The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78
The making of the familiar match-box is a home industry which is frequently carried on under the most distressing conditions. The art is easily learned, although the lightning-like rapidity with which the many parts are handled and put together is astonishing when first witnessed.
Six pieces of material go to the making of a match-box. The little sliding tray or container is formed from two pieces of chip and a piece of paper. The case consists of one piece of chip, folded and held together by a piece of paper of almost the same size, with a piece of striking-paper stuck on one of its long edges. A considerable number of motions is involved in the making of both case and container, and only great rapidity exercised for long hours at a stretch enables the worker to even earn a bare pittance at the task. Case and container are made separately, and, when dried, fitted together and bundled ready to take back to the factory.
It is a custom in the trade for the home-workers to find their own paste and string for bundling. The worker fetches the material from the factory and takes back the finished boxes. Sometimes a child performs this office, and the present writer well remembers visiting a poor home where more than its accustomed woe prevailed because one of the elder children on the previous day had lost in returning home the miserable earnings of twenty-four hours.
The strips of chip which form the case and the container are supplied to the workers dented, so that they readily bend into shape. Even so, the work in a single box is considerable.page 8
And what is the pay ? For making 144 boxes of ordinary size (one gross) the remuneration is 2d. A man and wife, working together, can make about twelve gross in a day, thus earning 2s., or say 12s. in a week. A woman with a child's help can make perhaps 7s. 3d. or 8s. per week—when the work is to be had.
In twelve gross of boxes there are 10,368 pieces of chip and paper (1,728 boxes each of six pieces).
Match-boxes are often made under the most filthy and revolting conditions. The nice, clean-looking box of matches may have been fashioned by a consumptive in a room reeking with pestilential matter.