View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.







APR 16 1935
cRevised E dition

L I bra r y

Bulletin o f the B ureau o f Labor Statistics
U nited States D epartm ent o f Labor

Ho. 605





A.n illustrated account as prepared by the Bureau of
Labor Statistics o f the Department o f Labor
for the Century of Progress Exposition
Chicago, 1 9 3 3 ,1 9 3 4





For sale by the Superintendent o f Documents, Washington, D.C .


: 1934

Price 10 cents

N 1933 the Bureau of Labor Statistics o f the United
States Department of Labor presented at the Century
of Progress Exposition at Chicago a series o f forty pictures
designed to portray the history of American labor, its
progress and its problems, since 1833. A booklet in
which these pictures were reproduced in miniature,
amplified and interpreted by text giving a partial record
of labor’s part in the progress of the century, was pub­
lished by the Bureau for distribution at the exposition.
Because of the popularity of the booklet, the Bureau
of Labor Statistics presents this second edition, in the
hope that visitors to the exposition in its second year
who are interested in the worker’s past as well as his
present and his future will find it of interest, even
though the pictures themselves are no longer part of
the Department o f Labor exhibit.
Instead o f revising the original booklet for the second
edition, the Bureau preferred to let it remain unchanged
as the story o f a century that had ended. But the moving
finger o f history has been writing rapidly since the
Century of Progress Exposition opened in M ay 1933
and some revision was necessary to record the changes
that had taken place by M ay 1934, when the exposition
opened for the second time. Accordingly, a brief review
of labor history in the one hundred and first year has
been added.


The N ew England Blacksmith Was Typical
o f the Early Free Mechanic
/O E F O R E the industrial

JLJ era, which began about
1840, labor in America was
divided into three classes—
slave, indentured, and free.
Free labor was almost
wholly skilled labor, and
skilled craftsmen held an
important place in the development o f the new country.
The blacksmith, for example, was wagonwright, manufacturer o f farm and household implements, and nail maker,
as well as horseshoer.
Skilled labor was scarce in the early days and remained
so until increasing immigration brought craftsmen from
Europe in greater and greater numbers. But while work
was plentiful and unemployment was perhaps not a seri­
ous problem, hours were long, work was hard, and stand­
ards o f living were low. The artisan’s food was simple,
often coarse, confined to the bare necessities o f life, and
his clothes, M cM aster, the historian, remarks, “ would
now be thought abominable.” His home was a small,
rather dreary, crowded place, heated by open fires and fur­
nished with handmade furniture crudely constructed.
Working tools were primitive compared to those o f to­
day. and the workday was from “ sunrise to sunset,” with
brief periods o f rest for breakfast and dinner. W hen the
carpenters o f Boston struck in 1832 for a 10-hour day, the
master builders offered a rate of $2 a day to break the strike.
That rate was 50 cents a day higher than carpenters were
receiving at the time. The prevailing wages for skilled
labor in 1833 ranged from $1,121/2 to $1.75 a day, and a
workday might be 13 or even 14 hours.


B u t Thousands o f White “Indentured Servants ” Served
Terms o f Bondage fo r Passage Money

C7^LHE first laborers to mi'
v jx grate to America in
large numbers were “ indem*
tured servants'” from Great
Britain and “ redemption'
ers” from Europe. A n in'
dentured servant, before
leaving his home country,
signed a contract to work for the master who transported
him, but a redemptioner, or “ free'wilier” , came on his own
responsibility, expecting to find upon his arrival a master
to whom to sell his services in order to obtain passage
A servant became the property o f his master as soon as
the sale was effected. The indenture specified the dura'
tion o f bondage, the kind of service to be given, the obliga'
tions o f both master and servant, and the amount of money
or goods to be paid the servant at the expiration of his term,
which, for adults, was usually either four or five years.
A servant had practically the same status as a slave. He
could be resold without his consent, he could not marry
without his master’s consent, and his living and working
conditions were wholly beyond his control. Running
away was a crime, punished by extending the time in
Some early industries in Pennsylvania and Maryland
were manned almost entirely by these workers, in some
instances skilled craftsmen, to whom even personal liberty
was denied until they had worked out their terms as
The indenture system died out as the population o f the
country grew and labor became more plentiful. A few
contracts were drawn up as late as 1833, however, and
many were still in force in that year.

In the Southern States the Heavy Work Was
Done by Negro Slaves
year before the Pilv - / grims landed at Plym­
outh Rock a Dutch ship
unloaded at Jamestown,
Virginia, a cargo o f African
Negroes who were sold to
the planters as slaves. Thus
at the very beginning of
colonization was introduced the system o f slave labor
which obtained in America for nearly 250 years, and by
which most o f the heavy, menial labor o f a new country
was performed.
Slavery was at first general throughout the N ew W orld
settlements, but it proved impracticable in the North and
was gradually eliminated as an economic system. Within
a few years after the establishment o f the Republic all the
States north of Maryland had abolished slavery.
On the great tobacco and cotton plantations o f the
South, however, slave labor was regarded as the only pos­
sible method o f meeting their labor needs. While slaves
were used chiefly as agricultural laborers, a great many
were also employed, even outside the plantation country,
in domestic pursuits and as skilled workers.
When the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the
defeat and collapse o f the Confederacy in 1865 ended
slavery, four million Negroes were thrown upon the labor
market for their livelihood. The tw o generations o f freed
men following emancipation remained agricultural labor­
ers and domestic servants almost entirely, but as greater
educational opportunities opened up for them they ex­
tended their fields o f employment. During and since the
W orld War, especially, Negroes have become industrial
workers and skilled craftsmen, and are rapidly entering
the professions.

The Sea and the Building o f Clipper Ships Offered
Work to Many


ago mer'
chant shipping and
the building o f the beau'
tiful “ Yankee clippers”
were among the foremost
American industries.
American sailing ships
were the fastest up to that
time, and N ew England shipyards were kept busy turn'
ing them out for use at home and for sale abroad.
Merchant shippers sent their fleets out from Boston,
N ew York, Philadelphia, and Charleston to the ports of
the world, and especially to the Orient. Officers and
crews in the employ o f the great shippers received what
were in those days high salaries— often $50 a month for
the captain, $30 for the mate, and $20 for able seamen and
cooks, in addition to maintenance.
The story of the maritime industries changed abruptly,
however, with the development of the steamship in the
middle o f the nineteenth century. American labor was
not attracted to the new method o f transportation as it
had been to the old. Consequently, a different type of
worker and a different labor policy were introduced, and
standards tended constantly to degenerate. During the
latter half o f the century hours of labor on shipboard
increased to appalling length, and living conditions be'
came intolerable. Seamen deserted in great numbers, and
their recapture was attended with violence and severe
These conditions continued until the Seaman’s A ct,
passed in 1915, brought about material improvements. It
requires that decent and sanitary living quarters shall be
provided for crews, regulates their hours, and protects
their earnings against exploitations formerly practiced.

