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

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Thursday, July 25, 1850

In the present letter I shall conclude my inquiry into the condition of the London carpenters and joiners, with a description of the several applications of machinery to the purposes of their trade. These appear to consist of moulding mills, planing mills, mortising mills, and saw benches for cutting grooves, tennons, and rabbets. To estimate the quantity of manual labour superseded by these means is a very difficult calculation, and only admits of a rough approximation. I have, however, endeavoured to obtain the best information on this point, and the statement here given is, I am convinced, rather below than above the actual amount.
    I shall begin with the moulding mills.
    One of the most delicate applications of steam to wood work, as regards precision, nicety, and celerity, is seen in the preparation of mouldings. At the mill I visited, and over which I was obligingly shown by the manager, mouldings are prepared for the use of the joiner in house buildings, as well as for the upholsterer and the carver and gilder. A moulding steam-mill was first established in Paddington somewhat less than ten years ago. There had been many attempts previously, which failed of attaining full success. The one I allude to is the largest in the world. The premises in which it is carried on are of great extent, and the constant recurrence of timber, as you walk along, upstairs and down, in doors or out - of timber as it is received from lighters in the Thames (on the banks of which the premises are built), and then piled for use, or in its last stage of preparation - gives the visitor a better impression than any other place I have seen of the vastness of the timber trade of London. The establishment is erected for all the purposes of sawing, planing, and cutting wood (except veneers) by steam; but as I have already - in my letter on the Sawyers - given an account of the other processes, I shall here confine myself to the moulding mills. Any kind of wood can be formed into mouldings; but yellow pine is generally used. This pine is kept four or five years drying before it is fit for use. The wood to be "moulded" - a word which is not expressive of the process, for all is done by cutting - is prepared of the width and substance required. It is then rubbed smooth with glass paper - boys being employed at this work. When ready, it is placed into a frame by a lad, and the machinery is set to work. This consists of a multiplicity of wheels, cutters, &c., working so rapidly, that the motion of some of them is almost imperceptible, while a shower of little chips of wood - the size of peas or beans, but angular, and larger or smaller, according to the pattern worked - is thrown upon the stander-by. The peculiar construction of the machinery, which cuts the timber into a moulding; the modes of changing it so as to cut the wood to any pattern - some patterns being very elaborate as to curves and outlines, and to the depth of 12 inches - cannot be properly described without the aid of engravings. The moulding is completed in one operation. The boy "keeps feeding the machine," by putting the timber to the frame, and with the usual unconscious look of lads employed in labour the nature and importance of which they know and care nothing about. All is quiet, regular, and orderly. By "quiet," I must be understood as speaking of the demeanour of the people at work, for quiet, in the sense of noiselessness, is unknown in such places. The clatter of wheels, the grinding sound of saws, and the chip-chip of the moulding engines render conversation difficult. The persons employed, however, by a peculiar pitch of their voices, aided by gestures, seemed to make each other readily understand any order or communication. The machinery prepares the moulding complete; it is formed to the pattern - whatever curves or elevation that pattern may comprise. The moulding is also "under-cut;" that is, planed smooth - knots in the wood being no obstacle, on the under or flat side' of the wood as "moulded" - and all is executed at one process. Whatever be the pattern, the machine will cut, at an average, twelve feet in a minute. A simple form thus prepared would occupy a skilled and quick mechanic one quarter of an hour. Four steam moulding machines are constantly at work at the establishment I saw, and thus they "mould" 48 feet or l6yardsaminute, 960 yards an hour, and 9,600 yards in a day of 10 hours. Ten hours is a low average, for though time is somewhat lost in changing cutters and such like, the mill is sometimes kept going from six in the morning until ten at night. The day's work is thus about 5 miles, or 33 miles length of moulding in a week; and reckoning 50 weeks to the year, 1,650 miles in the year are "moulded" in one mill. This is the only mill which "undercuts" the mouldings, and does all by one process. The other mills may do altogether little more than half as much, and that gives, in all, 2,475 miles. For the moulding machines 5 men, over- lookers and directors generally, and 15 boys, are employed. The men earn from 36s. to 40s. a week, the boys 7s. to 15s., according to age and trustworthiness. The mere errand, jobbing boy, has 4s. a week. A new moulding engine, to cut to the depth of 18 inches, is in course of erection. I may mention here also a new system of steam sawing - a simpler system, and the only one now in operation - which I saw at this mill. A steam engine is placed above a frame of saws, the frame containing 48 or any lower number of saws, while the piston of the engine works the saws without the intervention of further machinery.
    The next kind of mills that demand our attention are those for planing by steam.
