« PreviousContinue »
swarmed men and boys, running to and fro and mechanically dodging the soft balls of molten glass as they passed from one to the other. Whenever a blower stepped aside from one of the openings in the furnace, a vivid, white glare threw ghastly light on the faces of the workers and discovered a fiery cauldron in the belly of the furnace.
"What is the temperature around those ovens?" we asked.
"Right up close to the openings it's about 110 or 115, but of course as soon as they step away from the hole they are in the normal temperature of the room."
"The normal temperature of the room!" 1 repeated, incredulously. We could feel the heat from the furnaces beating against our faces from where we stood.
"Yes, the blowers soon get used to it. But in winter time the carrier boys have it harder than the blowers, because they have constantly to run from the furnaces out into the cold room and back again. But the boys don't mind it," he hastened to say.
"What are those tubes that come down over the heads of the workers?" was our next question.
"Those pipes carry in fresh air for the helpers," said the foreman.
blowers and "You see we
do everything possible to help our workers," he added proudly.
"Why? Are there any bad gases coming from the furnaces?" we asked in surprise.
"Well, you see—oh, they don't mind it at all. They make such good money that they are willing to put up with a few inconveniences."
"How much do the boys make?"
"They average from a dollar to a dollar and a half a day."
"That's pretty good money for young boys to make. 1 should think you could get men to do the work for that price."
"The boys are quick and nimble—the blowers don't want men for assistants." "What do the boys do, anyway?" "You see, the blower sticks his pipe into the furnace and draws out a little ball of molten glass. He rolls it on the slanting-topped table, blows into the other end of his pipe, and then lays the long glass bubble into an open mold. A boy holds the mold, while the blower puts in the hot glass. Then the boy closes the mold, and, w h e n the blower has finished blowing the bottle, the helper cracks off the stem of glass from the top of the mold. This boy is called the 'cracker off boy.' When the hot glass has cooled a trifle the 'cracker off boy' puts the unnecked bottle into the holder of the 'sticker up' boy, ami the 'sticker up' boy hands the bottle holder, with its still fiery contents, to the finisher. That man sitting down about ten feet away from the furnace is the finisher. He has a separate furnace of his own, where he reheats the head of the bottle and puts on the neck. We have but one or two 'carry in' boys here, because we find we can use the men just as well. The 'carry in' boys carry the bottle to the annealing furnace where it is tempered."
We drew nearer and watched the process closely. As the blower finished with the bottle in the mold a large blister of fine glass formed at the top of the mold, showing that he had blown long enough. Then when the "cracker off" boy broke off the blow pipe this blister of fine.glass burst into smithereens and flew into the air. The floor around the furnaces was literally covered with this fine tissuepaper glass.
CHILDREN WHO KNOW NO CHILDHOOD. Cotton mill operatives, ranging in years from eight to thirteen. The girls have worked from age of six. 2. Two youthful Sons of Toil. 3. At work as "doffers" in Southern cotton mill. 4. Stunted and misshapen from early labor. 5. Little Mike, twelve years old, earns eight cents an hour. 6. Group of cotton loom girls. 7. Only thirteen, and works all night in a machine shop. 8. Five little girl mill workers.
"Doesn't that fine glass ever get into the eyes of the boy sitting over the mold?" we asked.
"Oh, no, the boys know how to take care of themselves. They don't mind it anyway. Over here you can see them blowing long glass tubes for small vials," said the foreman, anxious to change the subject, and we passed back into another part of the room.
It is no wonder that a blower never
sends his son to the glass works to make a living. It is impossible to conceive how conditions could be worse. The boys work in frightful heat in summer, and run constantly from the terrible heat of the furnaces to the below zero temperature of the room in the winter. They slave like living automatons in an atmosphere loaded with deadly gases and obnoxious fumes and filled with flying particles of glass. It is so necessary to save time in the work that the men and boys are all huddled together as closely as possible. Two blowers work from one opening in the furnace. The result is that the hot, liquid glass is passed around hurriedly, missing the workers' legs and arms and bodies by only a fraction of an inch. But the men and boys don't always miss each other. The clothes of the workers are seared in places, and many of them carry scars for life on their bodies.
The boys are required by law to be thirteen or fourteen years old, depending rpon the state. They may be as old as that, but they don't look it. They are pale and wan. They are stunted, undeveloped and 'dumb. The most striking thing about these little martyrs of industry is the way in which they mechanically go through their tasks, quickly, but without a sound. They dance like so many mute puppets to the hurdy-gurdy of the blowpipe. Oppressed? They have had their young life and spirit crushed out of them by the deadly rhythm of petty tasks that they repeat a thousand times a day. but they do not know it. They may steal an appealing look at you, but they enact their ghastly pantomime as pitifully dumb as any member of the brute creation.
