The Darker Side of Progress
Thanks to men like Eli Whitney and Sam Slater, the factory system had come to America. Bostonian Francis Cabot Lowell built textile mills that were even better than those in England. Factory goods cost much less than handmade goods. That meant ordinary people could afford things they had never been able to buy before. It made life better for most people. But not for everyone . Work in the factories was mind-dulling. Sometimes it was just awful . And dangerous too . Herman Melville, who wrote a great American novel called Moby-Dick, visited a paper factory in 1855. Then he wrote about what he saw there: "At rows of blank-looking counters sat rows of blank-looking girls, with blank, white folders in their blank hands, all blankly folding blank paper. Not a syllable was breathed. Nothing was heard but the low, steady, overruling hum of the iron animals. The human voice was banished from the spot. Machinerythat vaunted slave of humanityhere stood menially served by human beings as the slaves serve the Sultan. The girls did not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cogs to the wheels ."
Some factory owners built homes for their workers. Sometimes they built whole villages. It meant they could control their workers' lives. Whole families worked in the factories including children . Most worked ten or more hours a day. Factory owners could do almost anything they wanted, like cutting wages or lengthening the work day.