    Planing mills for general work have been established in London within these twelve years; the first was Mr. Jackson's, of Pimlico. Prior to that, the process was known, and some of the masters had somewhat similar machinery to that now in use, but worked by hand instead of steam. The introduction of steam planing machines, I am informed on the best authority, was suggested by the uses of a machine in operation some thirty- five years ago, for the cutting of wood into scaleboard. It was thus cut smooth into thin planks, and was used for making hat and bonnet boxes, salve boxes, and the like; and until about fourteen years since, this scale- board paid 21s. per cwt. duty, as it was a substitute for paper or pasteboard. Very wet timber would then frequently entail a dead loss on account of its weighing heavily. The planing machine is now worked by a steam-engine in the usual way. A shaft from the main shaft works one drum, and that one drum works alike the "endless chain," two saws for edging boards, two spindles for ploughing and tonguing, and two adzes for "thicknessing" the board, or reducing it to one perfect uniformity as regards thickness. The planing irons, two being generally used, are fixtures. The deal to be planed is placed on an iron frame thoroughly smooth and level; and when the board is thus placed upon it and fitted firmly, it is drawn rapidly along by the endless chain, which is impelled by the engines, and so the board is passed under the planing irons. The other processes that I have mentioned, viz., the edging, &c., go on when required, simultaneously with the planing, and at the same frame. Two shavings are in this way planed off the surface of the board, one rough and one fine. The wood thus planed must not exceed 11 inches in thickness. The shavings are useless, and sometimes have to be burnt in considerable quantities, that they may be got rid of. The wood so planed is entirely for the purposes of flooring, and I am informed that a joiner could not plane it so truly - if as smoothly - as the mill; for it is not easy to give, merely by the eye and the touch, a precisely uniform thickness of substance to every portion of the deal or plank. The machine effects this uniformity with infallible precision. The one that I saw planes 450 deals or planks, of the usual length of a plank, in a day. To plane them finely and in the best fashion of workmanship, a good hand would not do more than twenty such planks. Long practice might, however, I was told, enable a joiner to plane thirty in a day, if not in the very best style. Take the average at twenty-five, and the planing machine performs the work of eighteen men. There are, I am told, about eight such public planing machines in London; planing among them eight times 450 deals or planks in a day, or performing the work of 116 men in planing. This, of course, is independent of any planing machines which are private or Government property. The planing process is managed by two men, the frame-man and his assistant; the engine, of course, require the usual amount of attention on the part of the engineer, &c. The highest amount paid to the workmen at the mill I visited was 8s. a day. The frame-men have 5s. a day, but they usually make seven days in the week, owing to the mill being frequently worked over-time. The labourers have 21s. a week. The cost of mill planing runs gradually as regards intermediate sizes, from 1s. 6d. and 2s., respectively, for 6-feet deals and planks, to 5s. 1d. and 7s. for 21-feet deals and planks.
    I moreover witnessed the working of a rack timber bench for cutting logs of timber, by steam application, into scantlings and joists of all descriptions for building purposes. This machine can cut any log not exceeding two feet in depth and of any length. It accomplishes in five minutes as much labour as would occupy a pair of sawyers two hours. It will cut thirty loads of timber a day. There are five or six such machines in London, but they are not in constant working, the demand for such labour varying greatly.
    Besides the machinery for planing and making mouldings, steam machinery is generally used, on the larger builders' premises, for sawing deals and timber both for flooring and roofing in the carpenters' department. In the joiners' branch there are steam machines for cutting tennons for doors, sashes, and whatever is framed together; also for ploughing, rabbeting, and indeed grooving generally. "In our shop," said one of my informants, "a machine makes any sized tennon by a single motion passed over two saws. That, of all machines, does most harm to the efficient joiners; it will do thirty men's work. We have only this machine and the steam saw. I reckon that twenty-five such machines are kept going in London, and so 750 men's labour is done away with. In one house I know of there is a morticing machine by steam, which will do twelve men's work. I know only of one in London."
    In the course of my inquiries I paid a visit to the establishment here alluded to, and was not more surprised at the completeness of all its mechanical arrangements than I was delighted at the regard and consideration exhibited for the comfort and well-being of the men. There science was not only taken advantage of for the performance of the most skilful operations in connection with almost every branch of the art of building, but likewise to promote the health of all the men employed on the premises. There were steam-mills for cutting marble and for polishing it - mills for grinding the lime and cement by steam - steam-mills again for sawing the timber, and steam-mills for grooving, rabbeting, mortising, and making tennons - lathes driven by machinery, for turning wood and iron - drilling and punching machines - all worked in the same manner. But I purpose treating more fully upon this subject at a future time, and especially, upon the consideration shown for the well-being of the men, displaying in this most admirable establishment. I was informed by one of the gentlemen at the head of it that the application of machinery to building purposes generally could not but produce a great revolution in the carpenters' trade. Another gentleman thought that they had, by such means, displaced full 25 per cent of manual labour within the last few years.
