North & South discussion

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message 1: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments Hello everyone,
You may recall I'm busy working as a tour guide at the first successful modern cotton mill in America. I now have a very thorough education in the mills and the history of them. Ours opened in 1793 and our founder left in 1825 so we don't go into detail about any later than 1835, the year he died. We also have a c. 1835 machine shop that had a backup of steam power.

My questions for those who know the book inside out and backwards and even the mini series- does it ever explain what the power source of the mill is? I assume steam power from the time period. I don't know too much about steam power and I wondered if there was anything in the book I glossed over. I don't have the time to read it again right now.

Can anybody else tell me anything else you remember about the mill and what the mill workers do? I remember them talking about getting cotton from Egypt but it wasn't as good as American cotton.

Has anybody been to a mill in Manchester that may have inspired Marlborough Mills?

I had another question earlier today but I can't think of it right now. I need to do some more reading up on the Industrial Revolution soon.

I know the disease Bessy died from is called brown lung at that stage. The early stage is called white lung. The masters locked the windows shut to keep precious cotton from floating away and the workers had to breathe it in all the time. We used to demonstrate how loose the cotton fibers were when we had a school group. I don't think we do that anymore. It makes a mess.


message 2: by Lois (new)

Lois | 15 comments I'm sorry this reply is soo late QNPoohbear but I wanted to share this with you.

One of the ladies on the IMDb N&S board recently visited a couple of mills in the Lancashire area of England and wrote about her trip here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417349/b...

She said how the first mill was steam powered while the other was water-powered which is how I assume most old mills even in the Manchester area would be.

She even put up a few pics the links of which can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417349/b...

does it ever explain what the power source of the mill is? Sorry, I don't recall how Marlborough Mills is powered but I assume it is steam powered as well. I will look into it this weekend.

Can anybody else tell me anything else you remember about the mill and what the mill workers do? I recall that John had put up a fan in the carding room to help reduce the fluff and create better ventilation so the workers could breathe better. He was the only mill master in Milton to do so. And it was because of this feature that Nicholas moved Bessy over to Marlborough Mills once she started coughing.

Another detail from the series I remember is seeing how the little children would rush and crawl quickly under the loom to pick up all the bits of cotton before the loom returned to the other end again. And how noisy it really was in there.

I think it was very hot and very difficult to breathe in the mill and it was made worse by all the cotton floating around in the air would would invariably get trapped in the airways giving rise to the multitude of breathing problems and breathing related deaths (which is how I assume Bessy died - although, she probably had what we now believe to be Byssinosis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byssinosis).

Cotton was cheaper in the Americas and what with the fires and the upcoming Lancashire Cotton famine and the workers strikes, the cotton industry in the UK in 1860's would suffer great loses to the booming American industry in the upcoming years.


message 3: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments Thank you Lois. I am eager to check out those IMDB posts. I'm well-versed in mills now. I did a lot of reading because people DO keep asking questions and expect us to know all the answers LOL!

Supposedly, our founder, Samuel Slater, resisted steam power as long as he could. He had visited a steam powered mill when he was still in England and didn't like the conditions the workers lived in. His master put mills in the country specifically so people had clean air to breathe. The American mills ran on steam by the time North and South takes place, decades after Mr. Slater passed away. He did end up using steam power but in a country village setting.

Our mill was also hot in the summer. The windows were locked to keep the expensive cotton in. It gets warm in there now but we just open the windows. I come home covered in cotton some days (black shirt). We have that machine the children used. We have one from the 1830s and a training machine from the early 1900s. That one is very scary and they want us to demonstrate it to our school groups. It's not as loud inside as it used to be because we only have a few machines that still run and only demonstrate one at a time, but it's enough so I can't shout over them.

What Bessy had was commonly known as brown lung. The first stage of the disease is called white lung.

I have to watch the series again. One of my new co-workers was watching it recently. She didn't say what she was watching but "a girl walks into a mill and I was like 'oh look it's snowing... wait ... that's cotton!" pretty much leads me to believe she was watching North and South.

We have a poster with rules to be observed in this mill from England and people who take the time to read it are always shocked.

One of my co-workers was hoping to visit the Strutt mills in Derbyshire while she's abroad this semester.

The big difference between our mills here and the mill in North and South is the mill village system. Entire families went to work in one mill, lived in the village, shopped in the company store and went to church and school on Sundays. The mill owner controlled their free time. He found that on Sundays the men were going to the taverns and getting drunk. Come Monday they either wouldn't show up for work, or would show up late or hungover. Therefore, the mill owner built a church in the village and made it a requirement for the workers to attend.

Someone today mentioned smoking in the mills and I immediately thought of the opening scene of the mini-series. My co-worker of the day has not yet seen it and he's worked at the museum for 10 years! I think we need to sell the book and DVD in the gift shop but I don't get a say in that.


message 4: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments I found a Gaskell connection! Samuel Slater, father of American Manufacturers, trained under Jedidiah Strutt in Belper, Derbyshire. William Gaskell visited Strutt's Belper village, which had a Unitarian church. William Gaskell wrote that it was a shame that there were not more factories owned by "men of enlarged benevolence and active philanthropy."
http://www.belper-research.com/strutt...

So now we know one of the influences for Elizabeth Gaskell's idea of a benevolent mill owner. We HAVE to sell North and South in the gift shop. I am going to keep bugging someone until we do!


message 5: by Lois (new)

Lois | 15 comments QNPoohBear wrote: "We HAVE to sell North and South in the gift shop. I am going to keep bugging someone until we do! "

You certainly do now! LOL. Make it happen! ;)

Thanks for your reply QNPoohBear. So fascinating. Thanks for filling me in. Yes, do check out the links when you can :)


message 6: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments It sounds like Strutt was the model benevolent mill owner in 18th century England while his protege, Samuel Slater was the model benevolent mill owner here in New England- until mill owners got greedy. I'm on again tomorrow. If I have more down time I'll keep looking into the mills and see which other ones the Gaskells visited.


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