Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Wages - 1865

There is a fascinating report from 1867 called - Statistical notes on the industries and commerce of the United Kingdom and a small section, as follows, mentions the steel pen trade:

The centre of the British steel pen trade is at Birmingham, and according to a report made by Mr Timmins to the British Association held at that town in 1865, the actual number of steel pen manufactories was 12; the number of men employed 360; of women and girls 2,050; horse-power, about 330.  The weekly make of pens 98,000 gross [14,112,000!].  The quantity of steel used per week, from 9 1/2 to 10 tons.  The value of the ordinary pens ranges from 1 1/2d to 1s [5p] per gross; of barrel pens from 7d to 12s [60p] per gross, and other kinds of higher price according to size and finish.

Most of the processes of pen-making are performed by hand-presses to cut out the blanks, to pierce the holes, to form the nib, to emboss the pattern and to mark the name.  Self-acting machinery being only used for the commonest descriptions of pens.

The condition of the workpeople is satisfactory, the factories being very healthy.  The wages of girls range from 5s to 12s, some from 2s 6d to 3s 6d, while skilful and older workwomen earn from 15s to 20s per week.  Men earn from 18s to 25s; boys, 4s 6d to 8s, if skilful, 8s to 16s.  Skilled males, adult, earn 30s to 80s and even 90s to 100s per week.  The hours of labour vary from 52 1/2 to 57 hours per week.

Therefore, a girl could work for over 50 hours a week and earn 2s 6d which is 12p in current money.  I wonder what that would be if inflation could be added for the last 140 years! 

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