19th century: Machinery creaking, steam engine hissing, smoke blowing, heavy breathing; that is the sound of industry, the sound of progress.
The industrial growth revolutionized the business world, and the birth of a business class came with the birth of a prominent working class. The first workforce was composed of farmers from the factories’ surroundings and, especially in the textile industry, of women and children; after 1830 was composed more and more of immigrants. Living and working conditions were hard, and they got worse as the factories were increasing in size, number, and demands on employees. The workdays were long (even children were working at least 12 hours a day), salaries were low, and the establishments were crowded and noxious (Jones, 118). Some measure needed to be taken.
While the first industry was developing, working and living conditions of the working class in the 19th century were inhumane which led to the establishment of organizations, workers unions, and parties.
The origin of American industrialization goes back to 1790, when Samuel Slater, an English immigrant, created a small textile business in Pawtucket. By the end of the Anglo-American War of 1812, there were already hundreds of small factories.
In 1813 a group of wealthy merchants led by Francis Cabot Lowell, founded the Boston Manufacturing Company. This establishment was the first in the world to unify under a unique administration all the procedure of cotton transformation from raw material to the finished fabric (Jennings, 271). From cotton manufacturing, the Waltham-Lowell system was extended to other industries, and with the introduction of machinery, the wool industry was born too, the ironworks multiplied, and shoe factories got mechanized more and more (Jones, 117); but, “as economic growth advanced, so did inequality” (Vogel, 357).
In the agricultural society, children were helping their family businesses daily, and in the handicraft society they were apprentices since a very young age. That’s why with the rise of industry, using children as workers wasn’t considered a subject of controversy. They could be paid less and controlled more; furthermore, their tiny size allowed them to fit and move in poky places like mines for the coal industries (highly used in that period). Children weren’t only exploited; they also had to work in very unhealthy conditions, with risk of dying or getting permanently injured or disabled (Jennings, 268).
Women’s conditions weren’t better: they were rarely allowed to get an education, so, other than doing housework, they could work in factories, but they were paid less than men, for working as much as them. For instance, “in Philadelphia in the 1830s, mill women made an average of $2.25 per week compared to men’s average weekly earnings of $6.50 - $7.00” (Shelton, 377).
The first unions of working women were born in Rhode Island and New Hampshire in the 1820s, when some women went on strike from the textile mills and...