    I shall now proceed to give an account of a veneer-mill.
    The manufacture of veneerS, now exclusively made by means of steam-machinery, is among the most curious applications of steam power to mechanical contrivances. About 38 years ago, Sir Isambert, then Mr. Bruflel, turned his attention to the preparation of a process by which the sawing of wood might be facilitated by means of the steam-engine. The invention of the machinery, and its adaptation to the working of the steam- engine, as now in use, was Mr. Brunel's and the first steam-mill for the sawing of deals was that of Mr. Smart, as I have already stated in my account of the sawyers. Mr. Brunel patented his discovery, and sold licenses to those who chose to invest their money in the establishment of the steam- mills. In the course of his experiments to improve the process for the sawing of logs of timber, he thought of applying it to the production of veneers, which, before his discovery, were sawn in the usual manner in the pits, but were rudely, as well as expensively, produced; the failures of the sawyers in the production of a perfect veneer being frequent. For two years, Mr. Brunel, at considerable cost, carried on his experiments, but only with approximations to success. The saws he first used were straight, and were formed of "a solid plate" of one piece of steel. They were very fine; and from the heat produced by the friction of the timber, they soon became useless; for in working they "lengthened" and "buckled," and so lost their accuracy of performance. ("Buckling" is a technical term expressive of the blistering or puckering of the steel.) "It buckled sometimes," said my informant, who was at the time I speak of with Mr. Brunel, "like the frill of a shirt." On one occasion, when watching the working of his saws, Mr. Brunel took a file, and as if struck by a sudden thought, "nicked" the saws in the parts where they "buckled." The machinery was then set a-going, and the saws worked truly, without hitching or irregularity. It then occurred to Mr. Brunel (who was himself surprised, my intelligent informant assured me , at the effect of his simple remedy for the buckling) that saws formed of distinct pieces of steel would be better than those formed of solid plates, and this - when he had given more attention to the subject - led him to apply segment saws, of a circular form, to effect his purpose. These saws were then formed, as they are at present, of different segments of steel, by which any "bucking or deviation from the nicest accuracy is thoroughly obviated. The first application of the segment and circular saw convinced Mr. Brunel that his discovery was perfected - a conviction which has been justified by a long tried result, for up to the present day no improvement, and indeed no alteration, has been introduced into his process, as regards the use of these saws. The first steam-mill established for the sawing of veneers was at Battersea, thirty-four or thirty-five years ago, and was the property of Mr. Brunel and his partners. This mill is still in full operation.
    The veneer saw mill that I visited is the largest in the world, and in its beautiful and scientific arrangements presents a most striking example of the perfection by which the hardest as well as the softest timber can be made available for veneering purposes; a nicety and a perfection utterly unattainable by manual labour or skill. The ground occupied by the buildings covers about six acres, and is situated on the bank of a canal, up which the timber is usually conveyed. Dark and dirty looking logs, some of them of vast size, lie scattered or piled about; but among these, only distinguished by a practised eye, are the most costly and rare of all the foreign woods used in the manufacture of our richest furniture, none but the choicest timber being collected for the formation of veneers. The stateliest trees that some months back graced the forests of St. Domingo, Brazil, or Honduras, lie there until their trunks can be sawn into multiplied divisions, some of them as thin as paper. The principal woods used for veneering are the mahoganies - Spanish, Honduras, or African. The Honduras mahogany is in the most extensive use. Here, too, may be seen satin wood, Amboyna, the many varieties of rose-wood, zebra-wood, ebony, tulip-wood, coromandel, bird's-eye maple, cedar, sandal-wood, and king-wood; besides our native oaks, yews, elms, ashes, birches, walnuts, and sycamores - these woods having of late come into much more frequent use as veneers.
    Nor is it the costlier woods alone that are prepared in this great establishment. Deals are consumed in great quantities, and for perhaps the cheapest of all commodities which science has given to general use - the formation of lucifer-matches. The matches, however, are made by a different process from that used to prepare veneers, as I shall presently show.
    The wood to be sawn into veneers is first carried into the "adzing-room," where men chip the surface with axes, or level it with planes, so as to remove any grit or dirt which might impede the action of the saw. The logs so adzed are then fixed by an application of Scotch glue to a wooden frame with transverse battens, so as to be held fixedly when subjected to the action of the saw. Scotch glue is used in preference to all others. It may not be so strong as marine glue, but marine glue is not affected by water, and for the business purposes of this mill the glue must be capable of being removed by washing, as the part to which it has been applied must be cleansed.
