Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter XXXIV

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Monday, February 11, 1850

The following account of the earnings of the "men's-men" working for the best shops and the best prices, in the eastern division of the Boot and Shoe making trade, may be taken as a fair average of the wages of the men engaged at the different branches in that district. As far as individual statistics may be relied on, these particulars may be said to represent the income of the class to which the parties belonged from whom they have been obtained:


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1834 16 6 5 19 18 1 18 12 10 18 9 9 73 7 1
Average pr week 1 5 1 1 10 7 1 8 8 1 8 5 1 8 2
1835 18 5 8 17 19 4 18 10 7 20 15 7 75 11 2
Average pr week 1 8 1 1 7 7 1 8 6 1 11 11 1 9 0
1836 19 6 0 18 17 9 20 3 2 20 2 5 78 9 0
Average pr week 1 9 8 1 9 0 1 11 0 1 10 11 1 10 2
1837 19 11 1 19 3 7 20 7 11 18 12 0 77 14 7
Average pr week 1 10 1 1 9 6 1 11 4 1 8 7 1 9 10
1845 16 5 11 18 13 9 17 18 2 18 16 0 17 13 10
Average pr week 1 5 0 1 8 9 1 7 6 1 8 11 1 7 6
1846 17 7 3 17 13 9 17 8 11 16 14 9 69 4 8
Average pr week 1 6 8 1 7 2 1 6 10 1 5 9 1 6 7
1847 17 7 2 15 17 7 16 17 6 16 16 5 66 15 8
Average pr week 1 6 8 1 4 5 1 5 11 1 5 10 1 5 8


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1845 15 15 9 15 0 9 16 16 6 17 1 0 64 14 0
Average pr week 1 4 3 1 3 1 1 5 10 1 6 2 1 4 10
1846 19 6 0 19 10 2 18 14 9 18 6 9 75 17 8
Average pr week 1 9 8 1 10 1 1 8 9 1 8 2 1 9 2
1847 15 15 7 14 10 0 15 17 3 14 13 6 60 16 4
Average pr week 1 4 3 1 2 3 1 4 4 1 2 6 1 3 4
1848 12 19 0 13 4 0 13 11 9 17 6 9 57 1 6
Average pr week 0 19 11 1 0 3 1 0 10 1 6 8 1 1 11


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1848 13 5 10 16 10 2 16 7 6 16 5 5 62 9 0
Average pr week 1 0 4 1 5 4 1 5 2 1 5 0 1 4 0


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1847 13 10 3 13 6 5 11 16 11 12 4 11 50 18 6
Average pr week 1 0 9 1 0 5 0 18 1 0 18 9 0 19 7


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1839 24 19 1 24 14 7 21 17 9 26 11 11 98 3 4
Average pr week 1 18 4 1 18 0 1 13 8 2 0 11 1 17 9
1847 22 10 4 18 19 0 15 12 10 20 2 0 77 4 2
Average pr week 1 14 7 1 9 2 1 4 0 1 10 11 1 9 8


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1849 19 19 7 19 1 0 15 8 2 14 3 1 68 11 10
Average pr week 1 10 8 1 9 3 1 3 8 1 1 9 1 6 4

    On reference to the above, it will be found that the earnings of the City men's-men scarcely differ from those of the men's-men at the West-end.
    In my last letter it may be remembered that I gave the alterations in the export of foreign boots and shoes for a series of years, together with the rate of importation since the quantity introduced into this country has become in any way worthy of remark. I obtained the official returns in connection with this subject, because 1 found that the men in connection with the West-end trade attributed the reduction in their wages, in a great measure, to the French boots and shoes brought into the kingdom since the change in the tariff. In the present letter, which treats principally of the women's-men, it will be seen that the journeymen refer the decline in their wages rather to the over-population of the trade, owing to the system of "chamber-mastering," having a tendency to draft into the business all kinds of juvenile labour. As a means of enabling the reader to test the validity of these opinions, I have taken some little trouble to calculate the rate of increase in the principal trades between the taking of the census of 1831 and 1841; and it will be seen, by referring to the subjoined tables, that the number of hands belonging to the boot and shoe making trade increased during that interval both in the country and in the metropolis, at a far greater rate than any other occupation. It should be borne in mind, that the average rate of increase throughout England and Wales in ten years is about ten per cent.
    Table showing the Number of Individuals (males above 20 years of age) engaged in the principal Trades in the Metropolis and Great Britain, in 1831 and 1841, and their Increase or Decrease during the Ten Years.


1831 1841 Increase per cent

Boot and shoe makers and menders

16502 22400 37
Tailors 14552 18513 27
Carpenters 13208 16965 28
House-painters, plumbers, and glaziers. 7349 10531 43
Bakers 5655 7866 40
Greengrocers, grocers, and tea-dealers.. 5462 6390 18
Bricklayers 5000 6270 25
Publicans 4697 5212 11
Butchers 4332 5710 32
Printers 3628 5533 52
Blacksmiths 3391 5923 77
Jewellers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths 3129 3421 6
Bookbinders, sellers, and publishers 2692 3534 32
Clock and watch makers 2633 3700 41
Sawyers 2180 2791 28
Coach-makers 2167 3821 77
Coopers 2123 3098 47
Plasterers 1871 2321 24
Decrease per cent
Cabinet-makers and upholsterers 6610 6497 1
Linen-drapers, haberdashers, hatters, and hosiers 5555 4726 17
Barbers and hair-dealers 2019 1997 1
GREAT BRITAIN Increase per cent
Boot and shoemakers and menders 133248 175769 32
Carpenters 103247 141750 38
Tailors 74054 100080 35
Blacksmiths 58142 80543 40
Masons 49155 72934 50
Butchers 35218 42686 21
Bricklayers 29593 36049 22
Bakers 27942 34256 22
House-painters, plumbers, and glaziers. 27652 40750 47
Greengrocers, grocers, and tea-dealers 25603 38873 52
GREAT BRITAIN Increase per cent
Cabinet-makers 21744 23877 9
Millers 19796 23019 16
Wheelwrights 19550 22537 15
Sawyers 19171 27929 47
Carriers 18859 30972 66
Shipwrights 13884 16137 16
Coopers 13246 16012 21
Hucksters, hawkers, and pedlars 10881 11809 8
Clock and watch makers 8892 12464 41
Hairdressers and barbers 8449 8666 2
Booksellers, binders, and publishers 6926 9286 34
Decrease per cent
Coach-owners 10514 1488 1000
Publicans 61231 50495 21