Whaling Was a Very Important Industry, Employing
Some Seventeen Thousand Persons


M AJOR industry a

century ago, whaling
is practically extinct today.
It is difficult now to real­
ize that whales were once
o f the greatest importance,
industrially and commer­
cially. Whale oil was used
for lubricating and for general illuminating; sperm oil pro­
vided the finest grade of illuminant for lighthouse beacons;
high-grade candles were made from the spermaceti.
Whalebone was extensively used in the manufacture of
many articles, and ambergris provided an essential element
in perfumes.
T o meet the demand for these products ten thousand
whales were needed annually, and to keep the industry
supplied with ships, men, and equipment, related enter­
prises were developed on a large scale.
Whaling was an occupation o f youth. The rank and file
of whalemen were boys still in their teens, and only offi­
cers were men o f middle age. But the lure o f adventure
and daring was probably counteracted by the living and
working conditions on the whalers, and one voyage was
apt to prove quite enough.
Danger, privation, and grueling monotony were inher­
ent in the work. Voyages were very long, often as many
as four years. Earnings were ludicrously low, averaging
as little as 10 cents a day for some voyages. While wages
were in addition to maintenance, they were subject to
many charges and deductions, such as purchases from the
ship’s stores and indebtedness for the outfits sold at extor­
tionate prices. It was not unusual for a whaleman to find
himself actually in debt to his employer after working on
a vessel throughout a long voyage.

A Century Ago M ost Workers H ad Only Hand Tools—
Iron Was Wrought in Simple Forges
^P R A C T IC A L L Y all the
■L development in the iron
i n d u s t r y has o c c u r r e d
within the past century.
In 1830 many of the old
colonial forges and furnaces
were still in use, and new
ones were built upon the
old designs and operated with the same primitive methods.
The productive capacity o f blast furnaces was as great in
1800 as in 1850.
Discoveries and inventions between 1830 and 1850,
including the hot blast and substitution o f anthracite and
coke for charcoal, and increased demand resulting from
railroad building and power machinery, stimulated the
expansion of the industry.
Shortly after the Civil War the “ United Sons of Vulcan,” the organised ironworkers, undertook to stabilise
wages and end the almost constant strife between employers and workers by introducing a sliding-scale system
in fixing wages. A n agreement was reached which fixed
a basic minimum and provided for additional earnings
conditioned upon the selling price of iron.
Three outstanding characteristics have colored the his­
tory o f iron and steel— the long workday and workweek,
the frequency and bitterness of industrial disputes, and
the physical hasards o f the work.
Recent years have seen pronounced changes in all three.
Working conditions and industrial relations in the indus­
try, probably more than in any other American enterprise,
have been subjected to study and severe criticism by
outside forces, and radical reforms have resulted in

A Shoemaker Without Machinery Could Make Only
Tw o Pairs o f Shoes Per Day
HOEMAKING, a hundred


years ago, was strictly
a handicraft, and machine
production had not been
heard of. Since e v e n the
m o s t s ki ll fu l shoemaker
could not tur n o u t more
than t w o pairs o f shoes
in a day, a good many of these workers were required
to keep the country in shoes, and little one-man shops
were found everywhere. These shoemakers did only
“ bespoke w ork” to order for individual customers.
Even before the introduction o f machinery, however,
the one-man custom shop was giving way to big shops
manufacturing for the market instead of on individual
order. In these shops a worker sometimes made the
whole shoe, but more often, in order to speed production,
the work was divided into separate operations. Stitch­
ing the uppers, which was known as ‘ ‘ binding” , was
done by women in their own homes. This work was so
heavy and the pay so low that the exploitation o f women
who earned their living “ binding shoes” was vigorously
protested in the literature o f the period. Machinery
introduced in the 1850’s ended that practice.
A t Lynn, Massachusetts, the center of the industry,
workers were paid in orders on the store operated by
the employing shoe manufacturers. A writer comments
thus on that system as it prevailed in 1830:
Fortunately, necessities of life were cheap. So a shoemaker who
got an order on the store in payment for his wages was usually able
to exchange that order for enough goods to keep himself and his
family alive for the week.

179228 0 —33----- 2

In the Print Shop, Type Was Set by Hand and the
Presses Were Primitive




hundred years ago,
saw in c o n d i t i o n s and
changes affecting journey­
man printers “ the passing
o f the ‘golden age’ o f print­
ing.” While in 1833 power
machinery had not yet been introduced, craft standards
were breaking down. Printers up to that time had always
been highly skilled craftsmen, for the most part educated
far beyond other workers. Their status was in fact
comparable to the professional man o f today; often they
were editors and writers as well as printers. They had
had organisations since 1802 which had been effective in
maintaining wages and trade standards of skill and long
apprentice training. But many conditions, among which
were the stereotyping process, an improved type of print­
ing press, and disruption of the unions through unsuccess­
ful strikes, were operating to destroy these high standards.
Apprentices were allowed to become journeymen long
before their terms had expired, “ roller boys” were put to
running the new presses, and women were employed as
compositors at very low rates. Wages were materially
lower in 1831 than they had been in 1815.
A revival o f unionism began about 1845, which resulted
in the organization in 1851 o f what is now the Inter­
national Typographical Union, and the apprentice system
was restored.
Machinery has produced radical changes in the char­
acter o f the printer’s work and has increased output
enormously in the past fifty years. W e of today take for
granted a daily paper which, in siz;e and price, would
have been impossible a century ago with the facilities
available then.

Machinery, However, Was Developing— The Whitney
Cotton Gin Was Already in Use
cotton gin, invent'
V jy ed by Eli Whitney
in 1793, has been credited
with causing more epoch'
making changes than any
other American invention.
T o make cotton o f value
commercially the seed must
be removed from the fiber. Before the gin was intro'
duced this work was done by hand or with rollers. Five
pounds o f lint cotton was considered a good day’s out'
put for a slave, using rollers to separate fibers from seed.
W ith the Whitney machine 300 pounds could be ginned
by slave labor in a day.
The effect of this simplification was immediate and tre'
mendous. It made possible the manufacture o f cotton
textiles on a large scale and led directly to the establish'
ment o f the first factories. The textile industry, on its
part, created a great demand for lint cotton, which was
met by expanding cotton culture enormously.
For years before the cotton gin was adopted the feeling
had been growing throughout the South that slave labor
cost more than it was worth, and slavery was on the de'
cline. The gin and the consequent demand for lint cotton
changed that situation. Slavery was not only retained
but was greatly increased. Out o f that stimulation o f a
waning economic system grew the “ slavery problem,”
which was a political controversy for generations and
which only war solved.
N ow cotton ginning is done by automatic machinery,
which practically does away with all human labor and
produces ten times as much lint in a day as did the revolu'
tionary Whitney gin.