    The timber to be sawn is then taken to the saw-room, a large well-lighted apartment, 120 feet long, 90 wide, and of proportionate height. In this room are eight circular saws, from 7 to 17 feet in diameter. There are II such saws in use altogether in the mill; the teeth of the 17 feet saw are five to the inch, and the rest in proportion. In the saw-room, on the occasion of my visit, there was a very agreeable odour, reminding one strongly of the perfume of a library, where the books are bound in Russia leather. Some of the woods give Out a strong aroma when sawn. Among these, the rose-woods and ebony are the most pungent and titilating, the dust causing strangers to sneeze, even if the inured to snuff-taking. The sandal and tulip woods also emit a pleasant fragrance, while the cedar, contrary to the popular notion, is not especially agreeable to the sense when being sawn - indeed, a veneer sawyer told me, that once on sawing some wet, and not very sound cedar, the smell given out was so strong and unpleasant, from the liberation of the volatile oils, that the men had to run out and "drink spirits to fortify themselves against its effects.
    The timber, affixed to its frame, is placed on an iron beam, and adjusted to the exact approximation to the saw. The saw is then set rapidly revolving, and a sawyer, assisted by a boy, follows the timber as the machinery carries it along, subject to the fine and dividing edge of the saw; he keeps the teeth of the saw clear from the dust, as far as he can, and closely watches, and in some sort directs, the precise adjustment of the timber to the saw, until the veneer is completed. On my visit a large rosewood tree was being sawn, and the veneers looked like huge, dull "watered" ribbons. The strong glowing colours are afterwards brought out by varnish.
    The object of my present letter does not entail upon me the necessity of describing the minutiae of the beautiful machinery, so exquisitely adjusted in this mill. I may mention, however, that a person unused to such sights will find the "saw-room" an imposing spectacle when the saws are all going. The clatter of the steam-engine below - the rapid running of broad belts of leather connecting the various parts of the machinery - the peculiar sound of the saw-wheel as it whirls round rapidly, and as rapidly severs the timber - and the close attention and almost unbroken silence of the men at work, with the peculiar atmosphere caused by the work, present certainly a combination only known to great cities and to modern times.
    To the courtesy of the proprietor, who was obliging enough to give instructions that every possible information and facility of inquiry should be afforded me, I am indebted for the following account of the extent of his business in the week preceding my visit (as regards the production of veneers). Nine saws were thus employed. The numbers 1, 2, &c., indicate the saws; the second series of figures the logs, trunks of trees, or planks sawn; and the third range of figures the number of feet sawn for veneering:

No.1 30 4813
2 24 3936
3 13 2332
4 17 7640
5 12 4898
6 53 8269
7 16 8216
8 12 10043
9 6 938
183 51085

This number, however, is below the average, which may be fairly taken at 200 logs, &c., a week, forming 60,000 feet tong of veneers, averaging 10 inches wide. The mill cannot be said to work more than 50 weeks in the year, and that gives a length of 3,000,000 feet or 1,000,000 yards, which is upwards of 568 miles. For this purpose between 3,000 and 4,000 trees are yearly used. The segments of the worn out saws in this mill - now piled up in heaps - would measure in a row 13 miles. I may add that more than once a log of mahogany of the value of £500 has been cut at this mill.
    The machinery can cut 15 veneers in the inch, though 11 and 12 to the inch is the usual demand. The sawyers can saw but little more than 6 on the average to the inch. The charge at the mill is 1d. a foot for sawing veneers; thirty years ago it was 6d. Each veneer is now canvassed at each end to prevent its splitting; and throughout the establishment are large rooms, heated by steam, for the drying of the veneers or of the timber to be sawn. The extent to which veneering is carried on in London may be estimated by computing 28 saws at work, doing the same, or nearly the same, amount of work as those I have spoken of.
    Among the other performances of this mill, I have spoken of the preparation of timber for lucifer matches. For the making of these matches the best America yellow pine is used. It is first sawn into blocks as wide as the tree, or rather plank, will allow, averaging perhaps 12 inches. These blocks are 3 inches thick and 5 and 5 in. wide. Five of such blocks are placed on a "feeding bench," and, when the machinery is put into operation, they are subject to the incision of from 45 to 60 cutters, lancet-shaped, which cut into the timber; it is the "slit" to the thickness of a match by the operation of a knife fitted into the machine; but so rapidly is the process carried on, that to the eye the slitting and cutting seem simultaneous. The five blocks are divided into match-wood in 116 strokes of the machine, and the machine performs 122 strokes in a minute or less; so that 16,000 double, or 32,000 single, matches are thus made in that time. Two other machines perform the same quantity of work as the great one I have described. The matches, when cut, slide from the machine into another room underneath, where girls are employed in tying them up into bundles, first fitting them into parcels, which hold six dozen boxes, each box containing 50 splints. In one day 30 hogsheads of matches were sent from the mill to one man in Bristol, each hogshead containing 500 bundles, or 54,000,000 matches in all. In this mill the average of matches thus made is 156,000 gross of boxes a year, each box containing 50 splints - altogether 60 millions of matches. For the manufacture of this quantity 400 cubic feet of timber are used in a week, averaging eight trees, or 400 large trees a year for lucifer matches, only in one mill. My informant thinks that three times the number is so made throughout the country.