Glass factories are not the only places where little children slave away their lives when they should be in school and under home influence. In fact tne work ing conditions in glass works are so bad that the industry pays about the best wages and employs about the oldest children of any of the child slave industries. Child labor has become so imbedded in our industrial life that there is scarcely a business which does not employ tiny, uneducated children for the dull routine
At Work In Thk Breakers.
Group Of Willing Workers. These boys, many of them under fourteen, boast gleefully of having outwitted the mine inspectors.
oped bodies go through the same deadly motions. They slap five thousand bits of paper, and have earned twenty cents for the day's labor. That is the way our paper candy bags are made. They make their needles fly as fast as time, that they may pile up a hundred and fifty or sixty pennies at the end of a week. They dart like human bobbins after broken threads. They grub in the flying coal for pieces of rock and slate. They open and shut a glass bottle-mold, till their muscles ache with the machine-like motions. They dip little sticky morsels into a vat until the chocolates may be counted in four figures. They paste labels on paper boxes or repeat a thousand times one or two simple motions before a dangerous machine in a tin can factory. They turn in the edges of 8,000 box covers in a day. They work in damp, consumptive basement cigar factories, scale boilers of ocean steamers, and run to and fro all night long in bakeries. They labor in felt factories, dye rooms, in the deadly phosphorous soaked air of match factories and the repulsive smells of varnish rooms, and a hundred other vile, diseasebreeding and dangerous occupations. From the coal mine to the ocean steamer, from the stately office building to the sweat-shop they strive vainly to keep soul and body together on any starvation wage that our industrial pittance-mongers are willing to give them.
But how many are there of these child slaves? The United States Census report for 1900 gives-a total of 1,752,187 children admittedly employed in gainful occupations in the United States at that time. But only those who have worked steadily on the child labor problem for years can tell you how grossly inadequate are those figures. They declare that it is astounding to see how many little children nine, ten and eleven years old are working under age-certificates declaring them to be fourteen. One worker says that the children seem to jump from ten to fourteen without any reference whatever to the Gregorian calendar. Tn large factory towns the school attendance of children eight and nine years old, will be about three times that of children between ten and fourteen. In addition to these cases of perjury, there are thousands among the tenements who do not get into the census returns at all. They do home piece Work for sweat-shops, and work out in families, where they - are never discovered by the census taker.
Besides all these who have been left out of the one million seven hundred and fifty thousand children between ten and fifteen years of age, we find that child labor is constantly on the increase. Child labor in Iowa has trebled in four years. In New York State the numbers have increased thirty-three per cent in five years. What then are we to believe? To say that there are two million child slaves would be putting it conservatively, leaving an outside allowance of several hundred thousand, in case there were any among the Government's estimate who
were not literally child slaves. Two million little, frail, delicate souls spinning their lives away in deadly toil; deprived of every home influence which we have had and which is their heritage as well as ours, snatched from the schooling and the education which is the pride of every American, and saddled with the world's heaviest burdens—the hopeless, despairing servitude of 'aching bodies and starved souls.
Out of these two million toddlingjnartyrs the state of Pennsylvania, which boasts a City of Brotherly Love, contains the largest proportion. So far as the Southern States are concerned in this child slave industry, the Government statistics show that Pennsylvania alone employs more children than all the Southern States combined. And Pennsylvania is the state in which were fought the battles of lirandvwine and Germantown, where was pitched the camp of Valley Forge, and where the battle of Gettysburg decided the freedom of the slave. But she freed the black slave only to drag into bondage her own children. For these child laborers are not all foreigners, by any means. Nearly fifty per cent— forty-seven and eight-tenths per cent, to be exact—are white native-born Americans, of native-born American parents.
The report of the Pennsylvania ISureau of Mines for 1900 shows that there are over 20,000 slate pickers alone, working in the anthracite fields of this great State. These boys are supposed to be thirteen 1 years old, but the laws are so inadequate that it is as easy to find boys under thirteen working on the breakers as it is to find boys thirteen or over. These bovs sit on long benches and pick slate and stone out of the crushed coal as it comes shooting by them in a steady stream. When they first go into the breakers they are dubbed "red tops'' by their fellows until their torn and mangled fingers stop their bleeding from grubbing in the flying coal. The worst part of it all is that this cruelty could be stopped by the colliery operators if they wanted to install mechanical slate pickers. These machines have been installed in some places and have worked successfully, but the mine owners do not want to go to the initial expense of putting them in. This army of twenty thousand little slate grub