Cotton M ills Were Spreading Rapidly, Creating a
Demand fo r Woman and Child Labor

(7^UE American factory
kU system began in the
e^rly 1800’s, with the establishment o f textile mills
in which all the processes
o f manufacture, from raw
material to finished prod­
uct, w e r e c a r r i e d on.
These factories used machinery run by water power.
Spinning and weaving had always been the work o f
women and children in the homes, and when this work
went from the homes into the mills the women and
children went with it. Some mills employed whole
families; others hired women and children almost entirely,
leaving the men free to run the farms. The attitude of the
day toward industrial employment o f women and chil­
dren was expressed by Alexander Hamilton:
The husbandman himself experiences a new source of profit and
support from the increased industry of his wife and daughters. . . .
It is worthy of particular remark that in general women and chib
dren are rendered more useful, and the latter more early useful,
by manufacturing establishments than they will otherwise be.
W ork in g hours w ere from 5 a.m . to 7 p.m ., w ith halfhour recesses for breakfast and dinner. In 1842 M assa­
ch u setts passed a la w lim itin g th e hours o f w ork for
children under t w e lv e years o f age to 10 a day. W eek ly
earnings averaged ab ou t $1 for children and $2.50 to $3
for w om en . O ften th e y w ere paid in goods in stead o f
m oney.
T h e in tro d u ction o f autom atic m achinery, child-labor
la w s enforced b y S tate labor agencies, and com pulsory
school a tten d an ce h ave com bined to elim inate largely th e
child-labor e v il, w ith its a tten d a n t physical degeneration
and illiteracy.

The McCormick Reaper Was Demonstrated as
Early as 1831


N 1830 only twenty-six
tow n s in the United
States had a population o f
8,000 or more, and city
dwellers constituted only
6.7 percent o f the total pop­
ulation. Agriculture was
the principal occupation
o f the American people, and over 90 percent o f them
lived on farms and in small rural villages.
Farming methods were simple— almost primitive. Prac­
tically all the work on the farm except plowing and haul­
ing was done by hand. Grain was sown by hand, reaped
with a cradle, and threshed with a flail. M ow ing was
done with a scythe, and the hoe was used to plant and cul­
tivate corn.
The year 1831 saw the introduction o f tw o agricultural
machines— a reaper and a mower. They were forerunners
o f a development in mechanization which within the next
hundred years was to revolutionize farming and almost
reverse the proportion o f agricultural and nonagricultural
workers in the total population.
Young Cyrus McCormick demonstrated the first M c ­
Cormick reaper one July day in 1831 before a crowd of
curious, skeptical Virginia farmers. By 1840 successful
inventions had practically eliminated hand methods in
Because farming was a hand industry, the demand for
farm laborers was great. This demand was met in large
part by slavery and the indenture system, but free workers
were also employed as farm hands. They were paid almost
as much as tradesmen in some cases. The usual rate for
day work on the farms in the years 1830 to 1840 was $1
for a “ sunrise to sunset” day.

The Canal Boat Was the Latest Word
in Transportation
£ P io n e e r s and early
Jl settlers from the be­
ginning o f American his­
tory had moved inland from
the seaboard. Their trans­
portation facilities at first
w e r e o f the c r u d e s t —
wagon trails through the
wilderness and dirt roads, poor at best and impassable at
times. Then came turnpikes and plank roads. By 1838
the “ National Pike” , a macadam road out o f Cumberland,
Maryland, had been completed as far west as Vandalia,
Illinois, and over this highway much o f the westward
migration flowed.
Steamboats made possible navigation of the Great Lakes,
the many eastern rivers, the Ohio, and the Mississippi.
Sailors and boatmen employed on inland waterways num­
bered 32,000 in 1846, and the volume of business was
great and constantly growing.
But communication between the Atlantic States and the
interior for the exchange o f the agricultural products o f
the new settlements and the manufactured articles of the
East was still very difficult. This problem was met by
building canals to connect the waterways. The most
important of these was the Erie Canal, completed in 1825,
which connected Lake Erie and the Hudson River.
Freight rates between Buffalo and N ew York fell from
$100 to $5 a ton and time in transit from 20 to 6 days,
while transportation costs between Ohio and the seaboard
fell about 90 percent.
The success o f the Erie Canal led to the construction of
many more canals. Inland waterways connected by canals
became the most important medium o f transportation o f
both passengers and freight until the rise of the railroads.

The Steam Railroad Was Beginning, Although in 1830
I t Lost a Famous Race at Relay, Maryland
£ T ) OPULAR skepticism
JL toward the innovation
of the railroad in 1830 was
very much what it was
about seventy years later,
when the derisive cry of
“ get a horse” greeted the
first a u t o m o b i l e s . O n e
point o f difference was that in 1830 skepticism expressed
itself in a literal challenge to the new to prove its superb
ority over the old. A nd in the race between locomotive
and horse which resulted from that challenge the horse
actually won. That was, of course, due to an accident to
the mechanism and not to an inherently wrong principle,
as America soon learned. It was not long before the rail"
road had demonstrated its superiority over all other exist'
ing methods o f transportation.
For fifty years the building, equipping, and operating of
railroads constituted a major industry, the ramifying
activities o f which created many new occupations and
varied opportunities for the workers.
Thirty-nine years after the train drawn by the little
locomotive, Tom Thumb, was beaten by a horse-drawn
car, another public gathering near Ogden, Utah, watched
in a very different spirit the driving o f a silver spike which
connected the eastern and western railroads into a railway
system reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Thus,
within the span o f one generation, invention, capital, and
American labor had conquered the transportation prob­
lems o f a continent.
Improvement, maintenance, and operation o f our vast
network of railways give employment, in normal times, to
nearly tw o million workers who are for the most part well

With N ew Means o f Transportation the Great Move­
ment to the Central West Was Accelerated

A t THE time o f the purchase o f the Louisiana
territory from France in
1803, w h i c h m o re than
d o u b l e d the area o f the
United States, Thomas Jef­
ferson predicted that it
would take a thousand
years to settle and populate the new region. But his vis­
ion did not encompass the rise o f industrialism in the East,
the economic effects o f the War o f 1812, the growth o f
seaboard cities through immigration, or the development
o f canal and railroad transportation. A ll these factors and
others, combined with the desire for land and the pioneer­
ing spirit inherent in the American people, produced a
westward movement which in half a century had exceeded
what Jefferson had expected of ten centuries.
The western migration of families and groups o f indi­
viduals, by covered wagons, canal boats and flatboats, and
by railroads, constitutes probably the most picturesque
phase o f American history.
Land could be purchased from the Government at prices
ranging from $1 to $2 an acre, and even the more daring
pioneers who “ squatted” outside the areas opened to set­
tlement by purchase were later protected in their rights
to the preempted land if they had established a homestead
and had cleared the land for cultivation.
Within twenty years after the Louisiana Purchase the
Mississippi and Ohio Valleys were settled and made into
States; in the next two decades the Southwest was de­
veloped; by 1860 these regions were “ old.” Towns and
cities, with schools, industries, and commerce, had taken
the place o f the Indians and fur traders o f Jefferson’s day.

