« PreviousContinue »
facturer, M. Houles, has risen in half a century from an obscure hamlet to a town of 12,000 inhabitants, of which there are 5,000 workmen, while there are as many more in the environs. Mazamet has entered into competition with Elbeuf in articles of novelty; its products, which now reach a value of 14,000,000 of francs, have made their way into the market of Paris and even of London.
A pleasing feature in the industry at Mazamet is the establishment of special workrooms for workwomen with nursing infants. Ordinarily the work women are prevented by their confinement in the mills from nursing their young children, as the women cannot leave the mill without losing their places. They ordinarily relieve themselves from this care by intrusting their infants to hired nurses. This is both a privation and an expense, the latter being equal to half the wages of the woman.
At Mazamet a special workroom is provided for mothers with nursing children. The women are employed in very simple work, such as the sorting of wool or winding yarn upon bobbins, and can continue their labor while exercising their maternal duties. All access to this workshop nursery is prohibited to other workmen. The wages of the women are reduced in proportion to their labor, but all things considered, they gain greatly by this arrangement. It is refreshing, amidst the indifference to the condition of the laborer so prevalent in Europe, to see in an industrial experiment the expression, in this touching form, of a sentiment of humanity.
Within this group there is one establishment quite remarkable for the original manner in which it has been sought to combine industrial prosperity with the social amelioration of the workmen. The establishment of Villeneuvette bears the title of a royal manufacture, it being one of those founded by Colbert. Although under private proprietorship, it is exclusively devoted to the fabrication of cloths for the army. It preserves in many respects the features of a military post. It is surmounted by battlemented walls, the drun beats the reveille and tattoo, and the drawbridge is raised at night. The whole town is under the proprietorship of the establishment, and residence is permitted to no stranger who refuses to conform to the usages of the place. The mayor and officers of the municipality are workmen, elected by the workmen themselves, and there have been but four mayors since the time of the first empire. The workinen submit cheerfully to the military discipline which they have imposed themselves. The proprietors pay the best wages in the district; they contribute to the schools, at which attendance is compulsory, and to the common fund for the relief of the sick and aged, and provide flour and fuel at cost prices. Games of chance are prohibited; drunkenness is punished by exclusion. There is but a single cabaret, which is closed at 9 o'clock. In the course of 30 years there has been but one illegitimate birth. The people of this community have invariably kept aloof from political agitations; and when, in revolutionary times, bands of workmen of the surrounding country have scoured it
in arms, the workmen of Villeneuvette have excluded access by raising their drawbridge and manning their ramparts.
The average wages for labor in this group are less even than in the districts of Elbeuf and Sedan. The average day's wages are stated to be, for men, 2 francs 25 centimes, (15 cents;) for women, 1 franc 25 centimes, (25 cents;) and for children, 50 centimes, (10 cents. This would give to a family of a man and wife with two children, all at work, 1,350 francs ($270) per year. It is estimated that the food per head costs, for a man, 75 centimes, (15 cents;) for a woman, 65 centimes, (13 cents;) and for a child, 50 centimes, (10 cents.) This for a family, as above, would be an expense of about 900 francs, ($180.) To this is to be added lodging, 100 francs, (20;) clothing and other necessary expenses, 250 francs, (8.50,) making a total expense of 1,250 francs, ($250;) and leaving a nominal surplus of 100 francs, (820.) These receipts are possible only when all · the family are at work. Thus, under the most favorable circumstances and without accident or sickness, all that a family of four persons can hope to secure for saving or luxuries is $20 a year.
We come now to the great centres of the combing-wool industry of France, far surpassing in importance that of card wool, already passed in review. To the agriculturist and the manufacturer, the city of Rheims—the most ancient seat of the Roman Catholic faith and of some of its most splendid monuments of architecture—is more interesting as the seat of a complete revolution in a great branch of textile industry, effected through the introduction of an improved race of ovine animals. The fabrics of combed wool, for which Rheims was so celebrated in ages past,
says, serges, and tanimins have wholly disappeared since the Spanish blood has been introduced into the sheepfolds of Champagne.