    Having now dealt with the different branches of the men's trade in connection with the shops where the best wages are given, I proceed to give an account of the earnings of the operatives in connection with the women s trade in a similar position. Of the income and condition of the men "out of society," or working for the lower class of employers, I shall reserve my account until my next letter.
    The business of women's shoemaking, like all businesses where a great degree of skill must be exercised to ensure excellence in the manufacture, has its divisions and sub-divisions, but these are far less numerous than they were, and are even becoming less so still, one now blending with another. Some, however, are still employed, if not entirely, on sew-rounds (a pump sole sewn all round) and on the best descriptions of shoes - silk, satin, or morocco. Some few are employed as weltmen, that is, in making welted shoes (or boots), but the majority are what is known as general men - men who can make up any description of work that the tradesman has to give out. The sew-round, whose work is the most exact and delicate, can readily "turn his hand to welts," but the weltman, if long used to welts alone, cannot so easily make sew-rounds.
    The Society of the Women's-men, or men working for the best rate of wages, consists of five distinct divisions, including the West-end - the Chelsea - the East-end - the Borough - and the Stepney districts. Before proceeding to give the statements of the men belonging to each of these several divisions of the women's society, I will first cite the history of the rate of wages and earnings of the men in former years. These have been supplied to me by one of the most intelligent and experienced members of the trade:

Rate of Wages

Rate of Weekly Earnings

s. d.  s. d.

£ s.   £s.
In 1811, wood heel and rands were in wear, for which the wages were then from 1 8 to 2 10
and, as far as 1 can remember from conversations wtth my father in after years. the earnings were from 1 4 to 1 13
About 1813 a change in the work took place; spring heels and welts came in fashion, and they gave from 1 4 to 1 9 1 3 to 1 7
Up to 1820 the wages were gradually reduced, not so much by the old masters as new ones setting up, and they of course reduced the number of men employed on the best shops, and wages from 0 10 to 1 4 0 17 to 1 0
From 1825 the wages were reduced to 0 9 to 1 2 0 14 to 0 17
The strike in 1825 stopped the gradual decrease for about one year, when it recommended up to 1830 the wages were then from 0 7 to 1 1 0 11 to 0 14
1840 Reductions continued to come as low as 0 6 to 1 0 0 9 to 0 10

    I now append the statements that I received from several persons to whom I was referred by the secretaries of the societies at the West-end and Chelsea, as excellent workmen and intelligent men, whose statements could be relied upon, and from whom might be acquired a knowledge of the condition and opinions of the class of which they afforded a criterion. I found the men whom I visited generally manly and intelligent.
A West-end sew-round of the first class gave me the following statement:
    "I have known the women's trade ever since I was nine - about twenty- seven years. When I first worked as a journeyman on first-class sew-rounds, I could earn 32s. That's more than fourteen years ago. Take the year round I now average 24s. a week; but my work (having a turn at corks in the winter) runs up more money than other men's. The first cause of the decline in earnings is, I think, owing to the bringing in of cheap French goods, and to the number of slaughter shops' (slop shops) now open. There were not near so many slaughter shops open until French goods came in so cheap. Wages have fallen greatly at the bespoke shops within these twelve or fourteen years. About seven years ago, as well as I recollect the time, there was a reduction of wages paid by the best shops, amounting from 2s. to 3s. a week on the earnings of the men. I used to get 3s. where I now get 2s. 8d. for satin sew-rounds. On pump boots in my time there has been a reduction of 8d., and all other things in proportion. The cheapness of corn is certainly a great advantage to the working man; but the masters, it is generally feared, will take advantage of it, and offer to reduce wages further. When the income-tax was first put on several masters reduced the wages they paid from 10 to 15 per cent, and so more than paid it that way. It's the slackness of work in many good shops that is the injury. If men can't get regular employ there, they are forced to work, in the way of by-strokes, for lower-priced shops - and so low-priced work, well made, get its hold.
    I now give a statement concerning the earnings of a West-end sew-round man of the third-class (as he was described to me):-
    "I have known the trade in London for eighteen years. At that time trade was very considerably better than it is now. 1 could then earn 4s. a week more on the same description of work as I am employed upon now. In fact I could earn 28s.; at present I can earn 24s. a week, if I could get to work constantly; as it is, with a good seat of work, I average 18s. The introduction of cheap French goods, especially in sew-rounds, silk and satin, such as 1 make, has caused the slackness of employ. When 1 worked for my present employer, eight years ago, he employed five men of my class; now he has barely work for two. I attribute it to more French goods coming in about that time; but work fell off gradually. My employer would rather make the sort of French goods himself if he could get them up as cheaply and in the same style as the French. The French make their women's shoes previous to their being bound. Shoes are easier made that way, and the workman can make them cheaper. Which is the best plan, I hardly know. The binder there, and the clicker here, cuts the edges straight, ready for binding. I do not think that the prices of provisions affect the wages of my trade much, except that if provisions are high, wages do not rise in proportion. The present low price of provisions is unquestionably an advantage to the working man. I have no doubt that we could get work up just as the French do, quite as well in fashion and taste, if we had the opportunity, and our work is more durable in a general way. But now, if a man occasion' a master for light work, the reply common is - I can get that best from France.' I have no doubt that, were the opportunity afforded, French goods (or what is equivalent) in my trade could be made as cheaply, as well as tastefully, as in Paris; and it would employ a great amount of labour at present unemployed, or employed only on starvation wages. In fact, there would be every week upwards of two thousand pairs to be made in this country more than there is now. That would occupy 220 men more every week than are now occupied in that particular labour. What I have said as to the admission of French goods, and the injury done to the English workman, is I am quite confident, the opinion of my class. (This man's statement may be taken also as a criterion of the second class men, who have the best employment.)
    A man who is employed as a general man on the middle (and better) class of West-end work, gave me this information:- As to trade, though I am reckoned one of the best workmen in the business, you see how I am off. (This alluded to his room, which was very poorly furnished, while his family were very thinly clad, but well-looking and well-mannered.) I have known the trade in London 16 years, and at that time, working shorter hours than I do at present, and on the same description of work, I made 30s. a week easy. I have earned 40s. a week then, where I can't earn 20s. now. I attribute the depressed earnings of working men more to the cupidity of the middle classes than to anything else; they cut each other's throats in competition, but the poor journeyman pays for it. By the change in the tariff, in 1842, I am quite certain, both from my own experience and from my knowledge of my fellow workmen, the working men in my trade were very materially injured. Captain Rous, the member for Westminster, once said in the House of Commons that a shoemaker wouldn't go to work until he had his gin and beer. Not once in a twelvemonth does a drop of gin enter my house, nor a drop of beer many a week; no, not on Sundays. To show you what I earn now, you can extract my earnings from my book; for I work very hard and very many hours.