Lured by Gold and Land, Many Moved On to the
Pacific Coast
IOLD was discovered

G (in California in 1849,
and one historian says that
“ almost overnight we be'
came a nation o f gamblers.”
Rather, a considerable part
o f the Nation became ad'
7!A venturers and fortune hunt'
ers, caught up in the fever o f the “ gold rush.”
The earlier westward migration was a movement of
individuals, families, and small groups. During the gold
rush whole towns were sometimes depopulated by the
lure o f quick, easy wealth. But tradesmen and laborers
soon learned that their prosperity was to be found in
building towns and providing for the constant flow of
people, rather than in the very uncertain fortunes of the
prospectors and the gold miners.
Settlers were at the same time moving out to the coast
over the Oregon trail. After the Civil War the home'
stead laws opened to free settlement the great public
domains lying between the Missouri River and the far
West. This legislation granted 160 acres of arable land
to any American citizen on the sole condition that he
establish a home. Thus anyone desiring land to farm had
the opportunity to obtain it, and the property became his
own after five years1 continuous residence upon it. This
movement resulted in extensive settlement o f the North'
While the homesteading policy was adopted largely in
the interest o f discharged soldiers o f the Union Army, it
served also to afford an outlet for surplus labor in the
East. Accordingly, wages stayed up after the war, in spite
of the steadily increasing immigration from Europe.
179228 0 — 33------ 3


While the East Continued to Receive Increasing Numbers
o f Immigrants fro m Europe


MMIGRATION as a mass

movement, characterised
by horrible overcrowding
on shipboard and the herd'
ing of aliens through our
ports o f entry in vast numbers, was unheard of a century ago. In the ten years
from 1830 to 1840 the entire immigration from Europe
was a little more than half a million. Between 1880
and 1904 that number was entering annually, and in
the decade following 1904 aliens came in at the rate of
a million a year.
While increased immigration resulted in part from political, social, and economic conditions in the Old World,
the stronger stimulus lay in rapid economic developments
in the N ew W orld and in the “ land of promise” tradition.
Because of the rise o f the factory system, the loss o f
many sturdy young workers who migrated to the West,
and the opening of markets through improved transporta­
tion facilities, American industries faced a shortage of
labor, particularly in unskilled and semiskilled occupations
calling for strength and endurance.
T o meet that demand, manufacturers, railroads, and
steamship companies in 1865 began the system of recruit­
ing workers in Europe under contract which became a
medium for breaking strikes, demoralised wage scales,
and threatened to overthrow American working and liv­
ing conditions. A t the insistence of the Knights of
Labor alien contract labor was later prohibited by law.
The unregulated flow of illiterate, low-wage immigrants
has been protested by organised labor ever* since. Immi­
gration fell off during the W orld War, and afterward was
so regulated as virtually to have ceased.

Meanwhile Labor’s Long Struggle fo r Better Working
Conditions H ad Begun


the d o g g e d ly




organised labor to b r e a k


“ sun-to-sun”

workday to serious consid­
eration o f a statutory 30hour workweek runs the
century’s record on hours
o f labor.

The 13- and 14"hour day was practiced and accepted as
a matter of course in the early days because agriculture,
predominantly the basic industry, set work standards.
The first organised effort to shorten the workday was
the “ 10-hour movement” o f the decade 1830-1840, a
frankly militant undertaking which made extensive use of
the strike to attain its end. The first spectacular success
was achieved by the building trades in Philadelphia in
1833. After that the movement spread rapidly and, for
the building trades, successfully in most cities.
Shipbuilding workers had been prominent in the move­
ment from the start, and after a campaign o f 10-hour
strikes nearly all private shipbuilding plants had adopted
the plan. Government building in navy yards, however,
did not respond to the change but continued the old sunto-sun system. Then on March 31, 1840, President Van
Buren issued a proclamation fixing 10 hours as the standard
workday for mechanics in the employ of the Government.
Manufacturing industries proved more difficult, and
the movement made so little headway that legislation was
demanded to relieve factory workers, especially children,
from the inhumanly long workday.
By the close of the nineteenth century the 8-hour day
had been accepted in many trades, and the W orld War
accelerated this movement.

The Sweatshop Developed A fter the Civil War and.
Created N ew Labor Problems
NE o f the most serious
and menacing problems
arising out of greatly in­
creasing immigration was
the development and spread
o f “ sweatshop” manufac­
ture, particularly o f cloth­
ing and tobacco. Tene­
ment sections o f cities, crowded with recently arrived
aliens with low-living and low-wage standards, with no
definite occupational training and unable to speak English,
proved to be fertile ground for its development.
Machinery, if needed at all, was inexpensive, and the
subcontractors operating sweatshops required little capi­
tal, since material was obtained from the large manufac­
turers. Men, women, and children worked shockingly
long hours for ludicrously low piece rates in airless, poorly
lighted quarters reeking with dirt and disease.
Even after factory regulation and inspection had been
established by law, control o f sweatshops was practically
impossible because of their mobility and the ease with
which they escaped detection. Child-labor laws improved
conditions somewhat, and a system o f licensing was estab­
lished as a public-health measure to check infection.
The efforts o f consumers’ leagues to create a demand for
goods produced only under decent standards gave public­
ity to the evils o f the sweating system and resulted in some
amelioration o f conditions.
The rise o f the modern factory, with its power machin­
ery and highly organized productive methods, did much
to eliminate the sweatshop by making factory -production
cheaper, better, and more profitable. M ore recently, how ­
ever, the current depression seems to be causing a rever­
sion to sweating in some o f its worst phases.


7 he Knights o f Labor Movement to Organize Workers

Began in i86g and Spread Rapidly but Secretly
Am erican labor
v / movement has trav­
eled far from the days when
union meetings were called
by cabalistic symbols writ­
ten on sidewalks and shop
walls and held in secret.
Because the b l a c k l i s t i n g
and victimising o f leaders had defeated many promising
efforts to organise workers, the Knights o f Labor started
its movement in 1869 in strictest secrecy. Instead o f a
name the symbol of the “ Five Stars” was used in all the
activities of the order. This policy was later discon­
tinued, but not until the membership had become large
and powerful enough to make secrecy unnecessary.
The Knights o f Labor, the first successful movement to­
ward national organisation o f workers, differed radically
both from the organisations which preceded and those
which followed it. Early trade unions were purely local
in character and included only skilled workers. The
underlying philosophy of the Knights o f Labor was work­
ing-class solidarity irrespective of trade or occupation.
Trade unionism as we know it grew out o f the move­
ment o f craftsmen away from general organisation under
the Knights of Labor for the declared purpose o f preserv­
ing their own craft entities. This development was both
a cause and a result of the founding, in 1881, o f the Amer­
ican Federation o f Labor.
The Order o f the Knights of Labor has passed into his­
tory, but it left behind it the educational influence o f its
leaders and its many labor papers, as well as the tangible
results o f the movements it sponsored. Chief among these
are the Federal and State labor agencies created at its

Efforts o f Labor to Maintain Wages Led to the
First General Strike, 1877
United States deV--' veloped so rapidly
from an agricultural to an
industrial nation that evils
inherent in that haphazard
g r o w t h w e n t unnoticed
and un r e c o g n i z e d . T h e
serious industrial disputes
which have characterized our economic history have been
dramatic evidence of the existence o f those evils.
Major labor disturbances o f national significance have
largely involved the steel, mining, and transportation in'
dustries. The first general strike in our history occurred
in 1877, when the eastern railroads cut wages 10 percent,
in addition to reductions following the panic of 1873.
The answer o f the railroad employees was unpremedi'
tated and unorganized revolt. The strike started in Penn'
sylvania and spread to San Francisco. In some parts o f the
country car'shop workers and miners in mines supplying
the roads joined the striking trainmen. Riots, fires, and
mob violence, causing death and injury, resulted from
clashes between strikers and State troops, and for the first
time the United States Arm y was called upon to act in an
industrial disorder.
M any other serious strikes, the reverberations o f which
have been Nationwide, have focused public and govern'
mental attention upon the conditions in industry and in the
lives o f the workers which could produce such conflicts.
Today railroad strikes very rarely occur. The United
States Government has provided machinery in the Board
o f Mediation for the orderly settlement o f disputes
through mediation or arbitration. State and Federal
agencies also serve as conciliation mediums for the adjust'
ment of actual or threatened disputes in other industries.

