The Labor Market Of A Textile Worker Essay

The Labor Market Of A Textile Worker Essay

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Reading Journal 1
The first document I decided to cover was document 19-1, A Textile Worker Explains the Labor Market. This particular document focuses on mule spinner Thomas O’Donnell as he explains his current work and living situation to Senator Henry W. Blair in 1883. The document, which is in a transcript form, details the living conditions that O’Donnell is forced to live in during this time period. He goes on to explain that him, his wife, and two children are very poor due to the fact he hasn’t had steady work in the last 3 years. Even when he had steady work he was only making $1.50 at most a day, most of which went to the cost of his rent and food for his children.
I found this particular document interesting because this chapter, along with chapter 18, focuses a lot on the tremendous amount of growth going on in America during this time. For the first time skyscrapers were being built, people were becoming millionaires, and America was on the upswing. But the workers that were behind all these great advances were given the short end of the stick. As we’ve seen in the case of the Brooklyn Bridge, working conditions we’re often very dangerous, lives were barely taken into consideration, the hours were long, and the pay was very little. Although when it comes to Thomas O’Donnell’s experience, danger wasn’t a real element in his line of work, he was exploited just like many other people during this time period. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, America’s economy shifted from agricultural based to industrial based. Cotton was still a major cash crop and when it was processed as textiles it created a large boom in the southern economy, thus making it a major industry nationwide. So while people like Samuel Slater we’re s...

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... point perhaps came from the fact that Carnegie came to America as a poor German immigrant and wish someone gave him the tools he was able to offer now.
Although I haven’t been in this class for very long, my time spent here has definitely helped me look at documents such as these differently. In the case of the Richard Pratt I would’ve been quick to write him off as a racist because of the content of that document. In the case of Andrew Carnegie, I would’ve been quick to write him off as a self absorbed, Puritan-esqe , classist. But when you take into consideration the overwhelmingly prevalent themes at the time, these were extremely liberal attitudes. Just because something translates today as offensive doesn’t necessarily mean that it came from a place of malice. It’s interesting to see how just in a little over 100 years attitudes have changed so drastically.

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