1850.-Jan. 26   ... 14 s. 2d
" 19 ... 9s. 0d.
" 12 ... 9s. 2d.
" 5 ... 11s. 8d.
1849.-Dec. 29 ... Ill
" 22 ... 15s. 10d.
" 15 ... 13s. 6d.
"  8 ... 10s. 9d.
"  1 ... 14s. 2d.

    That is rather more than 11s. a week on the average (but I had two or three by-strokes), and I believe the earnings of the trade in winter do not average so much. I take the year through, and compute my average at 18s. a week. I think the repeal of the corn-laws the greatest blessing granted to this country. Between two and three years ago if I earned 20s. in the week, 9s. would go for bread; now, with the same number in family, I pay 4s. 3d. for my bread. That makes amends for the loss I've sustained by the tariff. Some French shoes are now sold, and have been for two years, at the price that even four years ago I was paid for making such. Now, sir, do say a word for the sake of the labouring classes about this which I'm going to tell you of. We all suffer by the system of sub-letting - lease upon lease, and agreement upon agreement. These sub-tenants are a rent-grubbing class that speculate in houses. Such as I clothe, feed, and educate them all. I consider that in a house of this description - say this house - and that is just as the others are, the rent received by the sub-letting landlord is £80 a year; while taxes, rates, and all included, the house stands him in £35 - that's an average. They are cruel men. I was once discharged for an increase to my family, the child might occasion more trouble and noise. And then it's a favour to get into their houses. They object to shoemakers - their trade is noisy. Had I only my wife and myself my room (3s. 3d. a week) would be cheaper; 3s. 3d. is an average sum. Things can't possibly be worse for such as me."
    At Chelsea (where there is a society), in the best description, there is little variance from the West-end division of the metropolis, as regards the earnings of the men, although there the very highest rate of earnings is less frequent, if ever attained.
    The earnings of the West-end and Chelsea women's men, calculated from accounts which have been supplied to me, are as follows: -


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1849 13 4 3 12 7 4 13 10 5 13 10 10 52 12 10
Average pr week 1 0 4 0 19 0 1 0 9 1 0 10 1 0 2


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1848 16 16 2 13 6 0 12 11 11 12 4 11 54 19 0
Average pr week 1 5 10 1 0 5 0 19 3 0 18 9 1 1 1


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1849 9 16 3 9 13 6 9 14 5  9 11 7 38 15 9
Average pr week 0 15 1  0 14 10 0 14 11 0 14 8 0 14 11


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1848 8 1 8  8 4 1 8 9 5 6 17 10 31 13 0
Average pr week 0 12 5 0 12 7 0 13 0 0 10 7 0 12 2


First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Total for the Year
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
1848 9 3 10 9 7 8 10 19 9 10 11 0 40 2 3
Average pr week 0 14 1 0 14 5 0 16 10 0 16 2 0 15 5
1849 9 16 10 9 13 4 10 1 7 9 19 3 39 11 0
Average pr week 0 15 1 0 14 10 0 15 6 0 15 3 0 15 2