    In this mill are also rooms for the bending of timber for coach-builders' purposes for the chopping of dye-woods, logwood, fustic, Campeachy, Nicaraguy, &c., into small particles, for the formation of ship blocks, and for the splitting of wood for lucifer-match boxes.
    The veneer-mill sawyers are paid 5s. 6d., and 7s. a-day; but for that payment the saw is "taxed" to perform 5,000 feet in a week, and for all beyond that the veneer mill-sawyer receives 7s. per 1,000 feet - his average the year through is £2 15s. a week. There is no society among these men, and their number in London - where there are eight mills with twenty-eight saws - does not exceed 40. The labourers at the veneer mills are paid 3s. and 3s. 6d. a day, and the men who pile the timber, known in the trade as "gangers" earn 6s., 7s., and 8s. a day. These gangers, however, are a very small body, only four being employed at the great mill in question. In packing and tying the matches twenty girls are usually employed.
    To this it is but fair that I should append the statement of one of the most intelligent of the operative carpenters, concerning the influence of machinery upon his trade. I wish it, however, to be distinctly understood that the opinions expressed below are those of the working men, and they are given merely in order that the public should be made acquainted with them:-
    "The opinion of the journeymen generally is, that machinery cannot but make the trade worse and worse every year. The public, I know, generally believe it to be the greatest of blessings to have work done as cheap as possible, and as machinery does work cheaper than human beings, of course it is looked upon as a great benefit to society. The reason why the work can be done cheaper by machinery is, because a steam-engine only wants coals, and we require victuals - besides, masters can keep their steam-engines working night and day, and human beings must rest. The longer a master can keep his machinery going, the oftener, of course, he turns his capital over. You see directly they get a large quantity of machinery together, so as to keep it going continually, they will work at any price. I'm certain if they was tied to time as we are, we could beat them in our trade, for there's only particular parts that they can do effectually, and the great portion of these is the most laborious. To produce work as cheap as possible is certainly a great benefit to all those who have money to buy with; but to the working classes - that is to those who have no money but what they earn by their labour - machinery cannot but be a curse, since the object of it is to displace the very labour by which they live. Of course the capitalist gets ultimately a greater amount of profit by machinery, because he does more work with it, and so increases the returns on his capital, even though he sells at a less rate; it's by small profits and quick returns that all the fortunes are made in trade. But, only let us have machinery carried out to its full extent and then we shall soon know whether it is really a blessing or a curse to society as at present constituted. No working man that ever I heard but did not admit that machinery might be a benefit in another state of things, but that at present it must do an inconceivable amount of harm. If carried out to its full extent, of course it would displace human labour altogether (except the few children that would be required to tend upon it, and the few makers of it) - and when all labour is displaced, what is to become of the working men? But there is another point connected with machinery that also requires to be attended to. Suppose, I say, that all human labour is done away by it, and the working men are turned into paupers and criminals, then what I want to know is, who are to be the customers of the capitalists? The capitalists themselves, we should remember spend little or none (comparatively speaking) of the money they get; for, of course, it is the object of every capitalist to save all he can, and so increase the bulk of money out of which he makes his profits. The working men, however, spend all they receive - it's true a small amount is put into the savings bank, but that's a mere drop in the ocean; and so the working classes constitute the great proportion of the customers of the country. The lower their wages are reduced of course the less they have to spend, and when they are entirely superseded by machinery, of course they'll have nothing at all to spend, and then, I ask again, who are to be the capitalists' customers?"