In 1801 an obscure workman of this city, named Dauphinot Pallotean, first made from the soft and long wool of the Rambouillet sheep the most nnrivalled of modern woollen textures—the French merino—which, from its softness and solidity, must always hold its place independently of the caprices of fashion. The manufacture was extended through the influence of the Baron Ternaux, the most celebrated of all the manufacturers of France of his time, who founded at Rheims one of his many manufactories.
This fabrication of merinos constitutes at present the most important part of industry at Rheims, no cotton-warp fabrics being made, as at Roubaix. In 1786 the product of stuffs in this city was 94,615 pieces, of a value of 11,000,000 francs, employing 30,000 workmen and 12,000 looms,
In 1863 the value of fabrics produced was 80,000,000 francs. The number of hand looms employed was 19,000, occupying 38,000 workmen, and the number of power looms 1,300, occupying 900 workmen. For combing the wool there were 310 machines; for carding, 350 sets of machines, employing 5,000 workmen; and for spinning, 170,000 spindles,
with 2,400 workmen. The number of workmen in full activity was 55,000. The 30,000 workmen in 1786 produced a value of 377 franes per head. The 55,000 workmen in 1863 produced a value of 1,454 franes
The most important change in the manipulation of this industry has been in the combing of wool. This was formerly effected by handicraft workinen, employed at their own homes. No labor in the woollen industry was so poorly paid, and the misery of the hand combers was proverbial. Their irregular wages did not exceed 11 franc (30 cents) per day. Still the strife between the first imperfect machines and the hand combers was long and severe. The latter did not succumb until their wages were reduced to 80 centimes (16 cents) per day. Longer resistance was vain; the best workman could comb only 350 kilograms of wool per year, and a machine combs 20,000 kilograms. Of 10,000 hand combers at Rheims not one remains. For thirty years the genius of inventors has been applied to the perfection of combing machines. More than twenty inventions have added improvements in details. At Rheims there are at present in use three principal processes, that of Lister, of Heilman, and of Hubner; each of analogous merit, and each having its partisans. M. Holden has become the proprietor of all the principal processes or patent-rights, in addition to his own, holding 15 patents; 17 of his own and 18 by assignment. He thus nearly controls the combing of wool in France. He has put in operation three combing establishments at Rheims, St. Denis, and at Croix, near Roubaix. He is able to comb 16,000 kilograms a day. He employs 1,300 workmen, engines of 1,000-horse power, and 80 combing machines. There are no other establishments in Europe having these proportions, and so well able to resist competition.
For many years it was deemed impossible to weave merinos advantageously by power looms. Mechanical weaving is now accomplished with a perfection which leaves nothing to desire. A ha d weaver can make 24 throws of the shuttle a day; the weaver on the power loom makes from 50 to 55 throws, and can easily tend two looms, so that his product is four times as much as the hand weaver's. There is, besides, more regularity in the product and less loss of material. The power loom is worked without muscular effort, hardly anything more being required than a little dexterity in mending the broken yarns. Women can do this work better than men, and in many establishments at Rheims women are exclusively employed under overseers. The superior advantages of the power loom open a sad prospect to the hand weavers of Rheims, of whom there are 38,000; and the means of averting the suffering from this class of workmen, in the inevitable change which must take place in the procedure of weaving, is a subject of most anxious consideration to the benevolent men of Rheims.
The precarious condition of so large a class of the workmen, and the gradual diminution of their wages, create a discontent which is ominous
of public calamities. The incendiaries of 1848 inflamed the workmen to such an extent, they destroyed the first establishment provided with power looms, and they look with an evil eye upon every one who introduces the new machines. It is admitted by the authorities of Rheims that an envious hatred of the rich prevails always among these workmen, and if they are tranquil at present, it is because they are “kept down by a strong government."
The manufacturers of Rheims regard the United States as the most important outlet for their goods. Our late war seriously affected their trade. They speak of the American crisis as having weighed so heavily upon it that the influence of the Anglo-French treaty upon commercial transactions was of comparatively little moment. The value of this trade is a sufficient inducement for us to transfer to our own shores the industry of fabricating merinos, which is dominant at Rheims. It can be adopted here with all its recent perfections, and without any of the drawbacks which weigh so heavily upon it in France. It is fitted for the skilled female labor already developed in our woollen mills. It will be favored by the character of the wools most advantageously grown here, and will greatly increase the production of sheep husbandry by creating an entirely new demand, and will introduce into more general use the softest and most beautiful of all fabrics for female use.