The N ew Machine Era, Beginning in the 1880's, Produced
the Distinctive Skyline o f Our Industrial Cities


’E C H A N IC A L p ro g ­
ress and the change

from hand labor to machine
production between 1830
and 1880 were so remark­
able that an economist,
writing in 1889, said:
To one whose present memory and life experience do not extend
over a period of time more extensive than what is represented by a
generation, the recital of the economic experiences and industrial
conditions of the generation next preceding is very much akin to a
recurrence to ancient history.

The latter half of that era saw the discovery and development o f many o f the basic elements which made
technological progress possible. Among these are petroleum and the adaptation o f electricity to motor power.
Some of the important changes, however, represented only
improvements upon principles and practices of earlier
Shoemaking machinery, power printing presses and
typesetting machines, the regenerative furnace, power
sewing machines, electroplating, photography, the tele'
phone, and agricultural machinery .are illustrative of the
extent to which industrial mechanization had spread by
the close o f the nineteenth century. The job opportuni­
ties and new occupations created by this expansion are
as notable as is the change in the character of the product
and the speed and comparative ease with which it was
Suggestive o f our own day is the comment made by
Carroll D. Wright in 1895, that—
It is fair to say, perhaps, that it would require from fifty to one
hundred million persons, working under the old system, to . . . do the
work performed by the workers of today with the aid of machinery.

The Great Power Station Is a Principal Factor in the
Enormous Increase in Productivity
T HAS been said that the


first machine - equipped
t e x t i l e f a c t o r i e s o f the
ear ly nineteenth century
c h a n g e d t h e method o f
production “ from daughter power to water power.”
Then invention and me­
chanical development changed water power to electrical
energy, which produced the second industrial revolution
in production methods and productivity that we now
call the machine age. When a textile factory was estab­
lished in South Carolina in 1893 equipped entirely with
electrically driven machinery a new era was entered.
The first survey o f the amount of power used in indus­
try, made in 1870, showed 2,346,142 horsepower em­
ployed, about equally divided between water and steam.
By 1929 the number of horsepower had grown to 43,079,000. During the twenty-five years from 1899 to 1923 the
horsepower equipment utilised per wage earner increased
from 1.40 to 3.76 in manufactures, from 3.36 to 6.53 in
mines and quarries, and from 2.32 to 4.74 in agriculture.
The change in the kind o f power produced is even more
significant than the increase in volume. Electric power
and the internal-combustion engine, both o f which are
available at practically any point and any time, have been
revolutionary in their effects not only upon industry and
transportation but upon our entire social life.
The metaphorical number o f “ slaves” placed at our
command by pushing a button or starting a gasoline motor
becomes rather more than a figure o f speech when me­
chanical power estimated at the rate o f 1 horsepower to
10 manpower is thus made immediately available.

The Combine Harvester Symbolizes the Mechanization
o f Agriculture
Th r o u g h o u t the ages
many o f the advantages o f rural life have been
offset by its isolation and
by the excessive labor in
the field and the household
d r u d g e r y n e c e s s a r y fo r
making even the most mea­
ger livelihood.

N ow , if the facilities that science and invention have
provided can be properly utilized, all that may be changed.
Almost every kind of farm work, from plowing and
harvesting to milking the cows, can be done by machinery.
Machines adaptable to every purpose are manufactured,
and gasoline or oil engines and electric motors are available
to drive them.
Instead o f living in a continuous round o f household
drudgery, farm women may now use electric devices in
wide variety both for their housework and for their dis­
tinctive farm duties. The telephone and the radio afford
ready contact with the world outside the farm, and the
railroad and the automobile provide swift and economical
transportation. W ith the full utilization o f these facili­
ties, the farms will be linked up with the interests and
activities of the whole civilized world.
The effect o f the use of modern farm equipment is vastly
to reduce the total amount of labor necessary for the pro­
duction o f the raw materials required to feed and clothe
the Nation. Free time will bring the farmer opportunities
for travel, for enjoyment, and for culture. In fact, he may
in the future enjoy all the advantages that are available
to dwellers in cities without sacrificing any of the blessings
that spring from life on the land.

The Automobile, Barely Thirty Tears Old, H ad Cre­
ated Some Three or Four M illion Jobs in ig2g
N LESS than three decades


the automobile changed
from a toy to one o f the
dominant factors in American society. Probably no
other single development in
history has so quickly ex­
erted such profound influ'
ence on the life of a nation.
Figures o f increase in the registration of automobiles,
from 8,000 in 1900 to 25,814,103 in 1931, staggering as
they are, convey no suggestion of the extent of that influ'
ence. Primarily, the automobile created a mighty industry, employing, directly and indirectly, millions of workers. The ramifications o f its secondary effects go all the
way from rubber plantations-in the Tropics to the little
“ tourist cabins” which spring up all over the country
beside the magnificent highways which are themselves a
byproduct of the automobile.
Socially, inexpensive cars have revolutionised the recreation habits and the leisure time, and added to the experiences of great numbers of American workers. Economically, having transportation facilities at their fingers’
ends made employment easier to find, and in prosperous
times gave greater mobility to seek advancement.
These advantages have not depended w holly upon pri­
vate ownership o f an automobile, since development o f the
bus system has reduced the transportation costs to a point
where travel is no longer the privilege o f the few.

Depression caused the registration of private automo­
biles to shrink about 3 percent between 1930 and 1932.
But “ the car” has become so vital a part of life that it is one
of the last items to be sacrificed, even when unemploy­
ment demands retrenchment.

A t Modern Docks Ships Are Loaded and Unloaded
B y Powerful Machines
mechanization o f
industry has p ro­
gressed from comparatively
simple machines applicable
to a few m a n u f a c t u r i n g
processes a century ago to
the point where the “ me­
ch an i c al man" also per­
forms the grueling tasks of lifting, carrying, and digging
which formerly could be done only by tremendous exer­
tion o f human labor power.
Mechanical devices, not overstrained human muscles,
now load and unload ships and freight cars; conveyor
belts move merchandise easily and speedily; automatic
stokers fire engines. Even that picturesque figure so often
used to personify manual labor, the ditch digger, has been
supplanted by a motor-driven shovel which digs in one
hour a ditch which would require the labor power o f 40
or 50 men working with hand shovels.
Machinery is now used in varying degrees in the pro­
duction of practically all manufactured goods. In some
instances it has displaced human labor almost wholly; in
others it has resulted in the elimination o f craft skill. Glass
bottles, for examples, are made by automatic machines
which produce in an hour 41 times the possible output
under hand production. The skill of the old glass-bottle
maker is gone, but with it has gone the extensive employ­
ment of children for long hours which was characteristic
o f glass factories of the old days.
On the other hand, the technological developments
which have made possible the production o f 390,000
copies o f a 62-page newspaper every day in the year have
so expanded the market that the demand for labor in that
industry has increased enormously.

