In the branch of industry in which I work we have a bane to contend with, a curse, known as the manufacturing of cigars in tenement houses. . . . The tobacco for the work is given out . . . to the husband and wife, and they seldom work without one or more of their children, if they have any. Even their parents, if they have any, work also in the room, and any indigent relative that may live with them also helps along. I myself made an investigation of these houses about two years ago . . . and found that however clean the people might desire to be they could not be so. The bedroom is generally dark, and contains all the wet tobacco that is not intended for immediate use . . . while in the front room . . . the husband and wife and child, or any friend or relative that works with them, three or four or five persons, are to be found. Each has a table at which to work. The tobacco which they work and the clippings or cuttings . . . are lying around the floor, while the scrap or clip that is intended to be used immediately for the making of cigars is lying about to dry. Children are playing about . . . in the tobacco. I have found, I believe, the most miserable conditions prevailing in those houses that I have seen at any time in my life.
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These rooms I found to be, the main room, in which they work, about 12 feet by 8 or 9; the height of the ceiling generally about 7 feet 6 inches to 8 feet 2 inches . . . .The bedrooms were generally 6 feet by 8, or, in some instances, less. The kitchen was generally what is known in New York tenements as “dark” – an intermediate room. There is, first, the front or back room, as the case may be, then the kitchen, which has no light, and then another room in the back, which has no ventilation whatever except an aperture about 2 feet square in the side, and leading into a hall which leads into the street or the yard. . . . The yards were all dirty. The halls were kept very dirty with tobacco stems and refuse that accumulates from the tobacco. . . . The water closets are all vaults, in very few places connected with sewers, vaults in the backyard, around which a few boards have been nailed and the places termed “water closets.” The water supply is very meager indeed. . . .
Question: Is there a water closet for each family? No; there are generally two or three private closets, which are locked and keys given to, probably, one closet for two, three, or four families, there not being more than three or four water closets for all the families in the building.    On to Freighthandlers
Samuel Gompers' Testimony before the Education and Labor Committee of the U. S. Senate, 1883


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