    As to the earnings of the City women s men working for the best rate of wages, I obtained the subjoined statement: - 
    "I belong to the City branch of the Society of Women's Shoemakers. I am a sew-round man. I make the lighter descriptions worn by ladies, such as silk and satin shoes. The binder prepares the 'upper' - whether of silk, satin, kid, or any other material - and the upper, so prepared, is given out to the 'sew-round man' to be sewn to the sole. The term sew-round is given to distinguish the branch from any other description of shoe worn by ladies, and consists in sewing the upper' once round to the sole. The sole is generally of one substance, being of the very lightest description. I work for the best wages that are given by the 'order warehouses' of the City. The parties who give out ladies' work in the City may be divided into the bespoke shops' and the warehouses. The warehouses supply the country shops and the export trade. They give the work out to each workman in large quantities. The workmen who take the work out generally do not belong to societies. The majority of the warehouses give very low wages, as low as they possibly can. I work for one of the most liberal of these warehouses. Before doing so I was working for the bespoke trade. The wages paid by the City bespoke trade are at present 1s. 4d., or 1s. 3d. per pair for plain sew-rounds, and about 1s. 6d. for silk and satin sew-rounds. The wages given by the warehouses are much below those of the bespoke trade. For plain sew-rounds the most liberal warehouses give from ls. to 9d. per pair. For silk and satin sew-rounds they give 2d. extra. Other warehouses, however, will give only from 10d. to 5d. per pair for plain sew-rounds, and for satin 1d. extra. The last-mentioned wages are about the lowest given by the warehouses. There is little or no difference in the kind of work required, whether it be for a bespoke shop or at a warehouse. There is likewise little or no difference in the work put into the high price and the low price sew-rounds at the warehouses. At a bespoke-shop I can make about three pair of those at 1s. 4d. or 1s. 3d. per pair in a day of fourteen hours. At those shops I could earn from 3s. 9d. a day, or 24s. a week, when in full work. Indeed, a man having the best seat of work could get no more to do, for the employer would not believe he had done justice to the work if he did more than eighteen pairs in the week. A man working at the bespoke shops can earn 24s. a week for eight months in the year; for the other months - that is, from November to March - he doesn't earn the half of 24s. I think 10s. a week would be nearer his average earnings in the slack season of the year. Out of what he gets, the workman has to provide himself with grindery and candles, which cost from 1s. 6d. to 2s. a week throughout the year. Deducting expenses, a 'women's-man's' earnings at bespoke work would be about 13s. a week throughout the whole year. At the best kind of warehouse work a women's-man may earn about the same per week on an average; but, to do that, as the work is worse paid, of course the man must work longer hours in the brisk season, and oftener in the slack. At the lowest price warehouses it is impossible to say how little a man may earn. To get a bare living he must work a greater number of hours, and very hard, or else he must employ a number of boys. This class of work belongs properly to slopwork, and is mostly carried on by the employment of boys. This boy labour is one of the chief evils of our trade. I will give you an instance. A deputation of women's-men waited upon some of the employers respecting the frequent reductions taking place in the wages of the men. The employers remarked that many of the men were enabled to make a very decent appearance, notwithstanding the reductions which were said to be so great an evil. Whereupon the deputation replied, that such an appearance was kept up solely by boy work. The masters made answer that they cared not whether boy or man was employed, so long as they got their work cheap. Let them all get boys,' was the reply. The deputation then wished to know what was to become of the men; but the employers again asserted that it mattered not to them so long as they got their work cheap. To such an extent has the system of employing boys increased in the trade that it's a saying among the men now, that it's impossible to do without a boy to help. These boys are not apprentice boys, but taken on from ten to sixteen years of age, and instructed in the trade. Thus, a sharp lad will be perfect in two years, and then his labour is brought into the market, to reduce the man to the boy's level. There's a man I know whose wages average 50s. a week - and there's several - plenty, aye plenty like him - working for the warehouses. Last week he drew 25s. for the work he took in from Wednesday to Saturday. This he was able to do solely by the assistance of boy-labour. I have told you before what a single-handed man can earn; you may judge what he gets out of the boys he employs. This man boasts that he would rather remain idle (and he could afford to do so) than not employ boys. The masters prefer such workmen as have boys to assist them. They can take out and take in larger quantities of work at a time, and so save the employers trouble, and the masters will give them every opportunity for work in preference to single-handed men. The boys that assist the women's-men are often obtained from the workhouse. The majority of these, however, are apprenticed at a very low fee (it doesn't exceed £41 believe) - and this forms one of the principal causes of the women's trade being so overstocked with hands as it is. The premium for apprenticeship is so low, that workhouse lads are put to this trade in preference to others. But the majority of the lads employed, who are not apprenticed, are boys who have been taught the work in the prisons, or have obtained while in gaol a sufficient insight into the trade to fit them for sewers. Of course there are many exceptions to this; but I know of several instances of both workhouse and prison boys being introduced into the trade, and so reducing us to their level. The Hoxton Male Refuge for the Destitute has been a hot-bed for the over-population of our trade. There they will apprentice two boys at once to the same man. My first knowledge of the women's trade was about the year 1812. At that time women's spring-heel shoes and sew-rounds, in the order shops, were from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d. per pair, with plenty of employment, and made inferior in point of workmanship to the article that is now paid 6d. for - that's a fact which no one can deny. These were for the warehouses. At the bespoke shops there was likewise an inferior article, and paid for much higher than at present. The article worn then was different from that worn now; the wood heel was a great deal up at that time. I have known my father, upon the commonest work, earn with ease, single-handed, upon springs and sew-rounds of that day, at 1s. 6d. a pair, from 10s. to 11s. a day - the work was made so inferior to that at present. I don't say he did this every day, but he could do it. Formerly in the warehouses there was only one price for sew-rounds and all descriptions of work manufactured on the premises. There were no first, second, third, fourth, and fifth rate wages. All then was 1s. 4d. per pair, or thereabouts. Now the wages vary from 1s. down to 5d. What is 5d. now would have been paid at the rate of 1s. 4d. then, and they are better made at present into the bargain. I attribute the decline in the wages (I'm speaking of my own particular shop and my own particular branch, so as to confine myself to facts that have come within my own knowledge), to the introduction of French goods and the superabundance of labour in the market, produced by the employment of boys. I will give you an example of the effect that the lowering the duty upon the French goods had upon our wages. Immediately after the reduction of the duty in 1842 my employer went to Paris, and brought over 20 gross of French silk and satin goods. He showed a sample of these to the workmen employed upon similar kind of work, and produced the invoice to prove how cheap he could purchase such an article upon the Continent. He did not state that he purposed making a reduction of the wages, but strongly insinuated as much; and from that time to the present he has steadily lowered our wages at every slack season of the year. Indeed, up to the year 1842 there was but one price at this shop, and now there are four, each being 2d. under the other. I know no other fact of my own knowledge, but have heard even