1864 - Evidence on the employment of
MR. S. DARLASTONS, JAPAN BUTTON MANUFACTURER, BRANSTON
402. A new factory but littery and dirty, and some of the
children very forlorn looking. A little girl showing me down
some very steep steps, such as have in many Birmingham factories
struck me as dangerous, slipped down the two or three last,
but without hurting herself. The cutting out of the tin is
done by presses like other press work. The japanning is very
dirty work indeed, and the smoke from the stoves when opened
very strong, and pungent to the eyes, but is said to be healthy.
403. The master's daughter thought that none of the girls
could read. Five of 7 years old had never been at any school,
an elder girl not since she was 7.
404. Mr. S. Darlaston.The work consists of several branches,
viz., cutting out, drawing through, putting shanks in, and
closing, all done with presses, except putting the shanks
on. When made the buttons have two coats of japan; this work
is done by two women and four girls. A woman takes work from
me at so much a hundred, and keeps a girl or two. If they
take two or three presses they keep more girls. Think I am
nearly the only japan button maker of notice. There are a
few quite small employers working almost in their own houses
with their own children. Elastic sides and eyelet holes for
boots have almost entirely thrown the trade out. Seven or
eight years ago I employed three times my present number of
hands. Even formerly, if I wanted more work I put on more
hands. Always knew that I should lose more than I gained by
working overtime. Generally pay more for overtime something
like 25 per cent better. When I have had 10 hours amongst
them myself I have had enough, but they are no good without
405. Kate OBrien, age 17.Employ from 15 to 20
girls, and have a press myself, but I have about enough to
do in keeping the rest to work. They are all cleared out for
dinner. The little ones begin at about 1s. a week.
406. Kate Dowd, age 8.Put in. Am working at a press
now. Don't know O or A.
407. Mary Brady, age 11.At a press a few weeks. Have
pinched half a nail off. Pinched my finger once before. Christ
is Jesusis God.
408. Ann Burns, age 14.Was never at school except sometimes
of a Sunday. Have a brother of 8 and two sisters younger that
I who have never been to school on Sunday. Don't know B. Go
to church sometimes of a Sunday morning, and hear the preacher,
but cannot hear what he says. Have not heard of Noah. Adam
and Eve were two wicked men.
[The master's daughter says that the preaching, &c., is
all in Latin.]
409. Bridget Fry, age 17.Cannot tell any letters or
tell you what London is; it is a big town in England, but
I have not heard whether it is big or little. Don't know where
rivers run into. Have crossed the sea coming from Ireland.
A mountain would be on the water, I should think. Don't know
where the snow falls from, or whether it comes from the clouds,
or sky, or where.