    Such then are the opinions of the journeymen generally as to the effects of machinery upon them. That the difficulty of obtaining work has increased among the carpenters considerably of late years, all whom I have seen, both masters and men, agree. This is attributed by many to the increase of machinery, and by many to the introduction of the "strapping' system described in my last letter, by which each man is now compelled to do four times the work that he was once expected to execute; and that this must necessarily tend greatly to overstock the trade with hands there cannot be the least doubt. However, be the cause what it may, the following statement is given as an instance of the difficulty the men find in obtaining employment: -
    "I am a jobbing carpenter, and in very great distress. All my tools are gone - sold or pawned. I have no means of living but by parish relief, and picking up what I can in little odd jobs along the waterside. Sometimes I get at a job at painting, glazing, or whitewashing, now that I have lost my own work; sometimes I get a day's work at the London or St. Katherine Docks - anywhere I can get anything to do. And when I can't find any other employment I go to the workhouse yard and get a job there at wheeling the barrows and breaking stones. Sometimes I go to the yard four days in the week, sometimes only one day, and sometimes the whole of the week, according as I can get work. At the workhouse yard I get 1s. 6d. when I'm paid by the day; and when I'm at work on the stones I get 2d. a bushel for all I break and the most I can do is six bushel in a day. Some men does 9 and 10 bushel, but then they're stronger men than me. I have got a wife and three children to keep out of my earnings, such as they are. My wife does nothing. She has a young child six months old to take care on, so it all lays on my hands. My eldest is a boy of 13 years. He got a place at a glass polisher's, and gets 5s. a week. He lives with his uncle. I've only the two others to look to. On Saturday my wife has a loaf and a shilling given to her from the parish, and that, with the shilling learn at the yard, is all we has to keep and pay rent for the four of us, from Saturday till Monday. We can't go to work at the yard till Tuesday morning, for on Mondays we has the day to look after a job at some other place. Taking one week with another, I reckon I get, with parish allowance and all, from 5s. to 6s., and out of that I pays 1s. 6d. a week rent for one room - a first floor back, in an alley. It's my own things that's in it, and I'm obliged to scrape up 2d. and 3d. at a time to raise the rent, and give it 'em at the end of the week. I reckon we has generally from 4s. to 4s. 6d. a week at the outside to live upon - all the four. Sometimes it ain't that, fort go down to the docks to look after some work, and lose my day. We live upon bread and butter and coffee or tea, and maybe we manage sometimes to have a herring or two; and if we do have a taste of meat, why it's a bit of bacon - twopennyworth - which I buys instead of butter. Perhaps, if I've been very lucky in the week, I picks up a pound of bits at 4d. on the Saturday night, and we makes a hash on it, with a few taturs, for Sunday. My wife does the washing at home, and the things is dried in the room we live and sleep in. In the winter we all of us goes into the house (the union), because we can't afford to pay for firing outside. I leaves my things, such as they are, with my brother-in-law. To people like myself the cheapening of food has been the greatest of good. I don't know who brought it about, but I'm sure whoever it was, he has blessings for it. It was said that the bread was to be brought down to 4d. a loaf, but it's never been less than 5d. round about us. It's mostly bread that keeps us alive. Sometimes we has a pennyworth of taturs, but that's not our usual food. Half-a-quartern loaf will last us to the next day, and when I goes to work I puts a bit of bread in my hat, and that's my dinner, and all I have until night, when I go home and get a cup of tea. We have a halfpenny candle of an evening and a quarter of a pound of soap on a Saturday. My wife buys l4lbs. of coals for 2d. about twice a week, and that serves for boiling our kettle and such like. That's how we live. This is the way I reckon that our money goes every week:

  s. d.  
Rent 1 6 per week
Half-quartern loaf a day 1 3 "
Half a quartern of butter a day 0 8 "
Pennyworth of coffee or tea a day 0 7 "
One quartern of fourpenny sugar a day 0 7 "
One halfpenny candle a night 0 3 "
Half-pound of soap a week 0 2 "
Fourteen pounds of coals twice a week 0 4 "
Four halfpenny bundles of wood a week 0 2 "
  5 7  

    Yes, that's just about what it costs me, and if I manages to get a few pence more, why we buys a Dutch plaice (if they're in), and fries it for dinner, or else two or three fresh herrings, or may be, as a great treat, a pound of bits for the Sunday. I dare say there's hundreds in London lives like us, but I'm sure there's no one lives harder. There isn't much room for extravagance in five and sixpence a week among three and an infant - is there? The reason of my being in the state that I am is because I never belonged to no society, nor no clubs nor nothing. I never could have belonged to our regular trade society, because I never was brought up regular to the business. My father was a carpenter, and I used to work for him. He never apprenticed me, nor gave me no education, nor didn't teach me how to do the better kind of joiner's work. I can do the rough work, but sashes and frames is beyond me. When father was alive I had plenty of employment. He was a journeyman. I can't exactly call him a small master. He used mostly to take contracts on his own hands, to finish small