stronger proofs of the injury of French goods to our trade. These that I have in my hand now are French satin shoes, made in London upon the English principle. They were first introduced to meet the Frenchmen in the English market, and then I received 1s. 2d. per pair - that was in the year 1843, and I had the same price down to the beginning of '49, when the second reduction in the duty took place. After that time the fourteen-penny work was entirely done away with, and a first rate of work at is., and a second rate of work at 11d, and 10d., introduced. My employer plainly told the men at that period that he was compelled to make the reduction in order to compete with the French goods introduced into the market. These, you see, sir, that I have got now, are 11d. a pair, and I am sure I could not make more of them, single-handed, than I could of the 1s. 2d. In the week I could do 20 pair (many could do more, but I wish to speak within the mark), so that you will understand that I individually have had my earnings reduced from 23s. 4d. to 18s. 4d. a week; that is to say, I have lost 5s. a week by the cheapening of the French goods. The evil does not rest with me, for my work goes to the warehouse, and such is the system now, that the warehouses supply the bespoke shops not only at the West-end, but all over England. Most of the large warehouses employ two travellers permanently, besides others upon commission and such is the nature of the work now put into the cheap articles that I defy any lady in the land to distinguish the articles that have been made up through the starving of the working-men, from those for which a fair living price has been paid. None of the export work is manufactured at the West-end; all is confined to the City. I am positive we cannot undersell the French in any market in the world at the better kind of work - that is, the sew-rounds in silk and satins; but at what is called the trash of work we can compete with any nation, for the Englishman will submit to be ground down more than any other man. It would make your blood boil to know how little is paid for the cheapest shoe work; and yet the masters confess that it is out of this badly paid work that they get the most profit. My employer himself told me as much. 'Trash,' said he, 'as it is, I get more out of it than I do out of the better work, and with less trouble to myself.' He was speaking of a large order to Canada, and comparing it with another for the better description of goods from a respectable house in town. So bad is the trash work which we send out to the colonies, that we are losing even the little export trade that is left us as fast as we can. All the capitalist thinks of is to obtain a sightly article at the lowest possible figure. The durability of the goods he never troubles his head about; indeed he never examines them for that: the present gain is his only object, and we are the main losers in the end. He tells us, if we complain, that the trade is overstocked with hands, when he himself has deprived us of the work through his own cupidity. The market being overstocked by the means I have before stated - that is, by the introduction of French goods throwing so many men out of employment, and the loss of the export trade - the more skilful hands alone can get work at the better price shops. The consequence is that the less skilful are left without any work to do; they then begin and manufacture on their own account. This is the trash-work previously described, and this they hawk round to the trade wherever they can get sale for it, and at any price. The trash-work is produced by what are called chamber-masters; and, in order that they may be able to undersell the regular trade, these chamber-masters employ boys of all ages, whom they obtain from the workhouses and prisons. By means of their labour, boots and shoes are got up and sold to the slaughter-houses at prices that must ultimately starve all the better workmen out of the trade. If the master can't get his work done at his own prices in the garrets and cellars of the honest men, why he'll go to the prisons and the workhouses. It's all the same to him so long as he can get an honest penny, as he calls it, out of them. The cheapness of provisions has not made the same difference to me that the reduction of my labour has. The wages of the general men working for the better class shops in the City are somewhat about my own. I mean, they get for plain springs (i.e., ladies' common single-soled shoes, without heels) from 1s. to 5d. a pair at the warehouses (at the bespoke shops the sew- rounds and springs are paid alike); welts, or double soles, vary from 5d. to 3d. extra."
    The general rate of wages in the Stepney district to women's-men in society are from 6d. for sew-round boots, up to 1s. 2d. for single-sole boots and shoes. A single-handed man working at sew-round boots will make about four pair at 6d. per pair in a day of fourteen hours. At the lowest rate of wages a man will earn about 12s. a week, out of which he will have to pay 1s. 6d. for grindery and light, making his clear earnings 10s. 6d. These prices are given by the warehouse. The workman will not be more than half employed during five months in the year. Throughout the year the average earnings of a society man in the Stepney district will be about 9s. a week. The wages for plain pumps, for society men, are 8d., 9d., 10d., 11d., and 1s. The 9d., 10d., 11d., and 1s. work is for the retail shops in the Stepney district, and the 8d. work is for the warehouses. For welts or double soles the wages are from is. up to is. 6d., the higher price being for the retail shops. Throughout the year the society men earn 12s. a week, or 10s. clear, on the heavy description of work; and about 9s. a week on the lighter. The reductions have been very considerable within the last ten years, certainly to the extent of 5d. a pair upon an average. The work has, moreover, been made a great deal better lately, and that is a very serious loss to the men, as more time must be given to each pair. The cause of the reduction is the system of chamber-mastering, which allows the employers to buy their goods cheaper than they can manufacture them. There is a shop in the Commercial-road that supplies country orders, and purchases them of the chamber-masters at 2s. 3d. per pair for patent enamel shoes, single sole. The party of whom he buys them will give about 8d. or 9d. per pair for the making; whereas the employer, if he made them himself, would have to give 11d, per pair. These shoes he sells wholesale at 36s. a dozen, so that he clears a good percentage, and is saved all trouble and expense of clickers into the bargain. This is the main cause of the reduction of wages in the women's trade, and especially in the Stepney district. The same system extends, however, all through the City, and indeed through a good part of the West-end. It is this that throws the whole of the women's men out of work every day. The system is fast running through the whole country. The eastern portion of London is the great hotbed of this evil. Employers at the East- end, who buy of the chamber-masters, supply some of the best shops at the West-end, and many of the better kind in the country parts. The reason why the chamber-masters are able to get up goods at a less price than the usual rate, is on account of the number of boys, and girls, and women, and all kinds of cheap labour they employ. "The great evil of our trade," said a shrewd Stepney women's-man, "I consider to be the chamber-master system - the importation of foreign goods, I think, is a minor injury to us. They certainly displace some of our men, perhaps one or two hundred; but that is trifling out of so many thousand workmen as there are in the metropolis, let alone the whole country. The principal evil is the chamber- masters, with the system of compound labour by boys, girls, and women. My opinion is, that the importation of foreign goods into this country has done no injury to us. Why I think so is this, that if the question be fairly canvassed, at the West-end of the town it would be found that the garrets swarm with Polish refugees, and Frenchmen, and Germans, and all kinds of foreigners, and that these workmen do us a much greater injury than the importation of the manufactured goods. The greatest evil of all lies in the chamber-master system, and the labour of boys, girls, and women being brought to compete against us. This is the principal reason why the trade is so overstocked as it is. There is a system of obtaining apprentices from the workhouses at the East-end of London; the journeyman takes the apprentices in the first instance, because the wages are so reduced by the employer that he cannot obtain a living by his own labour. After having got one or two, he generally commences cutting for himself - that is, he starts as a small manufacturer, and begins hawking his goods to the warehouses, and retail shops, and, in some cases, to private families. As his work increases, he obtains either more apprentices or employs girls and women, as well as any kind of cheap labour that he can lay hold of. If he takes a man into his employ that party again is compelled to employ another boy to assist him, and so it goes on until our trade is completely over-populated; for these boys, as soon as they get out of their time, or upon their own hands, again employ more boys, adopting the system to which they have been brought up."
