Caroll Wright, Hand and Machine Labor (1898)

Summary: In August of 1894, the US Congress passed a resolution that charged US Commissioner of Labor, Carroll W. Wright, to undertake a comparative study of the effects of mechanization on labor and production costs. In the midst of the serious economic depression of the 1890s, members of Congress worried about the effects machines on labor and the cost of production, and the effects on wages from the operation of machinery by women and children. Wright’s Bureau engaged in an extensive comparative study of hand production methods of the mid-nineteenth century with machine production methods of the late-nineteenth century in over 670 different articles or products—designated production “units” in the report. The result was a two-volume and almost 1,600-page report, published in 1898. It provided a brief narrative description of the mechanized production process for each article, as well as tables detailing the production steps, the demographic characteristics of the workforce, and the labor costs.

The selected excerpts from the report include (1) the introduction to the report, which provides further explanation of this background and methodology, and (2) the narrative analysis and production tables for one sample article: the manufacture of red brick (unit 104).

Open Source

Related Subjects: Productivity Technology

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