houses and shop fronts, and then him and me used to do them together. Sometimes, may be, we'd have another hand on with us, that is, if the job was in a hurry. Father was a Yorkshireman, and I was born in Yorkshire too. He came to London with me and mother and settled here when I was six years old. I did very well till father's death. He used to keep me and give me 10s. a week. He's been dead now 12 years or better. I was 36 when he died. After his death I did pretty tidy for a short time. I got married about twelve months after that. I used to get a good bit of jobbing then from my father's connection. I took contracts, too, but somehow I used to lose a good deal by them. I was obligated to take so cheap. I seldom got above £1 and often only 15s. a week for my labour. After that I went to work for the speculating builders about the suburbs, and then I used to pick up £1 a week as long as it lasted. There is no society nor benefit club for the men as work for the cheap builders; so if they are sick, or out of employment, why the parish must keep them, and that's the way with all the cheap masters as I know on. They screws the men down to the lowest, and leaves them when ill to go to the house for relief. Then there's no allowance for the unemployed who don't belong to society, as there is when they do, so that when a man who works for the cheap builders can't get no employment - and there's hundreds that way in winter every London - why there're obligated to starve, and make away with their tools. When that's done, its all up with a man - he can't never get to work again. I might have had several jobs if I'd had my tools, but they're gone, and so I'm obligated to break stones. It's a twelvemonth since I lost 'em all. I was seized with the cholera in the hot weather last year. In course as I didn't belong to any benefit club why I couldn't get no allowance, so I parted with my things one by one, and last of all with my tools, and when I got well I couldn't find nothing for me to do. I went about and about till I pretty well wore the shoes off my feet, looking for work and trying to keep out of the workhouse as long as I could, but when the winter came, I was forced to get an order to go in - I couldn't hold out no longer. We had made away with everything - blankets off the bed, shirts and petticoats off our backs, and, last of all, the brokers was put in for eight or nine weeks' rent that I owed, and so we made the best of our way to 'the house,' and stopped in it about five months. I've striven every way to work for my living, but all to no good. Since my tools have gone, I haven't tried only one thing, but many. I've worked at the docks. I've made up stools, and tables, and clothes horses, at a shopmate's of mine, who used to let me go and work at his place, and I've hawked 'em about at the brokers, but they wanted 'em so cheap that there was no living at all to be made cut of them. I think the main cause of my being as I am is, because the cheap masters gives men such low wages as they can't afford to subscribe to any benefit club out of them, and so they're left to come upon the parish directly they're took ill, or thrown out of work; and another of the reasons is, because all the hands is now obligated to do double as much work as they formerly used; the consequence is, that one-half of the workmen can't get nothing to do. The men is obligated to work fourteen days to the week at the strapping shops, so where's the use of such as me hoping to get any employment. Then just look here, sir, it's not only me and my wife that's made paupers on, but my two children as well. In course, they'll be brought up in the house as paupers, and the last, you may say, as been regularly born and bred to it. I don't think I shall ever get out of the house again when I goes into it next winter, as I know I must. I'm a broken down man, sir. Work is so uncertain that I'm tired of looking for it. Work for the cheap masters as hard as a man will, he's sure to come to the workhouse at last."
    It now only remains for me to exhibit the relative criminality of the carpenters, as compared with that of other trades. For this purpose the metropolitan police returns have been examined with considerable care, and, in order that as general a result as possible might be come to on this point, an average has been struck for a series of ten years, and the annual number of offenders thus obtained divided into the estimated number of individuals belonging to the craft. The same plan has been adopted with all the other trades cited below, while a similar calculation has been made as to the criminality of the entire population of London. By this means we shall be enabled to discover not only the proportion of the population to one offender belonging to any particular occupation, but also to contrast this with the relative amount of crime in other avocations, and moreover to compare the whole with the average criminality of the entire population of the metropolis. A few of the principal results thus obtained are given in the subjoined table, where those trades that have already been investigated, and some others, are placed in juxtaposition, so that the reader may perceive the tendency of each class to commit any of the crimes there specified:


  Sawyers Carpenters Turners &c.* Tailors Shoemakers Carvers and Guilders Coachmakers Weavers Sailors Labourers All Classes
Murder 1 in 15020 1 in 22846 1 in 38630 1 in 99495 1 in 61152 -- 1 in 43980 1 in 3781 1 in 6242 1 in 11930 1 in 39818
Manslaughter -- " 60923 " 77260 " 39798 " 40768 -- " 14660 -- " 10701 " 5042 " 20878
Rape " 15,020 " 7029 " 77260 " 33165 " 27127 -- " 43980 " 7422 " 12485 " 5090 " 18337
Assaults (common) " 133 " 127 " 868 " 154 " 205 1 in 80 " 181 " 82 " 59 " 45 " 125