The effects of the struggle between the old and new system of manu. facture is seen in the low average rate of wages in this city. The workmen employed upon power machines are comparatively well paid. The men spinning combed wool are paid from 3 francs 50 centimes (70 cents) to 4 francs (80 cents) per day, and the women from 1 franc 40 centimes (28 cents) to 1 franc 70 centimes, (34 cents.) The power-loom weavers earn from 2 francs 25 centimes (45 cents) to 3 francs (60 cents) per day, but the hand weavers, who compose the greater part of the working population, are reduced to wages which average only, for a man, 1 franc 50 centimes (30 cents) a day, for a woman 1 franc, (20 cents,) and for two children 75 centimes, (15 cents,) a total of 1,200 francs ($240) a year, for a family of four persons. The estimated expenses for the absolute necessities of living are 1,188 francs, (8237 60.) leaving a surplus above bare necessities of only 12 francs, or a little over two dollars. It is hardly necessary to say that this surplus is scarcely ever attained, and that poverty, debt, and moral degradation are the normal conditions of this industrial population.
CATEAU, in the region of the north, furnishes an example of what may be done in the industry of merinos by adapting on a large scale the most recent processes, and making use of a raw material supplied from domestic sources. In 1818, M. Paturle selected the locality of the small town of Cateau, having a stream of water, affording a moderate hydraulic power and a laborious and intelligent population, already skilled in the
domestic manipulation of wool, as a site for the development of the idea of deriving the greatest possible benefit from the soft wool of the Spanish race, then commencing to abound in that region. He conceived that the utmost development of which the fibre of the new race was susceptible was in the fabrication of merinos, recently introduced at Rheims. From this idea there sprung up in the hands of MM. Paturle & Lupin, and of their successors, the most extensive manufactory of merinos in France, and the one which would serve best for a model in this country. The original machinery comprised only some instruments for combing and spinning, the weaving being operated on the hand-looms of the adjoining country. In the course of 30 years the machinery has been entirely renewed. The old water-wheels have made way for steam engines of 250 horse power, moving 60 сombers, 40,000 spindles, and 600 powerlooms. 2,000 workmen are employed directly in the mill, and the handweavers of the country furnish 4,000 auxiliaries, making a total of 6,000 workmen. The freight transported to and from the establishment amounts to 5,000 tons, and the value of the production is from 18 to 20 million francs, three-quarters of which is exported to all quarters of the world. The proprietors have earned their splendid prosperity by being faithful to the fabric first adopted. They have attained the utmost perfection in processes of manufacture by the employment of machines whose serviceableness had been verified, and have made their goods salable by a moderation of price without the sacrifice of quality. The Bradford delegates who visited Cateau, at the time of the Exposition, were 6 struck with astonishment at the cleanliness, order, and regularity of the vast establishment.” Admirable schools are provided for children and adults attached to the works, and a public laundry and baths. The widow of the founder of the works has constructed and endowed a hospital provided with twenty beds for invalid workmen, as a monument for her husband. These foundations show that the generous sentiments of the proprietors have been among the elements of their prosperity. The best workmen earn at this establishment, where their condition is probably more favorable than anywhere else in France, from 3 francs 50 centimes (70 cents) to 4 francs (80 cents) per day, and the women at the power-looms from 1 franc 60 centimes (32 cents) to 2 francs, (40 cents.) It is estimated that with strict economy the head of a family can save from 60 to 150 francs, but, as has been said with regard to all such calculations, “ we must distinguish that which is possible from that which is."
There are many other important centres and special localities of this industry which might be studied with profit, as that of the fabrication of merino shawls, or imitations of the Cashmere, distributed in the agricultural villages of the north in the arrondissements of Cambrai and Avesnes, and conducted under the direction of large houses in Paris; the spinning establishments of Fournies, where a mere hamlet has grown into a town of 4,000 inhabitants, employing 30,000 spindles, through the