But hey, look at those snazzy dressers! At least they got to be the Don Draper of the huddled masses, almost always wearing top hats and tails. They were probably so smug, striding around in their fancy clothes that they got as cast offs from funeral directors. Then when the black lung or whatever disease made kids fall down chimneys came for them, they didn't even have to change clothes!
Small creatures make great little vacuums - ask any dog owner who's ever spilled hot dog juice on the kitchen floor. The same goes for children. Back in the 19th century, textile mills hired children to run around the factory 24/7, picking up debris and loose pieces of cotton. Called "Mill Scavengers," these tykes lapped up the proverbial hot dog water, except this hot dog water lay beneath giant, spinning death wheels.
"Where did Jimmy go? I dunno, but he better have gotten that piece of cotton."
In fact, textile spinners made such good kiddy maulers, scavengers were reported to be "constantly in a state of grief, always in terror."
As you may have guessed, most mill scavengers were orphans adopted by the factory owners, which makes forced labor and child endangerment a family business. It's like Little Orphan Annie except without the money, happy ending or there being a tomorrow part.
It probably would have been easier to just turn off all the machines at the end of the day, then sweep everything up at once but it wasn't that easy because fuck you, kid, that's why.
Kids were pretty much lint screens that can feel terror and scream.
Without exposure to fresh air, children were susceptible to a multitude of health problems. You know, like cancer. Scavengers were not allowed to sit, rest or take a break while the mills ran. And the mills ran all day. And on Sundays? Those were usually spent cleaning the giant death wheels that terrified them so much.
An artist's rendering of the noble sacrifices made to clean up lint.
What could make this worse? Worse than forcing an orphan to work in a noisy, unventilated factory, crawling under spinning manglers to pick up tiny bits of trash? Oh yeah, scalping.
While crawling under all those spinning wheels, if a child's hair got too close to the machinery their hair got sucked in, separating their skull cap rather efficiently from their head. If the child wasn't lucky enough to die, at least when it came time to play Cowboys and Indians they were way ahead of the game.
For more of Fero check out her blog at ThisIsntHelpful or validate her on Twitter.
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