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So the eponym of the firm and its present biographer were united in the bonds of lawful partnership, and as the word co-operative' stinks in the nostrils of every shopkeeper, the name of Hamilton & Co.' was allowed to shine upon a brass plate on the door of 68 Dean Street, Soho. Commerce, indeed, is considered infra dig. in certain circles, but for a young lady to take an interest in the poor shirtmakers' was quite right and unexceptionable, and susceptible friends were easily satisfied that the brass plate was to be regarded as an emblem of social reform. Should we be equally successful in persuading hosiers and drapers to regard it as the sign of a real and competent shirtmaker ?

For the encouragement of those who may wish to follow in our wake, it should be explained that our ignorance of the nature of business' in general and the manufacture of shirts in particular was absolute and complete. We endeavoured to improve our minds by taking in the Warehouseman and Draper's Journal; we studied the Sewing Machine Gazette ; we were filled with envy of the educational advantages enjoyed by tailors, who have classes where the scientific mysteries of their craft are unveiled to students; we gazed at every shop window decorated with the garment on which our minds were set; we purchased for private contemplation and analysis a selection of, so to speak, 'representative shirts' of all grades of distinction. We welcomed the adhesion of a young lady who shared our opinions, and had had some experience in keeping her father's

books;' and we were truly grateful when Mr. Samuel Morley introduced us to the chief of the shirt department in Wood Street, a personage of far too much importance for us to have aspired to the honour of his acquaintance without such potent intercession. Much midnight oil was burnt as the shirtmakers, after their day's work, met to confer with us as to the time and place of beginning operations, the manufacture of a specimen shirt, and the composition of our original staff; and as our first sewing-machine drove cumbrously to our meeting-place on the top of a four-wheeler,' the historically-minded amongst us wondered whether, in days to come, that cabload would rank in the annals of co-operation with the wheelbarrow in which the Rochdale pioneers trundled their whole stock-in-trade down Toad Lane in 1844.

Our real experience of life as a shirtmaker began with the search for rooms. Landlords and house-agents looked at us dubiously as we explained, in the most matter-of-fact tone we could command, that we required premises for business purposes, and alluded, with a would-be practical air, to the importance of light and ventilation for a workshop.' We began our quest in what appeared superficially the most desirable streets, and, as we descended gradually in the social scale, we found that we might have been accepted had we wanted a studio, or a school, or even a milliner's shop, but as shirtmakers we must betake ourselves to humbler and more expensive quarters.



idle amateurs, we could get a good house in a quiet street for 80l., together with all the deferential civility due to highly desirable tenants. As working shirtmakers, after refreshing our radicalism with a glimpse of th’ oppressor's scorn, the proud man's contumely,' we were fortunate in securing half a house for 90l., under a landlord whose exceptional amenity explained itself afterwards when we learned that he was an admirer of George Eliot's works.

It should not be forgotten, when we are referred to private enterprise and the natural action of supply and demand to provide decent homes for the working classes, that the congestion of population and the rise of rents in certain districts are fostered and aggravated by the refusal of large landowners to let this natural action of supply and demand take its course upon their own estates. The rents of tenement houses and places of business are abnormally high, say in St. Giles's, because the ground landlord of the adjoining estate prefers to let his houses at a lower rental for residential purposes, so that the tide of population cannot find its level over the whole area, but is dammed


into the slums. The great proprietor may be able to boast that there are no rookeries on his property, but his neighbours pay for this immunity, which is secured by driving off the rooks as country parishes used to guard themselves against giving house-room to potential paupers.

After the question of workrooms came that of workers. We learned that there go to the scientific construction of shirts two sewingmachines by different makers, a shirt-cutter, a preparer of collars and wristbands, known as a 'tacker and turner,' a buttonhole-maker, a shirtmaker proper, otherwise called a 'topper,'a front-maker, a plainworker, also a little girl to sew on buttons and go to shop' (sc. to fetch work); and unless one of the former functionaries combines the *giving out the work with her own department, this will employ a separate forewoman. It is by no means an easy task so to deal round the different jobs of work that the different stages shall keep pace and no time be lost while one part is waiting for another; but without this division of labour it would be impossible to make a shirt in a couple of hours, or two dozen in a day, as may have to be done on an emergency.