Larceny (simple) " 182 " 130 " 757 " 181 " 169 " 198 " 448 " 81 " 60 " 32 " 130
Wilful damage " 625 " 356 " 3219 " 527 " 655 " 383 " 934 " 340 " 138 " 56 " 286
Coin (counterfeit) uttering, &c. " 1365 " 862 " 8584 " 861 " 944 " 1568 " 1999 " 562 " 1040 " 347 " 974
Drunkenness " 63 " 59 " 580 " 63 " 91 " 89 " 106 " 75 " 13 " 31 " 81
Vagrants " 143 " 250 " 1030 " 338 " 498 " 297 " 862 " 55 " 71 " 44 " 163
Offences against the person " 80 " 70 " 518 " 91 " 119 " 60 " 127 " 58 " 37 " 23 " 76
Offences against property with violence " 2002 " 1646 " 9657  " 2518 " 2184 " 2875 " 5497 " 773 " 1208 " 588 " 2308
Offences against property without violence " 100 " 66 " 380 " 84 " 84 " 61 " 227 " 39 " 34 " 13 " 56
Malicious offences against property " 600 " 354 " 3219 " 525 " 648 " 375 " 934 " 337 " 137 " 55 " 282
Forgery and offences against the currency " 1201 " 794 " 7726 " 771 " 864 " 1326 " 1832 " 545 " 823 " 330 " 896
Offences not included in the above classes " 25 " 24 " 167 " 25 " 33 " 26 " 55 " 17 " 6 " 7 " 23
Total " 15 " 13 " 90 " 15 " 18 " 14 " 31 " 9 " 4 " 3 " 12

*This class includes cabinet-makers and upholsterers

The following conclusions may be drawn from the foregoing table. Of all the trades or occupations above cited the weavers are the most addicted to murder, for they appear to have 1 murderer in every 3,711 of their body. Those who seem to be the least given to this crime - as far as my investigation has already gone - are the tailors, who have only one murderer in 99,495 of their craft. The average of all classes for murder is 1 in every 39,818 individuals. The carpenters stand a little above the ordinary rate in this respect, there being 1 murderer in every 22,846 of their body. With regard to manslaughter, the labourers stand first on the list, and the turners, &c., last. The carpenters are considerably below the average on this point, there being only 1 homicide among them in every 60,793 of the class, whilst the average for all classes is 1 criminal in 30,878. As to rape, we find the labourers, again, the most criminal, and the turners, &c., again the least so. In this respect, however, the carpenters are greatly above the average, the number of criminals among them being 1 in 7,029; whilst the average is 1 in 18,337. In assaults, too; the labourers are at the top of the list, whilst turners, &c., still show the least of all. For assaults the carpenters are a trifle below the average, the ratio of all classes being 1 in 125; whilst the carpenters show 1 in 127. These are the principal of the offences against the person; concerning this class of offences generally the greatest amount of crime exists amongst the labourers, and the least amongst the turners, &c. The average stands thus: one criminal in every 76 individuals, while the carpenters number one in every 70 of their craft. For the crime of simple larceny we find the labourers still at the top of the tree, and the turners, &c., again the least criminal of all classes. The carpenters in this case are neither above nor below the average. The other offences against property without violence show the labourers to be still the most criminal, and the turners, &c., the least. The average is 1 in 56, and the carpenters 1 in 66, which is a trifle below it. We next come to wilful damage, and still find the labourers in the most criminal position, whilst the turners are again the least criminal in this respect. The average stands at 1 in 286; and the carpenters appear in this instance to be less criminal than the ordinary run of the people, they being 1 in 356. For the whole of the malicious offences against property the labourers still keep their position, and the turners, &c., theirs. The carpenters rank below the average in this respect, showing 1 criminal in every 354 of their craft, the ordinary rates being 1 in 282. For uttering counterfeit coin we find the labourers still the most criminal, and the turners, &c., the least. The carpenters in this case are somewhat above the average in crime. With regard to forgery and the whole of the offences against the currency, the labourers still hold the same rank; whilst the turners, &c., again show the least criminality. Next comes the vice of drunkenness, in which the sailors take the lead, showing 1 in every 13 of their number. The least drunkenness exists amongst the turners, &c., there being only 1 drunkard in 580 of their body. The carpenters in this case are considerably above the average, viz., 1 in 59; whilst the average stands at 1 in 81. The labourers are still prominent in vagrancy; whilst the turners appear the least vagrant of all classes. For all other crimes not included in the foregoing, the sailors stand the highest, being one in six, and the turners, &c., the lowest, being 1 in 167. The carpenters are a trifle below the average. Upon the whole the labourers appear to produce more criminals than any other classes, there being amongst them 1 offender in every 3 individuals, - and the turners, &c., the least criminal, they having only one offender in every 90 of their class. The carpenters are slightly below the average, showing 1 in 13; whilst the average gives for all classes of crimes 1 offender in every 12 individuals. A general summary of the foregoing may be thus concisely expressed. The carpenters rank above the average of all other classes in the following offences: - Murder, rape, coining, and drunkenness; whilst as regards manslaughter, larceny, wilful damage, and vagrancy, they are more or less below the ordinary ratio of the entire population of London. The labourers appear to be the most criminal of all classes, and the turners the least so; whilst the sailors have the greatest tendency to drunkenness, and the weavers to murder.

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