High-Power Lighting H as Converted N ig h t Into
Day fo r Both Work and Pleasure


NE o f the hardships of
the 14-hour day in the

early textile factories was
having to spin and weave
properly in the feeble light
o f the oil lamps w ith which
the mills were inadequately

A custom grew

up o f celebrating the lengthened daylight in the spring by
ceremoniously blowing out the lamps and decorating them
with garlands.

N ow a great many workers, particularly in offices, work
and prefer to work under artificial light all day. But it is
a very different light.
M idw ay o f the hundred-year span, 1833-1933, the electrie lamp made a somewhat timorous entrance upon the
scene, when at a public demonstration in N ew York tw o
electric engines produced light “ simultaneously in thirty
little balloon-shaped globes.” From that point the history
o f electric lighting has been one of continuous progress,
from the experimental pioneering on the part of a few
hotels and newspaper offices in the 1880’s to practically
universal adoption.
The evenness of electric light and the ease with which
it may be diffused throughout work places make it a better
illuminant than daylight for some processes. A windowless factory has recently been constructed which will de­
pend entirely upon artificial lighting and air conditioning.
Just as we have reversed tradition by burning artificial
fight in daytime, we have turned night into day by the
same medium. Darkness no longer interferes with any­
thing we wish to do, whether it is flying or playing base­
ball, because high-power flood fights and beacons conquer
darkness everywhere.


B ut Modern Industry H as Brought N ew Hazards, Such
as the Perilous L ife o f the Building Worker
NE o f the penalties of
industrial progress is
the increase in industrial
hazards. Skyscraper construction, high-speed
machinery, fast transporta­
tion, fatigue, and nervous
tension are among the fac­
tors contributing to the American casualty record.
Through heartlessness or inability to meet the problem,
the “ human scrap heap” was accepted during the early
periods of machine production as the inescapable price o f
advancement. That attitude was challenged by tw o
viewpoints— that o f humanitarianism, which declared
that the value o f human life transcends all other considera­
tions, and that of practical economics, which contended
that industrial slaughter cost more than prevention.
Beginning with the enactment o f laws requiring installa­
tion o f mechanical safeguards on certain types o f machin­
ery, the movement to control hazards in industry has
been slowly gaining ground. Mandatory legislation is
enforced by State labor agencies, or, in the case o f inter­
state railroads, by the Federal Government.
A broader, more comprehensive effort lies in the educa­
tional work of the safety movement, which undertakes to
instill the doctrine o f “ safety first” into the conscious­
ness o f workers, employers, and the general public. The
objective o f that educational work is not, however, to
shift responsibility to the worker. Rather, the accidentprevention movement attempts primarily to secure the
cooperation and practical support of employers in all in­
dustries. This effort is greatly stimulated by workmen’s
compensation laws, which assess industry for the social
cost of industrial accidents.



The Hidden H azard o f a D ust Explosion or an
Occupational Disease


on his
way to work, passing
a coal miner, or, perhaps,
seeing a structural-iron
worker hundreds of feet
above his head, or a line­
man handling a high-ten­
sion wire, might, with a
grateful sense o f his own security, enter the flour mill or
the starch factory where he earned a living for himself and
his family. A n d it would be entirely within the realm of
probabilities for the man whose precarious job had im­
pressed him to be making every possible effort, a few
hours later, to rescue him from death or serious injury
resulting from the terrific dust explosion which had just
wrecked his “ safe” work place.
M any jobs are inherently dangerous. The risks are rec­
ognised and understood, and in many instances guarded
against. Other industries, on the other hand, are subject
to dangers as insidious as the explosion of accumulated
dust, against which protection is not provided because of
lack of realisation of the risk.
What is true o f threatened accident is even truer of
disease. That hidden danger lies back of many occupa­
tions in trades which appear wholly safe. Dust is not only
an accident risk but a menace to health. The painter
spraying an automobile and the girl painting a watch dial
with radium paint are exposed to serious hasards, just as
are the building-trades man and the worker in high ex­
plosives, except that the risk is of slow instead of sudden
Recognition and control o f these insidious dangers are
imperative for the protection o f workers.

High-Speed Production Tends to D iscard the Worker at
Early Middle Age


there should be
v l / any question of the
e m p l o y a b i l i t y o f the
worker o f middle age and
older, with his skill, expert
ence, and years of service,
his probable dependability
and loyalty, would undoubtedly have astonished the employer not only o f a
century ago but of a decade ago. Those very qualities
were looked for in taking on new workers, and com*
manded respect and remuneration.
Nevertheless, under modern industrialism the question
has not only arisen but has become a definite menace to the
worker whose youth is past, because it has introduced the
idea o f age limitation as an employment policy.
Among the reasons given for the adoption by industry
o f maximum age limits in hiring workers are these: Mass
production by machinery requires speed, not skill; older
workers do not adapt to changing methods; under group
life insurance and pension plans the employment of any
but young workers is poor business practice; older
workers are more liable to injury, and hence increase
compensation costs.
So far discharge o f employees of long standing because of
age has not been practiced extensively. On the contrary,
many socially minded employers, while agreeing that new
methods of production need the elasticity and alertness of
young people, place a compensating valuation upon the
experience and judgment gained by years of service. Real­
izing the danger in unemployment which is threatening
older workers, they are in some instances keeping their old
employees by reassigning them to tasks within their

Irregularity o f Employment Is Accentuated B y the N ew
Industrial Conditions
O V /^ A S S p r o d u c t i o n ,
«-/ 0 v m ec han iza tio n o f
industry, and world mar'
kets have become catch'
words o f the society which
a century o f progress has
created. Pride in these de'
velopments is an American
But pride in a record output or enthusiasm over the
marvelous performance of a new machine can very quickly
turn to fear in the heart of a workman who sees his factory
close because that record output filled all the available
orders, or o f one who finds his labor no longer needed
because the marvelous machine is doing his work better,
faster, and more cheaply.
“ Hard times” throughout our industrial history have
resulted in N ationw ide unemployment and the destitU'
tion which loss o f wages entails.
But the menace is not confined to hard times. The con'
dition which economists call “ unemployment within e m
ployment” and which workers know as “ being laid off” is
characteristic of seasonal industries, such as the construe'
tion and clothing industries. In any industry or trade
situations apparently beyond control may suddenly throw
employees out o f work for indefinite periods.
The worker’s fear o f being displaced by a machine is as
old as machinery. When machinery was an innovation
confined to the manufacture of a very few products its
labor'displacing tendencies were offset by the greatly
increased consumption which followed lower production
costs. W ith mechanization of industry practically uni'
versal, the old terror is revived by what we call techno'
logical unemployment.