Of course we ought to have known beforehand exactly how few hands would suffice to do all the work in the best way, and how much work would be necessary to keep them fully employed ; and we ought also to have had orders enough in hand to begin with to last for two or three weeks, instead of less than as many days. The initial losses of the co-operators were due to the fact that none of these conditions were complied with; the staff of workers at weekly wages employed at starting was much larger than the work would warrant. On the other hand, but for this overstaffing the infant firm would not have been able to turn out the best work from the first; so that the evil VOL. XV.—No. 88.

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was not unmitigated. Apart from financial considerations the chief inconvenience arising from a dearth of orders' was that it left the ladies leisure for a very entertaining amount of wrangling. We had always understood that it was a common catastrophe for the cooperative associations of workmen to quarrel themselves to pieces, , and certainly, but for the mediation of the partners, the shirtmakers would scarcely have escaped that early doom. To form any conception of the bitterness, the fanatical zeal, and disinterested fury of conviction with which a cutter and fitter can debate the set of a shirtfront, one must go back to the history of the early Church and its minuter and abstruser heresies. One might as well expect lucidity from an enraged theologian as from either irate lady a comprehensible statement of the points at issue. We have listened by the hour in fascination to the dramatic contest, but long months elapsed before we had quite learned what was implied by the most derogatory of imputations, that a shirt was ' tight'-which is not a euphemism for 6 tipsy '-or before we could venture on our own responsibility to intimate that another appeared “full to the front. “In and out like a dog's hind leg 'struck us as a felicitous description of stitching gone astray, and a whole volume of archæological instruction opened itself before us as the cabalistic phrase to work for a dead horse' was explained. Dead horse' is work paid for before it is done, and the woman who has booked' and been paid on Saturday for more work than she could finish has the pleasure on Monday and maybe Tuesday of stitching away at work that will bring in no further pay. The phrase is common among shoemakers and tailors, and, according to Mr. Stevenson, is also known to seamen ; according to Wakefield it is an Irish expression, and as such it becomes at once intelligible, though we have to go back to the Brehon laws for its interpretation. One of the abuses attendant on the giving stock' by feudal chiefs to their dependants was that the latter were expected to make good the animals that died; and in the similar state of things described by Huc as existing among the Mantchu Tartars, a tyrannical chief will give sick and dying animals to his men to herd and expect them to pay rent accordingly, even for a dead horse. As this discovery dawned on us, we felt that shirtmaking was really an instructive pursuit.

That there might be two opinions about its professors appeared from the remarks of our first client, a worthy hosier who had received our business card and opened negotiations by observing that shirtmakers were an infernal lot. We understood that the lady' from whom he was withdrawing his custom was in the habit of getting drunk unseasonably, and he was kind enough before long to describe our firm as an excellent institution. We had reason to doubt whether this phrase would have given more satisfaction than the other in the workroom, which was found one morning in a state of smouldering wrath, verging on rebellion. The fair partner, missing the smiles that used to greet her, looks round for an explanation. At length one bolder than the rest stood forth.

If you please, Miss, is it true that we are a Dorcas Society?

"A Dorcas Society! Gracious, no! Who told you that? We are honest shirtmakers, tradesmen, like everybody else.