    Out of a committee of eight of the delegates' clerks of the different branch societies belonging to the women's trade, four believed that the importation of foreign goods was an injury, and four believed that it was no injury whatsoever; and not one was desirous of returning to the old system before the Corn-laws were repealed.
The wages of women's-men in the Borough district are, at the best shops, 1s. 6d. for sew-rounds and single soles, and 2s. for double soles. At the middling shops they are 1s. 3d. for sew-rounds and single soles of the best description, and 8d. for single soles of an inferior kind.  Double soles are 1s. 9d. the best and the worst. The lowest-rate shop belonging to society gives is. for the best single soles, and 8d. for the inferior; 1s. 6d. is the price for the best double soles, and 1s. for the common ones. The average earnings of a man throughout the year, working for the best shops, are 12s. a week clear; and for the lowest rate shops, a man, perhaps, may earn weekly 9s. clear, on an average. The causes of the depression are the same as in the other districts.
    I now give a short account of the "strong trade," or rather of such portion of it as is recognized as "legal," owing to its being in union. The wares made by these men are described by a correspondent, whose letter I give. Strength, so as to ensure durability of wear, is the main thing aimed at. To effect this, heavy nails (both hammered and cast) are used to strengthen the sole, which, with the upper part, is of thick coarse leather, with nails or iron tips round the heels. The work was well described to me as "downright labour;" and my informant, a "strong man," who made light of his labour, might have added, "of the hardest kind." The threads used to sew the sole to the welt are, as was described to me by another workman, "thick enough to frighten a West-end bootman." The hands of some of the men are callous, like horn, from the induration caused by the constant friction of the threads. One hard-working man, however, after he had been obliged to be idle for a while, when he got to work again, had his hands blistered and cut by the threads in a way to inspire an involuntary shudder, the cuts and blisters being black with wax. Even in the wares of these men, however, there was a proof of the excellence to which workmanship must be carried in London. I saw a "strong man" at work, and he expended some time in polishing the sole of a very strong cheap shoe, so as to make it sightly (or as they frequently call it, viewly); this was the more noticeable, as the work was for no window-show, and the sole, of course, would be dirtied by the first wear; but still, with the poorest, the eye must be pleased. I give the statement of a man familiar with the strong trade for the last 11 years: "When I first knew the trade, 11 years ago, work was good; any man who could put leather together in the shape of a shoe could get work as a strong man - with the proviso, however, that the work must be strong for wear; it must hold together firmly with wax and thread, so as not to fall to pieces. Nothing depended upon skill at that time, but on bone and sinew; a man of great physical strength might then earn his 24s. a week, by working very long hours; the average weekly earnings of the strong man at that time I reckon at 16s. My average earnings were that. The run of the work is bluchers and "ankles" (ankle-jacks some call them), and stout leather half-boots, laced up the front. Eleven years since the best masters paid 2s. 3d. for each sort, and they found the workman in hemp and brads - the men finding heel balls, wax, paste, bristles, &c. Candles, too, had to be provided by the workman, and are a great item in his expense. It appears to me that the strong men have always been badly paid. Instead of the 2s. 3d. paid 11 years ago, where is now given 2s., 1s. 10d., 1s. 8d., and in several cases 1s. 6d., men having generally to find their own grindery. One or two employers, however - and they must have better work for it - far better - aye at least 6d. a pair better - give 2s. 3d. and grindery; but that is for the very best work. The average cost of grindery for a pair of bluchers is 2d. at least. The average earnings of strong men now I reckon at 12s. a week, the cost of grindery not included; but that is only when men are in full work. Men casually employed will not average much more than half that sum; in fact, things have come to such a state, that we are now going on the co-operative system; we must take to that, or men may starve to death. I believe that the masters have next to nothing left from their competition one with another - I mean nothing left in the way of profit over and above the cost of material, and fair wages, out of the price for which they sell the goods - and so they drive at profit by reducing the poor workman's wages still lower. We are heartily sick of strikes, which, as they have been conducted generally, have been, and can be, of no permanent benefit to the men. Had we £50, we could employ all our men next month, and pay at the rate of 5 per cent per annum interest. We could appeal to the better class of workmen, and I think could get better prices. I have no doubt of it. I know that former attempts of the kind have failed, but then they were managed by people who did not understand the business. Indeed, we are now in operation in the co-operative way, by way of a commencement, though not in so large a way as we wish and intend. There is, I consider, no class so adapted for co-operation as our class of strong men. We could appeal to the sympathies of the great body of labouring men. We have nothing to do with gentlemen's work, and don't want. France doesn't interfere with our trade, neither does Northampton; we are all in all among ourselves. The great impediment to our getting on has been our poverty, and the ignorance it carries along with it. As for what things tend to in the future, I'll tell you. I hate physical force and revolutions, but I went to Kennington-common on the 10th of April, knowing or caring nothing what might happen."
    Of the "truck" and "lodging" system pursued among the "strong" men, I shall have something to say in my next.
    Having thus given the characteristics and condition of the "legal," or honourable trade, I next turn my inquiry to the state of the labouring men, women, and children employed by the slop-masters, who are distinguished from the "wages" (or legal) shops by the terms "illegal," "scab," or "slaughter-shop" keepers. I have reason to believe that the disclosures I shall make of the patiently-endured privations of numbers of the poor people working for these masters, and of the oppressions practised on them, will probably surpass the narrative of misery, and consequent dirt and disease, which I made public concerning the tailors. 
    Relative, then, to the branch of the business with which I have next to deal, I give the following communications from a shoemaker, a working man, of whose intelligence I received sufficient proofs, and whose character assures me that every reliance may be placed upon his statement - to say nothing of the corroboration I received incidentally in the course of my present inquiry. In my next letter I shall give evidence on this subject. My correspondent says: 
