a few half-worn brushes from Mr. Sully, being on the eve of his departure for England. This was a great feast to me, and enabled me to go on until others were to be had." In 1811, Eichholtz visited Gilbert Stuart in Boston, & began a lifelong series of exhibitions with the Society of Artists at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Probably before 1820, Eichholtz was painting portraits in Baltimore & beyond, from Pittsburg to Delaware. By 1821, he had set up a studio in Philadelphia; where he painted, until he returned to Lancanster County in 1832, painting portraits until his death 10 years later.
Several New England artists shared a unique painting style during the 1820s-30s. Women depicted by these artists exhibit several similar characteristics - pale, sculptural faces; prominent thin, delicately arched eyebrows; small bowed mouths; & elaborate classical Greek hairstyles of tight curls intertwined with jewelry, flowers, & other adornments. The paintings are usually watercolors. The artists paint strong features, sharply defined, with arched, curved eyebrows. The watercolors are similar to fashion plates appearing in magazines such as Ackerman’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions & Politics, published in London in 1809 through 1829.
Emily Eastman was one of these painters who was also from New Hampshire. Between about 1820 & 1830, Eastman completed several portraits of women, drawn in graphite and then completed in watercolors, in high fashion dress with tightly curled hair. An issue of the contemporary The Lady’s Magazine, described popular fashion of the period, “Our fair females are covered with transparent shawls, which float and flutter over their shoulders and upon their bosoms, which are seen through them. With gauze veils, which conceal half of the face to pique our curiosity.” A likeness of a young girl is also included here.
Eastman reportedly was born in Loudon, New Hampshire, 75 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. She married Dr. Daniel Baker in 1824.
Eastman rarely signed her paintings, but those that are unsigned display similarities such as prominent thin, delicately arched eyebrows; small bowed mouths; & elaborate coiffures of tight curls intertwined with jewelry, flowers, & other adornments.
Parsons received his early education at Latin schools in Parsonsfield, Maine, where he was born, and in nearby Effingham, New Hampshire. Parsons graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He was ordained in New York City in 1831, & became a preacher traveling to Indiana, Wisconsin, & Kansas. A dozen or so paintings by Parsons date to the period just after his return to the East Coast. Most are of subjects who lived in the area around Parsonsfield & in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Parsons was minister for several years. The works appear to have been executed during a four-year span from 1834 to 1838.
I can only find 2 paintings by Almira Wheaton Saben, who appears in the 1860 US census, she was then living in Winchester, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. She was born September 9, 1804 in Vermont. Her father was Reuben Wheaton. She married Mowry Saben (1801-1880) on February 5, 1835, in Winchester, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. She died there on May 11, 1881. She had 6 children between 1835 and 1844. All of them died by 1845. After that she had 2 children, Levi born in 1844-1912, and Mary born in 1847-1926. Son Levi married Mary A Tolman on January 1, 1869. They had a son Alfred Levi Saben in December of 1869-1930, a son Delano Mowry Saben in 1879-1947, & a daughter Laura Emma in 1882-1964.
See: Ralph and Susanne Katz, "In Search of John Usher Parsons," Folk Art 30 (Spring 2005): 46-53.
George Inness' (1825-1894) early work was influenced initially by prints of the works of Claude Lorrain & the 17th-century Dutch landscape masters. He was also touched by the work of the leading Hudson River School painters - particularly that of Thomas Cole & Asher B. Durand - whose style is evident in some of his early canvases. Travel to Europe led him to be influenced by the work of the Barbizon school, & finally, by the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose spiritualism found vivid expression in Inness’ works toward the end of his life. His mature works helped define the Tonalist movement. A few of Inness’ later paintings stay with me over time. The obscured details, diffused light, organic forms, & inherent glow of these paintings are surely evocative.
George Inness (American Hudson River School/Tonalist Painter, 1825-1894) The Trout Brook
George Inness (American Hudson River School/Tonalist Painter, 1825-1894) Spring Blossoms
George Inness (American Hudson River School/Tonalist Painter, 1825-1894) The Lone Farm
George Inness (American Hudson River School/Tonalist Painter, 1825-1894) Niagara
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
President Abraham Lincoln, 19 November 1863