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MR. S. DARLASTON’S, JAPAN BUTTON MANUFACTURER, BRANSTON STREET.
402. A new factory but littery and dirty, and some of the children very forlorn looking. A little girl showing me down some very steep steps, such as have in many Birmingham factories struck me as dangerous, slipped down the two or three last, but without hurting herself. The cutting out of the tin is done by presses like other press work. The japanning is very dirty work indeed, and the smoke from the stoves when opened very strong, and pungent to the eyes, but is said to be healthy.
403. The master’s daughter thought that none of the girls could read. Five of 7 years old had never been at any school, an elder girl not since she was 7.
404. Mr. S. Darlaston.—The work consists of several branches, viz., cutting out, drawing through, putting shanks in, and closing, all done with presses, except putting the shanks on. When made the buttons have two coats of japan; this work is done by two women and four girls. A woman takes work from me at so much a hundred, and keeps a girl or two. If they take two or three presses they keep more girls. Think I am nearly the only japan button maker of notice. There are a few quite small employers working almost in their own houses with their own children. Elastic sides and eyelet holes for boots have almost entirely thrown the trade out. Seven or eight years ago I employed three times my present number of hands. Even formerly, if I wanted more work I put on more hands. Always knew that I should lose more than I gained by working overtime. Generally pay more for overtime something like 25 per cent better. When I have had 10 hours amongst them myself I have had enough, but they are no good without me.
405. Kate O’Brien, age 17.—Employ from 15 to 20 girls, and have a press myself, but I have about enough to do in keeping the rest to work. They are all cleared out for dinner. The little ones begin at about 1s. a week.
406. Kate Dowd, age 8.—Put in. Am working at a press now. Don’t know O or A.
407. Mary Brady, age 11.—At a press a few weeks. Have pinched half a nail off. Pinched my finger once before. Christ is Jesus—is God.
408. Ann Burns, age 14.—Was never at school except sometimes of a Sunday. Have a brother of 8 and two sisters younger that I who have never been to school on Sunday. Don’t know B. Go to church sometimes of a Sunday morning, and hear the preacher, but cannot hear what he says. Have not heard of Noah. Adam and Eve were two wicked men.
[The master’s daughter says that the preaching, &c., is all in Latin.]
409. Bridget Fry, age 17.—Cannot tell any letters or tell you what London is; it is a big town in England, but I have not heard whether it is big or little. Don’t know where rivers run into. Have crossed the sea coming from Ireland. A mountain would be on the water, I should think. Don’t know where the snow falls from, or whether it comes from the clouds, or sky, or where.