Re: What's a Cutter? #usa #general


I can't speak for Canada but as the descendant of cloak and suitor, I can say that virtual no garment was produced for resale in the US which was made by hand. In the early 20th the garments were either produced in factories by machine or they were jobbed out in small lots to people who sewed them by machine at home. Even seamstresses to the wealth had sewing machines. My granddad who was a schneider by trade carried his sewing machine on his back  from Lithuania to Hamburg  earning the money for his passage and his trip as he walked from town to town. In answer to the question of work related injuries with cutting machines, the steam driven units could produce horrible burns. All of the machines could cause serious cuts if the machine operator lost control. Pressing also had a high incidence of accidents. There were many work related injuries, some obvious some not, in the sweatshops. 
My grand-dad owned a factory very similar to the one in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (1911) in respect to how the garments were produced. It was a standard format. The difference was that the Triangle factory building was unsafe. The conditions at the factory can be found readily on the net. While the owners of the factory represented the worst abuses of the industry, the horrible death toll was mostly the result of inadequate fire laws and paid off fire inspections by the city of NY. The workers, like the owners were Jewish and there are burials and monuments to the victims in many Jewish cemeteries in Queens and Brooklyn.
My grandmother worked in her brother-in-law's factory when she first came here on the buttonhole machine. If she broke a needle she had to pay for it. She said she broke so many needles she never got paid. At the time of the Triangle fire my granddad already owned a factory. He had to bail my grandmother out of jail when she was arrested demonstrating in the ILGWU parade in NY to better conditions in the factories. Unlike the shirtwaist factory, my grandad's factory conformed to the fire codes with working sprinkler systems, adequate fire escapes and working industrial size elevators and good lighting. When I visited my granddad's factory in the 1950's, it was no longer emigrant Jewish labor, it was Puerto Rican, before the manufacturing moved off shore to Asia. 
It might be an interesting project on Jewishgen to document Jewish experience with the garment trade in the US, it's such an important part of our history. I'd love to collect stories people have heard from their families. Perhaps a different kind of Kelillah links page?

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