    "I put together in the best way I can, a few matters of fact on the subject of which you are treating. I first give you information belonging to the branch called 'men's-men,' and I will endeavour to put down in order all that I know of what directly injures the once honourable trade of boot and shoe makers, leaving all supposition and indirect means of injury out of the question for the present. First, in Northampton, the greatest boot and shoe manufacturing town in the world, the work is made after the manner of the East-end women's work - sewers, stitchers, women, boys, girls, families all labour together. I will show you, sir, how this and other systems operate against the honourable trade. There are several hundred shops in London known by the names of Emporium, Magazine, Depot, &c., which receive most of the thousands of pairs of boots daily made in Northampton. These houses are kept going by such men as undermentioned, which is only a sample: each person has several shops in different parts, and not one in ten knows anything of the trade previous to commencing business: W., has 6 shops, and he was originally a milkman; D., 6, formerly a carver and gilder; D., 6, an old painter and glazier; D., 4, once a lawyer's clerk; S., 6, a pawnbroker's man; H., 7, a huckster; H., 3, a linendraper; F.H.R., 3; O., 5; P., 5; S., 3; D., 4; B., 5; B., 6; M., 2; K., 4. - In all 65 shops among 16 persons. These men are a curse to the bespoke trade, in the men's department, and refuges for the destitute for the chamber master, in the women's trade. The smaller shopkeepers in the slop, or Northampton trade, are allowed 10 per cent for cash, if they go to Hampton for their goods. The manufacturers at Hampton have many agents in town and country. In a store in Hatton-garden may be seen, any day, from 300,000 to 400,000 pairs of boots and shoes, and these agents are empowered to give, upon recommendation, one month's credit, and 5 per cent. In St. John-street-road, City, &c., there are many private houses for disposing of the better or best sort of Northampton work. These private houses sell wholesale and export, but will sell a single pair at the wholesale price. Their wholesale price for best work, Wellingtons, is 13s. 6d. per pair. They are supplied from Hampton, at 10s. per pair, so they get a profit of 3s. 6d. per pair. The shopkeeper who sends them home to his customer as bespoke, charges £1 1s.; sometimes more. This is one tremendous blow to the honourable trade.
    "The Northampton of London is the East-end. It can be proved that 10,000 pairs of boots and shoes are manufactured daily in the three principal districts, Bethnal-green, Whitechapel, and Spitalfields. When I first thought I would place the state of the East-end trade before you, it did not enter into my mind to conceive what an important task I had undertaken. I have waded through many difficulties to obtain the truthful information which I now bring under your notice. I have got together information from all parts of London, and will endeavour to show the principal bad influences which have brought the once honourable trade of boot and shoe making to what it is. Thousands of ladies' French shoes, that never saw France, are made at this end of the town, and worn by the first ladies in the land. There are shopkeepers in all parts of London who have lasts and patterns of a French shape, who find their own material, send them to the East-end, and have them made at a very low rate of wages. The material and wages cost under 2s. per pair, and they are old for goods imported from France at 4s. 6d. and 5s. 6d. One instance will show the way in which goods are, what we call, 'got up,' and will exhibit the working of the whole system. I will take Mr. ---, an exporter, of ---, for example, who serves many shops in town and country, besides having a large export trade. Some years since, town and country shops cut their own work, and employed men to make it, and paid a fair rate of wages, besides employing a clicker; but now they can buy their work by the gross or dozen of Mr.-, making as much or more profit by purchasing than they can by cutting it themselves. Mr. --- supplies his customers in the following manner. A. B., of the West-end, or country, sends a letter to Mr.---, after this form:
    "Mr. ---
    "Sir - Please to send me a half-gross of sew-rounds, as quick as possible. Pairs - 6,6,12,24,12,12.Sizes- 1,2,3,4,5,6. 
    "Yours,&c.    "A.B."
    The order may be for any sort of work such as I have mentioned. A, in Bethnal-green, makes sew-rounds; B manufactures springs; C manufactures welts; D manufactures channels; E manufactures common boots; F manufactures best boots.
    "Mr. A., please to send me by such a time - pairs, 6,6,12,24,12, 12;sizes, 1,2,3,4, 5, 6. You will oblige, 
    "The same plan is adopted for getting up orders for exportation. Sew- rounds are made for 3d., 4d., and 5d. per pair. A man must be quick at his work to make six pairs a day, 2s. 6d. - that is, in the summer season. There are between 300 and 400 boys at the East-end, known by the name of sewers. Some of these boys can sew 18 pairs a day. The man uses the knife, &c.; the boy sews for him; and the man and boy between them complete the work of three men, the boy having 5s., 6s., or 7s. a week, according to agreement. Sometimes the boy is paid ld. a pair. Again, A, manufacturing sew-rounds, keeps a private house: say, in the summer he employs thirty hands out of doors, and five to work and lodge in the house; in the winter A will discharge his hands, or, if he has capital, he will employ, say ten single men to work and lodge in his house. All work and sleep in one large room - there are some exceptions. Their employer charges 2s. 6d. a week for lodging and sitting room - £1 5s. per week for the ten. The work which he paid 5s. a dozen for making in summer he reduces to 4s. a dozen in winter; so, if the men make six pairs each per day, A makes out of their labour 5s. per day. He keeps his work neatly packed in a dry room until the spring of the year, and then he makes a pretty penny. These kind of barracks abound at the east end. Most of the splendid ladies' work shown in shop windows is made in these winter barracks, where, in Spitalfields, several men work in a room, with only one coat among them, and rarely see a clean shirt. Some masters serve their in-door workmen with tea, coffee, bread, tobacco, coals: some keep Tom-and-Jerry shops, and the poor wretches rarely have ad. to take on Saturday night. There are also many families who make work, and hawk it about from house to house.
    The system which has, I believe, the worst effect on the women's trade throughout England, is chamber-mastering. There are between 300 and 400 chamber-masters. Commonly the man has a wife and three or four children, ten years old or upwards. The wife cuts out the work for the binders, the husband does the knife-work; the children sew with uncommon rapidity. The husband, when the work is finished at night, goes out with it, though wet and cold, and perhaps hungry - his wife and children waiting his return. He returns sometimes, having sold his work at cost price, or not cleared 1s. 6d. for the day's labour of himself and family. In the winter, by this means, the shopkeepers and warehouses can take the advantage of the chamber-master, buying the work at their own price. By this means haberdashers' shops are supplied with boots, shoes, and slippers; they can sell women's boots at 1s. 9d. per pair; shoes, 1s. 3d. per pair; children's, 6d., 8d., and 9d. per pair, getting a good profit, having bought them of the poor chamber-master for almost nothing, and he glad to sell them at any price, late at night, his children wanting bread, and he having walked about for hours in vain trying to get a fair price for them; thus, women and children labour as well as husbands and fathers, and with their combined labours they only obtain a miserable living, --- and Co's, City, is known by many as the 'refuge for the destitute.' A slight investigation will draw out an amount of misery almost incredible. It is impossible to ascertain accurately how many men are employed on this business. It is according to the state of trade for export or home use; but in the brisk season (summer) it is, as near as I can ascertain, as undermentioned."
    My correspondent here gives a list of 58 masters, employing, as nearly as he can ascertain, 1,173 men, and paying them at the rate of 3s., 3s. 6d., 4s., 4s. 6d., and 5s. 6d. per dozen pairs for wages. Of these the greatest number (120) are employed by a person in Hounsditch; the next in order (as regards the number of poor men employed) is a house in Cheapside (100). My correspondent then continues: - 
    "There are many other private warehouses in the City. Kingsland, Hackney, Somers-town, Petticoat-lane, abound with them . At the back of Shoreditch there are a great many chamber-masters who employ from four to five persons to work and lodge in the house, herding together in dirt and filth - scenes which must be seen to be understood. Commencing from Farringdon-Street, and embracing the City, Islington, Somers-town, Bethnal-green, Hackney, Kingsland, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Moorfields, Tower Hamlets, Mile-end, Haggerstone, and the adjacent neighbourhoods of these shoe manufacturing districts, there are -

