THE COTTON MILL 1849-1954 by Michael Rutherford


THE COTTON MILL
COTTON MILL- BEGINNING OF PRODUCTION- 1850

EBENEZER WILBUR
OPERATING PROBLEMS
PROPOSED EXPANSION
SURVEY OF INDIANA COTTON MILLS
COTTON MILL OPERATIONS
COTTON MILL SOLD
BIBLIOGRAPHY
NOTES ON CHILD LABOR IN THE COTTON
CANNELTON REPORTER 8 April 1854
CANNELTON REPORTER, Saturday,  24 June 1854

NOTES ON CHILD LABOR IN THE COTTON MILL

The social problem, child labor, was rarely recognized and never openly admitted to be existent until during the 19th and 20th centuries. When governmental regulation began to make itself known, it was at a tentative and hesitant pace. Identifying precisely who is a child was a fundamental difficulty which was made more cloudy because the view of those who benefited economically from child labor received more real attention than did the view of those theoretically at the center of the problem, the children. The centuries-old traditional assessment was that labor performed by women, boys, and girls was a less costly replacement for laboring men where possible and practical. (There was a considerable number of jobs in which the fine detailed procedures were not usually performed well by the majority of men laborers.)

Child labor regulations before 1933 were enacted at the state level rather than the national. In Indiana one of the first moves toward regulation Occurred in 1867: Workers in cotton mills under 16 were not to work more than 10 hours per day in a 6-day work week. Working conditions over which that regulation represented an improvement would seem to be almost unreal in the present day.

In 1879 boys under 14 were prohibited from working in the coal mines. Working the small mine mules was the most prominent job for boys in the mines at Cannelton. In 1894 the Indiana People's Party platform called for an "innovative" child labor law. In 1906 the Indiana Republican Party advocated a child labor law. One contributing element in the situation was the absence of a compulsory school attendance law before 1897. In 1899 law prohibited girls and women from working between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. This partially limited the work hours available for school age girls.

Statistics from 1910 show that Indiana had a higher proportion of child labor than any other northern state except Pennsylvania and Ohio. In the following year children under 14 were banned from all work except agriculture and domestic service. However, in 1925 the legislature rejected a child labor amendment.

Finally, in 1933 the National Recovery Administration (NRA) prohibited child labor in all states. A work permit was required for a child between the ages of 16 and 18 to work even in less hazardous jobs for a restricted number of hours; more hazardous jobs were out of the question. 1933 also marked the end of the 12-hour work shift. In July the Cotton Mill and Lehman's immediately began operating on a 2-shift schedule of 8 or 9 hours each; overtime was supposed to be optional.

A cursory survey of the 1900 census for Cannelton provides some information relative to children working in the Cotton Mill. Given ages in census records are often suspect for a number of reasons. Oral tradition probably correctly maintains that 12 years was the unwritten minimum age for workers in the Mill. This same source reports that there were a few individuals who gave false ages in order to overcome that obstacle to obtaining a job.

 

The number of boys and girls below the age of 18 at work in the Mill as of 1 June 1900 is as follows:

 

1 June 1900

Age

Girls

Boys

12

1

0

13

2

0

14

5

10

15

3

5

16

19

2

17

15

2

In the work crew of approximately 300 in the Mill, 26 were under 16 (11 girls and 15 boys), another 38 were 16 and 17 years (34 girls and 4 boys). The following listing according to job and age shows that these jobs did not require a great amount of strength, but speed and agility over a 6-day week of 10 hours per day.

CARDER (making yarn)

Charles Bartles 14
Lizzie Schwartz 17
Minnie Schroeder 17

SPINNER(17 girls, I boy)
Barbara Boyle 12
Ida Amos 13
Finnie A. Morgan 14
Pearl L. Turner 14
Freeman Little 14
Ada Riley 15
Amanda Allen 15
Corda Riley 16
Serilda Amos 16
Lydia Bowman 16
Amelia Turner 16
Stella C. Karney 16
Bertha Frizzell 16
Katie Amos 17
Ella B. Glenn 17
Alice P. Hardy 17
Olive Peacock 17
Bertha Smith 17

DOFFER(Remove full bobbins, replace with empties.)

John B. Glenn 14
George Popp 14
Edgar Meyer 15
William H. Kaiser 15
Rodman M. Bott 16
Thomas Senn 16

MISCELLANEOUS

Ethel Rile 13
George Hall 17

DRAWER(Prepare warp for loom)

Lela Johnson 16
Clara Edwards 16

BOBBIN HOUSE

Sophie Winnecke 14

WEAVERS (21 girls, 1 boy)

Sarah M. Fishback 14
Barbara Scheidegger 14
Clothilde Busam 15
Anna Reed 16
Ida Dixon 16 
Blanche Bartles 16
Emma Schroeder 16
Mary C. Lorenz 16
Vivian M. Baker 16
Ida M. Wilson 16
Lena Minirrett 16
Katie Ackerman 16
Amy Rauch 16
Anna Thorn 17
Anna Cumisky 17
Maggie M. Kercheval 17
Catherine McMahan 17
Cecelia Bryan 17
Cecelia Gannon 17
Christina Franzman 17
Mary A. Busam 17
John P. Cullen 17

BOBBIN BOY (Carry away empty bobbins from looms.)

Michael Radigan 14
Thomas J. Quick 14
Rom W. Peacock 14
Herbert Boultinghouse 14
Charles Whelan 15
Everrett L. Peacock 15

CLOTHMAN (Remove rolls of cloth from looms.)

Joseph Smith 14
Charles Scheidegger 15

TRIMMER (In cloth room)

Florence P. Murray 16

SWEEPER

Alonzo Kercheval 14