From Macclesfield to Paterson

(from the Paterson Daily Press, Thursday Evening, June 19, 1879)

It is wonderful to what extent the silk weavers of Macclesfield, England are emigrating to this city of late, no less than one hundred, perhaps many more, having arrived direct within the past month. The last party that came–they all seem to come by the Cunard Steamers–arrived on Tuesday, and their baggage was not removed from the Erie baggage room until yesterday. There were from twenty to twenty-five of this party and nearly all were heads of families, coming out first to see what can be done before bringing out their wives and children.

The same has been noted of the others who have come recently; they are largely men of some substance, of experience in their calling, and are acting as pioneers for others yet to come. These bring with them a deal of baggage, and apparently of a somewhat peculiar character. Heavy cases are not infrequent, and in these are packed silk machinery to be set up in the houses of the immigrants, as it has been aforetime in that old English manufacturing town from whence they come.

We learn that there is much difficulty in Macclesfield between the manufacturers and the employed and that this is the occasion of the unusual “exodus.” And this reminds us of what an old English manufacturer who knew Macclesfield fifty years ago and knew it well, but who has since been thoroughly identified with the silk industry here–being in fact a “pioneer” thereof–said in reference to that ancient town. It may be nothing especially new to many, but it may nevertheless be well to hear it again and to bear it in mind for obvious reasons.

This silk manufacturer, whose experience of a lifetime on both sides of the Atlantic, should constitute him an authority–almost an oracle–in such matters remarked that within his recollection, Macclesfield was the most thriving of manufacturing towns; thousands of operatives making their living by their industry, and many of them, those who practiced an ordinary frugality with their industry, possessing comfortable though perhaps humble homes. There was nothing of consequence to disturb the kindly relations existing between employer and employed and the utmost prosperity was the result.

But there came a time a few years ago, when agitators appeared and stirred up strife between the manufacturers and their operatives, and the latter became restive under the teachings of demagogues who themselves would not touch the daily burdens of the poor with one of their fingers. Instead of friendly conferences and requests preferred, and if possible, generally granted, employer and employed were sundered farther and farther apart; demands were heard instead of respectful propositions, and whereas the two parties representing Labor and Capital had formerly met together and amicably adjusted all differences, thereafter the former held aloof, proposing terms and negotiating from a distance.

The result, as our informant describes it, is that the silk industry of Macclesfield is scattered to the four points of the compass; it has taken its flight and may now be found in a hundred towns and villages in all that section of England. The troubles engendered by these arch disturbers, who came ostensibly to better the condition of the laboring class, could never be healed and the result in part we see in this wholesale emigration to this country of the most valued because most experienced hands, the solid men, or very foundations of the silk industry there, proving conclusively that there is a general breaking up.

The every element that, under a more happy system, served to enhance the importance and add to the prosperity of this old English centre of the silk industry, is being transferred to Paterson, the American centre, and it may be that there is a lesson to be learned from the past that may serve to avert a like evil from overtaking these people in their new field of labor.

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