|Slater Mill Complex, Pawtucket, Rhode Island|
In my family tree, there are many of my ancestors who moved from farms in both Bristol County RI and Bristol County MA to the early mill towns surrounding the Blackstone River in Rhode Island in the early 1800s. Succeeding generations worked in the mills and related industries until the mill closures in the early 20th century. Their job titles are often machinist or operative, and sometimes 'mule spinner'. A few were even listed as 'overseer' which generally meant they had managerial or supervisory roles in the mills.
The subject of my last blog post, was Ira W Grant. His father, Sylvester Grant, Jr was employed in the mills in Fall River by 1844 when Ira was born and in Smithfield RI where he was enumerated in the 1850 Federal census. In both documents, Sylvester's occupation was listed as 'mule-spinner'. So what was a mule-spinner?
|. Museum of Work and Culture. Woonsocket, Rhode Island.|
Photograph by George P. Landow, October 2004.
For an interesting interview of the life of a mule spinner in an 1883 Fall River, MA textile factory see the account at History Matters. It references the testimony of mill-worker Thomas O'Donnell and was originally published in:
U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Report on the Relations Between Labor and Capital, Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1885), 451–457.