Women's and children's makers 2,000
Sewing boys upwards of 400
Engaged for bespoke and shopwork, not slops 500
Sewing girls and women, boot and shoe binders 1,500
Chamber-masters (not including wives and children), upwards of 400
Persons of all ages and sexes -makers binders, sewers 4,800

I do not propose that my calculations are free from error, but 1 can say with certainty that they are considerably under the mark, for in no instance have I overrated; indeed, I believe if, instead of 4,800 1 reversed it to 8,400 it would not be much above the truth.
    "It is probable that, independent of apprentices, 200 additional hands are added to our already overburdened trade yearly. Sewing boys soon learn the use of the knife. Plenty of poor men will offer to finish them for a pound and a month's work; and men, for a few shillings and a few weeks' work, will teach other boys to sew. There are many of the wives of chamber- masters teach girls entirely to make children's work for a pound and a few months work, and there are many in Bethnal-green who have learnt the business in this way. These teach some other members of their families, and then actually set up in business in opposition to those who taught them, and in cutting offer their work for sale at a much lower rate of profit; and shop keepers in town and country, having circulars sent to solicit custom, will have their goods from a warehouse that will serve them cheapest; then the warehouseman will have them cheap from the manufacturer; and he in his turn cuts down the wages of the workpeople, who fear to refuse offers at the warehouse price, knowing the low rate at which chamber-masters will serve the warehouse. No doubt, could the little chamber-masters find means to serve the warehouse by the gross, instead of by the dozen, they would crush the wholesale factor. So the chamber-master is a scourge to himself and a curse to the trade generally, being an active means of yearly reducing the wages of the maker, while the warehouseman gets rich, and the manufacturer, should he be obliged to make work for 2s. a gross less for warehouse, is a great gainer, because he will dock wages 6d. a dozen.

Henry Mayhew, letters to the Morning Chronicle, 1849-1850