The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78
9—Safety-pins : Carding, &c
9—Safety-pins : Carding, &c.
The carding of safety-pins is not the only home industry connected with this small article, but all are alike badly sweated. In a small back-house in a poor court there sits daily from daylight to dark an old woman of sixty-three "opening" and "capping." She used to card, but the firm put her on the inferior work because of her failing sight.
The pins are weighed out uncapped, and fetched by the worker from the factory, with a proportionate weight of caps. The loose end of each safety has to be slipped into a cap, and the pin closed. The page 13 worker then returns to the factory—in this case about half an hour's walk—where she may be kept an hour or two hours waiting, or, if she is fortunate, will at once receive a fresh supply, or perhaps will instead be given pins to "open"—that is, reopening for the purpose of polishing or japanning pins that have been previously capped and closed—after which the caps are pressed close to the pin on one side (see an ordinary safety-pin), thus securing them in place.
Either capping or opening is paid for at the rate of 1s. 3d. per 100 gross for small pins, 1s. per 100 gross for large pins.
But there is one small fact which secures to the employer an advantage, slight, it is true, but means enough in the face of the miserable wages paid. The work done is paid for by "the gross," but in the weighing-out of the goods it usually happens that a hundred gross is actually a gross or two over the estimated quantity. This woman earns 2s. 8d. to 4s. a week.
Carding.—The carding pays slightly better, and a good carder can earn from 4s. to 6s. a week if the work is continuous. But the bitterest complaint of these overdriven and underpaid workers is in regard to the scarcity and irregularity of the employment. Often for days they will be idle and starving, and then again for half a week they must work both night and day. The safety-pins are sent to the carder again closed, and in assorted sizes. These have to be first sorted out, then opened, stuck into the cards, and closed again. Cards containing twenty-four pins of five different sizes are paid for at 6d. per gross of cards; cards of fifteen pins in three sizes are paid 4d. per gross of cards of twelve pins in three sizes are paid 3d. per gross of cards; cards of nine pins in three sizes are paid 2£d. per gross of cards. Lastly, the finished cards must be tied up in dozens, and the cotton for tying them found by the carder,