The National Association of Cotton Manufacturers
President's Report, April 23, 1913.
Once more we are met together as an Association of cotton manufacturers...
I hope at this time to analyze the character of the working people in our textile establishments, the wages paid and the effect of the tariff on such wages. I cannot, of course, in a few minutes hope to more that point out some of the facts which I sincerely believe are representative of the whole industry. The statistics are from the Pacific Mills, which as you know, is situated in Lawrence. I do this, first, because I can get at the actual facts and, second, because the people of this country seem to believe that Lawrence is a representative New England textile city. The Pacific Mills is moreover a good source of information for the reason that we have a worsted mill, a cotton mill and a finishing works, comprising, with the exception of silk and jute, almost the whole range of the textile industry from the raw materials to the finished product.
First, as to the character of the people. For years, hundreds of thousands of foreigners have been streaming into our country, in some single years more than a million, and little thought seems to have been given as to how all these people are to be given employment even in this large country. Most of them are not skilled laborers. At the present time the Pacific Mills is employing in Lawrence more than 7,000 operatives comprising thirty odd nationalities, fairly well distributed among them all. Quoting from MR. PARKER, in an address which he gave two years ago,–
"To follow a bit of cotton or wool from the bale to the finished product would serve to introduce one to the various nationalities about as follows: The bale would be unloaded from the car by an Austrian Polander, a farmer at home, who prefers to work out of doors. When trucked to the picker room it is handled by Syrians, not long in the country and not familiar with mills work. These men are quiet and industrious, they soon learn our language and apparently are here to stay. Next it goes to the card room, where many of the men who tend the cards are Portuguese; they do not speak English, nor can they read and write in their own language. On the roving frames we find middle-aged Irish girls who have worked for years as frame tenders. Next comes the spinning room, and here the girl spinners are young French-Canadians or children of French Canadian parents, quick and active, with nimble fingers. In the weaving also we find the French-Canadian weaver, 70 per cent., and she is an excellent worker, a few English and Irish still survive, but are out-numbered. The Canadian girl is not over-anxious to learn English, she has plenty of companions who speak her native tongue and she does not feel the need of other friends. She is apt to return to Canada for a visit quite frequently. In the worsted weaving another class has recently appeared unobstrusively–weavers to the number of over two hundred from France and Belgium. These are energetic workers and have taken a place near the front rank in earnings. When the woven cloth goes to the print works we find still another nationality handling it. Not many French-Canadians and not a single Portuguese. The printers and engravers, skilled workmen who begin in boyhood and serve seven years learning their trade, come mainly from England and Scotland; 32 per cent. of all the operatives in the print works were born in England. In one of the dyehouses difficulty was found in getting men who could endure the dampness, and it was only when some Russians from the North Baltic provinces were hired, that men were found who could work all day with their hands in cold water. Greeks who are said to be quite numerous in Lowell are not plentiful in Lawrence. In the worsted spinning room, young Italian boys have recently been tried as spinners and make a good impression."
According to statistics gathered by the United States Immigration Committee in May 1909, when actual returns were made of 4,911 of our operatives, not including office employees, sixy-one out of every one hundred foreign-born could speak, read and write in English, twelve could speak but not read and write, while twenty-seven were wholly ignorant of our language; of this latter thirty-nine–twenty-seven could read and write their native language, but there were twelve who could not. Thus will be seen that the textile mills of the country give employment to a large number of these immigrants who are frequently illiterate, with no skill and not even natural ability of hand or mind...
/1/ Mr. Greene was president that year of the National Association of Cotton Manufacturers, which in 1954 became the Northern Textile Association, and which since 2002 has been the National Textile Association. He was also treasurer of the Pacific Mills; at that time treasurer was the chief officer of the mill.