Concentration o f Industry and Commerce in Large Centers
Leads to Overcrowding o f Cities


NE o f the most pro­

nounced and signifi­
cant changes in American
life is the shift of popula­
tion from the country to
th e c i t y . In 1880 the
United States was still an
agricultural country, with
71.4 percent o f its people living in rural areas. Fifty
years later that proportion had been cut to 43.8 percent,
and 56.2 percent of the people were living in urban areas.
In 1930 the twelve largest cities contained one sixth the
population o f continental United States.
This enormous growth o f cities and urban population
produces increasingly distressing problems. Difficulties o f
housing, sanitation, traffic, safety, and health grow with
the congestion produced by concentration o f population.
The trend of the heavy immigration of the early twen­
tieth century was toward the seaboard cities and the
great industrial centers of the M iddle West. Industries
in the same period tended to concentrate in localities
where conditions proved peculiarly advantageous for
their development. The workers employed in these in­
dustries o f necessity gravitated to these centers, and with
rents high and wages low, congestion in poor quarters
was the inevitable consequence.
Later, changed conditions in agriculture aggravated the
situation, because o f unprofitable farming on one hand and
mechanization on the other, both o f which displaced farm
workers, who then drifted to the cities.
Some headway has been made in the past twenty years
toward improved living standards and control o f housing
conditions in the congested areas o f our great cities, but
the solution o f the problem is still far in the future.

Hopeful Signs— Safety and Compensation Law s Afford
Some Protection to the Worker and H is Family
scientific inquisi'
tiveness o f our day
has produced tenets which
are o f distinct value to the
workers, however much like
heresy they would have
seemed a hundred years
A n illustration o f
this is the slogan: “ Accidents don’t just happen.”
Far from accepting accidents as acts of God, and hence
beyond human control, industry and Government today
maintain that most accidents are preventable. From that
starting point they are developing on a scientific founda'
tion principles and methods of accident prevention.
The United States Bureau o f Mines is constantly striv'
ing to lessen the frequency and severity of mine disasters.
State mine inspectors require the installation o f safety de'
vices as dictated by law, and inspect their operation.
The safety activities o f the Interstate Commerce Com '
mission serve the same ends for workers engaged in rail'
road transportation. The factory inspectors of State
labor departments are primarily concerned with accident
prevention and the enforcement of safety laws.
But effective as these efforts are, they have not elimi'
nated the evil. The social cost o f death and injury from
work accidents is so great that legislation has been
necessary to compel industry to carry some o f the burden,
since it is chiefly responsible. Compensation for death
and injury on duty is now the right of a considerable por'
tion of American workers.
In addition, State agencies, with the aid of the Federal
Government, and to a limited extent private employers
as well, have undertaken the retraining o f injured workers
whose earning power is seriously impaired.

Some Employers Furnish Excellent Working Conditions in
H ealthful Surroundings
ABOR laws administered


by State agencies set
minimum standards o f acceptable w o r k i n g c o n d i tions to which e m p l o y e r s
are required to c o n f o r m .
O r g a n i s e d w o r k e r s are
often able to se cu re f o r
themselves standards of hours, wages, safety and health,
and plant equipment considerably in advance o f the legal
In still other instances found in many industries the
labor policies o f individual establishments create working
conditions designed to promote the welfare o f the workers
not only in matters covered by labor legislation but with
regard to recreation and health, and sometimes housing.
Among the welfare activities o f plants o f the type sug"
gested are rest rooms and recreation facilities, cafeterias,
medical and dental service and health clinics, and personnel
management dealing directly with employment relations,
occupational adjustment, and problems o f individual
A n outstanding characteristic o f plant welfare programs
is the medical service furnished free to employees. First,
aid rooms, dispensaries, and sometimes hospital quarters
are part of the factory equipment. Nurses, and not infre­
quently doctors and dentists, are regularly employed.
Safety and protection from industrial disease are the
primary considerations in this type o f welfare work.
These institutions are carrying out the theory and practice
of the principles of industrial hygiene which State labor
agencies and public health services are trying to instill into
industry as a whole.

Good Low-Cost Housing H as Been Found
ROWDED, insanitary


living quarters, with
insufficient light and air,
without comfort or con­
veniences and devoid of the
spirit o f home, are not a
new development. Presentday slum conditions are
probably different only to the extent that they concern so
many more people than were affected by the city housing
problems o f an earlier period in our history. Investiga­
tions of slum areas in Boston, Philadelphia, and N ew York
City during the 1850’s disclosed conditions quite similar
to those with which we are now familiar, and movements
for improved housing began about that time.
The “ battle of the slums,” which was vigorously waged
in the early 1900’s, resulted in tenement-house laws and an
inspection system which undertook to control some o f the
worst evils o f city congestion. City health departments
directed attention to the menace to public health.
Plans for eliminating slums and starting all over with
rebuilding projects have been broached from time to time
with little progress. Such development as has come in
that line has been due in considerable degree to efforts o f
the workers themselves. T w o organized groups o f work­
ers in N ew York City, the Amalgamated Clothing W ork­
ers and the Jewish National Workers’ Alliance, have
carried through successfully a number of apartment-house
projects, in some cases razing old tenements and erecting
modern buildings in their stead.
The cooperative apartment movement in N ew York,
under the stimulation o f the State housing law, is also
tending slowly to afford good housing facilities, with
modern equipment, at a price which workers can afford.

Public and Private Provision fo r the Aged Makes
Old Age Less to Be Feared
HE worker of a century
v jy ago who reached old
age worn out, without
money, earning power, or
means of support outside
himself, went to the poor'
house as a matter o f course.
Once there, he probably
ended his days in surroundings far more dismal and squalid
than those which he had been able to provide for himself
out o f his meager earnings.
But while in too many cases the poorhouse is still the
only refuge of workers whose earning power is gone, even
that traditionally awful place has, generally speaking, re'
sponded somewhat to the standards and ideals o f progress.
A n d it is no longer taken for granted that the poorhouse
offers the only answer to the problem o f the* broken'down,
dependent worker, for a different viewpoint is developing.
The workers themselves in some trades are dealing with
the problem through their own organizations. Five inter'
national unions operate homes for their aged and disabled
members, where provision is made for medical care and
recreation. Other international unions, in the building
trades chiefly, grant pensions to their superannuated
The system of State assistance to the indigent old has
now been adopted by practically half the States, and
public service retirement systems afford protection to
many Federal and State employees and municipal teachers,
policemen, and firemen who are no longer able to work
because o f age or disability.


Industrial as Well as General Education H as
Vastly Improved


NIVERSAL free educa­

tion as practiced in the
United States is very defb
nitely attributable to the
democratic ideals o f the
workers o f a century ago
and to the determination
which organized workers
have shown in realizing the goal they advanced in the
1840’s— “ a complete and systematic course of instruction
for every child at public expense.”
The effort to attain that goal has continued ever since,
and is a vital part of the story o f the century. A hundred
years ago the public'school movement was confined to the
cities, where workers predominated. When urban workers
began migrating west, the principle o f free schooling had
become so ingrained that they built their schoolhouses and
their dwellings at the same time.
From such beginnings have evolved practically Nation­
wide compulsory schooling up to a minimum of 14 years
of age, and the assumption, at least, that all children in
the United States have equal opportunity to share in the
Nation’s public educational institutions.
The workers o f later eras in our history have shared this
interest in education, and have tried to make the system
founded by their predecessors serve the needs o f an indus­
trial society. Trends toward undemocratic formalism dis­
cernible in our educational system have been opposed and
have been countered with demands for the inclusion o f
industrial and vocational training in school curricula.
Since 1917 the Federal Government has fostered the
objective o f adequate vocational training for those whose
schooling must be limited to the grammar and high schools.

