Photo 4 shows rows of Jacquard looms. The large punched cards hanging on the left programmed the looms to produce the elaborate and colorful silk fabrics demanded by the New York fashion industry. Although the looms were usually well spaced and protected in newer mills, government inspectors reported that machinery in the older mills was often packed so closely that it was difficult to move about without being struck by moving parts of the equipment.
Questions for Photos 3 and 4
1. Compare Photo 3 with Photo 1. Why do you think the windows on the weaving mill are so large?
2. According to a 1919 government report, the chief source of fatigue in silk weaving was not the physical work involved but the "tension of continued watching, of being constantly on the alert."¹ What do you think working in a mill like this would have been like? How difficult do you think it would have been to tend four of these looms at a time? How much difference would it have made if the looms stopped automatically when a thread broke?
3. Based on Photos 1 through 4, how do you think working conditions in the dye houses compared with those in the weaving mills? Where would you have preferred to work? Review Reading 1. What do you think the dye house workers and the weavers had in common? How did they differ? What problems do you think they would have had working together to seek improvements in their working conditions?
¹ National Industrial Conference Board, Hours of Work as Related to Output and Health of Workers: Silk Manufacturing (Boston, MA: National Industrial Conference Board, 1919), 14.
* The photos on this screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Photo 3 and Photo 4, but be aware that each file will take as much as 41 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.