The Cotton Mill in the 1880s
The workforce at the Rosencrantz mill in 1880 was larger than it had been thirty years earlier. Thirty-nine names are listed in the mill’s pa ledger, with an almost an equal number of female and male laborers. Child labor continued, with nine children age 14 or younger. John Babcock, 10, worked with his two teenage sisters, one of whom, Julia, was 12. James Munroe, 11, worked with his mother, Mary. Edward Wanamaker was also 11, and David Wanamaker was 12.
As in 1850, the male laborers ranged in age from 10 to 67, but none were 15–19. (An exception is Elijah’s son George, 15, who worked at the mill during the summer of 1880). Among the female workers, many were teenagers, but unlike thirty years earlier, a considerable number were married and older than 24.
Monthly wages at the mill ranged from $72 for the foreman to $5.44 for the lowest-paid worker, probably a bobbin boy or a picker. Most of the laborers, as earlier, were born in New Jersey, but some had been born in New York, and several were born in Ireland and one in Holland. Most of the workers had English and Dutch family names, with, again, a few German names and more Irish names than in 1850. Most of the workers still came from the neighborhood, but more families were living in the Rosencrantzes’ tenant housing close to the mill. A few listed residences in Paterson, Ridgewood, and Newark.
In 1882, the mill had several carding machines and 2,863 spindles; it employed 42 people; and it produced 3,800 pounds per cotton warp per week. In the mid-1880s, the mill was enlarged and production was converted from cotton warps to cotton wadding.
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