Well, Miss, you see we have to hear on all hands that we are a charity workroom, and please, Miss, if I thought I had to do with a Dorcas Society, I should put on my bonnet and go. This last phrase became proverbial; it resounded through tears in the most impassioned theological debates, and was seldom wholly absent from the more purely domestic differences which broke the monotony of our toils. On one occasion strife had risen high before we intervened ; perhaps we were growing idle and inclined to let the ladies fight out their own quarrels for once, but a solemn embassy from the housekeeper invokes our authority. We ask philosophically "What's the row this time?' and even our large conception of the stumbling-blocks in the way of productive co-operation is enriched by the earnest answer: “Oh, Miss, it's all about onions in the oven !' The ladies, it should be explained, provide their own dinners, but have them cooked, if they please, in the common kitchen; and we deliver a Solomon's judgment to the effect that the partisans of the energetic bulb' must agree to enjoy their baked meats together, and leave the oven unimpregnated for the rest between whiles. Sometimes the quarrel would be about a chair. Every one is familiar with the pathetic limitation that makes the so-called 'home' of the poor consist of the furniture for their one room, but there is something still more pitiful in the way the baffled instinct of appropriation fastens upon the worker's seat :' to sit always in the same place becomes a habit and in time a cherished right; if two chairs happen to be alike, a bit of rag or string tied round the back or leg distinguishes the twins, and the worker would be miserable if she thought the tokens were exchanged; one old hand, we had reason to believe, left us after years because a necessary displacement was not broken to her with all needful tenderness and consideration.

The turning-point in the fortunes of the firm came one morning, when the ladies were discussing an advertisement for a 'marker' wanted at a shop in the Arcade' not previously known to deal in shirts. With more than usual acuteness we reasoned that where garments had to be marked, they must also be made, and a devoted emissary was induced to put on her bonnet and go' to apply for the place. Our promptitude was rewarded by finding ourselves almost first in the field for a real good thing in the way of business. After the first step it was comparatively easy to establish a modest connection : to work for one good shop was a recommendation to others, and friendly shopmen and commercial travellers would, from time to time,

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give us a hint of new openings, though we set our faces against the wretched system of bribery and treating which is one of the costly accessories of competitive trading. We lived down all suspicions arising from dim rumours of the 'Dorcas' sort, and-to anticipate a few years—a time came when we were applied to by a shirt-cutter out of place; and on our asking why, as we had not advertised, heexplained that he had written to a few leading West-End places on the chance, and he understood · Hamilton's 'was a 'good house.' Ye gods ! had any one told us in those early days that we should live to be famed as far off as Fenchurch Street as ó a good house' in the shirt trade, we should perhaps have perished before our time of gratified vanity.

After a while our principles were put to severe tests; we found rivals willing to bid against us and lower the price, and we let work go from us rather than join in the suicidal competition which paves the operative's as well as the tradesman's road to ruin. We felt at the same time how almost irresistible the temptation must be. There. was a day when, borrowing epithets from our friend the hosier, we set on record that the struggle for existence is an infernal process. We reached the low-water mark of desperation in bad weeks, happily few and far between, in which the old plain workers on our staff were.

setting still’ half their time, and found their earnings on the Saturday sink to a miserable 58. or 6s. One slack December, necessity proved once more the mother of invention, and we designed a "fancy”

n'importe quoiwhich had a momentary success, and enabled one clever machinist to take home 21., and buy her consumptive husband a greatcoat. We learned in those vicissitudes to understand how it is that the strugglers for existence are not crushed by the ever-recurring hardships of their lot. Paley thought there was no happiness equal to the intermission of pain, and it is quite true that when, after days of despair, cheerful news greet the ear of “a nice lot of work in this morning,' human nature rebounds, and, remembering no more the anguish, the workroom resumes its labours gaily. It is hard for the rich and idle to understand that the jealousies and covetousnesses of the poor

all turn upon the race for work, not the race for wages, and that the call for self-denial and forethought lies not in accepting work, but in daring to refuse it, to risk present personal privation rather than become a party to enforcing more unfavourable conditions on all the workers in the trade. We could afford to keep a conscience in this respect, but we were rash as well as scrupulous; and that partner, it must be confessed, did not deserve well of the firm who was so far left to herself as to support the excusable demands of a shirtmaker for good prices by irrelevant remarks about wages, and in fact ended by talking rank trade-unionism over the counter to the scandalised hosier's manager.

As a rule, we prudently reserved our theories for the ears of

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