Regulations for Factory Workers, Lowell, Massachusetts

About  The Hamilton Manufacturing Company 

The Hamilton Manufacturing Company was one of the many textile manufacturers that prospered in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, in the early nineteenth century. These regulations constituted the contractual conditions under which employees worked for the company. Failure to work according to the rules could result in workers not only being fired, but also being blacklisted to prevent them from finding further employment in the area.

Regulations to be observed by all persons employed in the factories of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. The overseers are to be always in their rooms at the starting of the mill, and not absent unnecessarily during working hours. They are to see that all those employed in their rooms, are in their places in due season, and keep a correct account of their time and work. They may grant leave of absence to those employed under them, when they have spare hands to supply their places, and not otherwise, except in cases of absolute necessity.

All persons in the employ of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company, are to observe the regulations of the room where they are employed. They are not to be absent from their work without the consent of the overseer, except in cases of sickness, and then they are to send him word of the cause of their absence. They are to board in one of the houses of the company and give information at the counting room, where they board, when they begin, or, whenever they change their boarding place; and are to observe the regulations of their boarding-house.
Those intending to leave the employment of the company, are to give at least two weeks’ notice thereof to their overseer.
All persons entering into the employment of the company, are considered as engaged for twelve months and those who leave sooner, or do not comply with all these regulations, will not be entitled to a regular discharge.
The company will not employ any one who is habitually absent from public worship on the Sabbath, or known to be guilty of immorality.
A physician will attend once in every month at the counting-room, to vaccinate all who may need it, free of expense.
Any one who shall take from the mills or the yard, any yarn, cloth or other article belonging to the company, will be considered guilty of stealing and be liable to prosecution.

Payment will be made monthly, including board and wages. The accounts will be made up to the last Saturday but one in every month, and paid in the course of the following week.
These regulations are considered part of the contract, with which all persons entering into the employment of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company, engage to comply.
Source: A Documentary History of American Industrial Society, John R. Commons, ed. (Glendale: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1910).


In what ways does the company attempt to control its employees’ behavior outside of work?

How would such rules benefit the company?
In what ways do these rules represent a “paternalistic” effort by the company to limit its employees’ autonomy for those employees’ own good?

How would working conditions at the Lowell factories have differed from those on the farms or in the small shops from which many of these workers would have come?

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