A Representative o f Labor Takes H is Place in the
President’s Cabinet, i g i j
NE o f the most forceful


demands o f the Knights
o f Labor was for the creation o f governmental agen­
cies, State and Federal, to
deal with labor problems
and workers’ welfare. Prec­
edent was found in M as­
sachusetts, where the first bureau o f labor statistics had
been established in 1869, in response to the need o f both
employers and employees for some means of determining
facts about industrial conditions, uncolored by bias and
The agitation developed so effectively that by the time
the Federal Bureau o f Labor was created, in 1884, eleven
State bureaus were in existence. Out of the nucleus o f
State factory inspection and statistical and investigative
agencies State departments o f labor and industrial com­
missions have evolved, as the medium for the enforcement
o f labor laws, the study o f working conditions, the media­
tion of industrial disputes, and the promotion o f the wel­
fare o f the workers so far as State authority and influence
may be directed to that end.
While a Federal Department o f Commerce and Labor
was established in 1903, that was not a satisfactory re­
sponse to the specific demand for recognition o f labor by
the Government through a department equal in rank to
other executive departments.
W ith the consummation o f this effort in the creation o f
the United States Department o f Labor on March 4,1913,
a representative of the workers o f the country, in the
person o f the Honorable W . B. Wilson, took his place in
the Cabinet of the President o f the United States as the
first Secretary o f Labor.

Organized Labor, Grown Vastly in Significance, Is
Represented at the Peace Conferences, ig ig
N THE years from 1869 to


1919 organised labor ad­
vanced from the secrecy
imposed upon it by the
antagonism o f employers
and the suspicion o f the
public to official recogni­
tion by the United States
The American Federation o f Labor, established in 1881,
never adopted the policy o f secrecy. Instead, it took the
position that the right o f labor to organise is absolute, and
began the long struggle for recognition which triumphed
during and immediately after the W orld War.
One o f the methods used to create for unionism a place
in national affairs was to undertake the election o f trade
unionists to Congress and the State legislatures. The idea
o f acceptance o f trade unionism as a factor in the national
life was present also in the demand for the inclusion o f
“ labor planks” in party platforms.
Formal recognition came when the United States G ov­
ernment called upon organised labor as such to take part
in developing and carrying out measures for control o f
war production. Boards o f adjustment were created to
deal with labor relations in the important war industries,
and representatives o f the organised trades in each indus­
try were appointed to membership. President Wilson
appointed five men to represent organised labor on the
National War Labor Board.
Organised labor’s prestige was further strengthened
when, in 1919, Samuel Gompers, president o f the Ameri­
can Federation o f Labor, was appointed by President
Wilson to represent the United States on one o f the
advisory boards o f the International Peace Conference.

138 ]

Industrial Disputes Are Often Satisfactorily Adjusted by
Conciliators Representing Federal and State Governments


years ago
strikes were crimes.
When organized workers
struck they were in danger
of prosecution for “ criminal conspiracy” ; unorgan­
ized strikes were called
riots and treated as such.
The right to strike is no longer questioned. Rather the
issue now is whether the exercise of that right is good
policy, or whether, in the interest o f workers, employers,
and the public, a better method o f adjustment can be
Governmental agencies have been established to help
find a better way. Threatened or actual strikes on inter­
state railroads and on American ships have long been sub­
ject to Federal intervention, through the United States
Board o f Mediation in the former instance and the ship­
ping commissioners of the United States Department of
Commerce in the latter.
The Conciliation Service of the United States Depart­
ment o f Labor is organized to act either to avert or to
adjust strikes in any industry and in any part of the coun­
try at the request of employers, workers, or the public
The labor departments of most of the industrial States
provide machinery both for prevention and adjustment of
industrial disputes within the State, through conciliation
or voluntary arbitration.
Through trade agreements and adjustment agencies
within the industry, employers and workers in various
lines have developed plans for reconciling differences be­
fore they develop into strikes and lockouts.

The Great Problem o f the Future: Security o f
NE hundred years o f
social and econom ic
progress and industrial development have brought
advancement and achievement to the American
worker. He has won lei­
sure through shorter hours,
and through education, higher living standards, and better
wages he has attained appreciation o f the cultural value o f
leisure. His work is less arduous and he has acquired some
voice in determining the conditions under which he
But partly because o f this phenomenal industrial de­
velopment, a factor vital to complete emancipation has
been sacrificed. That is security o f employment.
Organized workers in some trades have tried to meet un­
employment emergencies with “ out-of-work benefits'” ,
but that plan o f necessity falls down when great numbers
are displaced. Insurance to cover periods o f unemploy­
ment has been undertaken experimentally by a few em­
ployers, and the principle has been enacted into law in
Long-term planning to end seasonal production, and the
shorter workday and workweek to “ spread employ­
ment” among all attached to the industry are among the
plans projected as a means o f attaining labor’s next goal,
security o f employment and a dependable income.
W ith all our dramatic progress, the curtain falls upon a
period of continued, widespread unemployment, with
greatly depressed wages and breakdown of industrial
standards, such as the country never before experienced,
a condition which o f itself is a challenge to the spirit that
achieved the “ Century o f Progress.”


A R L Y in 1934 a convention o f organised workers
adopted a resolution which declared that “ the cen­
tury of struggle for economic and industrial freedom has
found its nearest approach to realisation in the National
Industrial Recovery A c t.11
Some o f the elements in that struggle have been touched
upon in this story of labor from 1833 to 1933. Objectives
and ideals of the workers have included a shorter work­
day and workweek, the right to organise and to secure
through collective bargaining a voice in determining their
wages, hours, and working conditions, particularly those
which concerned their health and safety. They have
sought in many ways to abolish child labor and sweat­
shops. They have accepted squalid, overcrowded living
quarters in city slums because they saw no way out.
And the specter of unemployment has been with them
A s the curtain rises on the next hundred years, perhaps
the greatest gain is a widespread recognition that in the
interest not merely o f the workers but of national well­
being and progress, many of the problems with which
workers have been grappling for a hundred years must
be solved.
That is the spirit in which the National Industrial
Recovery A ct was drawn up and passed by the United
States Congress in June 1933, and which is motivating
the slowly forming plans for slum clearance and decentral­
isation of industry, and the effort to establish some pro­
tection against unemployment and want through stabilisa­
tion measures and national unemployment insurance.
In short, the people o f the United States have launched,
through the National Industrial Recovery A ct and the
agency administering it, the first comprehensive experi­
ment in national labor legislation. Instead of organising


in secrecy and fear, the workers are now organizing under
the provisions of a Federal statute which declares ex­
plicitly that “ employees shall have the right to organize
and bargain collectively through representatives o f their
own choosing.” Codes for the regulation o f industry
have been inaugurated with the cooperation of the
Federal Government which eliminate child labor, fix
minimum wage rates, regulate apprenticeship, establish
machinery whereby working conditions and industrial
relations may become subject to the joint control of
workers and employers, and under which has already
come the most drastic reduction in working hours in
American industrial history.
These steps are put forth as experiments, and to meet
and end an emergency. But with the positive recognition
o f the vital need for correcting economic maladjustments
should come an equally positive, permanent program to
meet that need.