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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"The Sound of These Looms May Be Heard at All Hours": Textile Manufacturing Work and Reform, Philadelphia County, 1788-1854
by Lan, Derek T., Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2017, 245; 10621128
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines textile work and workers in Philadelphia between 1788 and 1854 from the perspective of both labor and reform history. Philadelphia was one of the major textile-producing areas in the United States in the nineteenth century, and it was unique in that textile firms utilized a large pool of migrant and immigrant spinners and weavers rather than relying on mechanization and large-scale factory production. The flip-side of relying on a large pool of potential workers was that unemployment was as necessary as employment in order for textile firms to remain nimble and profitable in the volatile nineteenth-century American economy. That volatility, which required textile firms to add and subtract workers as the capitalist system demanded, helped lead to the development of reform institutions focusing on, among other things, creating productive and self-sufficient citizens. When viewing the histories of labor and reform in tandem, we are able to further understand issues of work and poverty among members of Philadelphia’s textile community. We are also able to better understand the gap between reformers’ ideas of labor and the realities of manufacturing work. Finally, the combination of reform and labor histories reveal similarities in the ideas of both reformers and workers within the antebellum labor movement who argued for the sanctity of labor and the importance of independent and productive working-class citizens within American society.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dublin, Thomas
Commitee: Norwood, Dael, Sommerville, Diane M., Stewart, Dana
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Labor relations, Textile Research
Keywords: Antebellum America, Labor history, Reform institutions, Textile workers, Unionization
Publication Number: 10621128
ISBN: 978-0-355-46819-9
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