Charles Aberdeen

Charles Aberdeen first started work in a cotton factory when he was sent to one in Hollywell by the Westminster Workhouse when he was twelve years old. Aberdeen was working in a cotton factory in Salford when he was sacked in April, 1832 for signing a petition in favour of factory reform. Aberdeen was fifty-three when he was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 7th July, 1832.

Primary Sources

(1) Charles Aberdeen interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons committee on 7th July, 1832.

Question: Does the business of the scavengers demand constant attention, and to be in perpetual motion, and to assume a variety of attitudes, so as to accommodate their business in cleaning the machinery to its motions?

Answer: Yes, to go under the machine, whilst it is going.

Question: Is it dangerous employment.

Answer: Very dangerous when they first come, but they get used to it.

Question: Are the hours shorter or longer at present, than when you were apprentice to a cotton mill?

Answer: Much the same.

Question: Will you inform the committee, whether the labour itself has increased, or other wise?

Answer: The labour has increased more than twofold.

Question: Explain in what way.

Answer: I have done twice the quantity of work that I used to do, for less wages. Machines have been speeded. The exertion of the body is required to follow up the speed of the machine.

Question: Has this increased labour any visible effect upon the appearance of the children.

Answer: It has a remarkable effect. It causes a paleness. A factory child may be known easily from another child that does not work in a factory.

Question: Has it had the effect of shortening their lives?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What grounds have you for thinking so.

Answer: I have seen men and women that have worked in a factory all their lives, like myself, and that they get married; and I have seen the race become diminutive and small; I have myself had seven children, not one of which survived six weeks; my wife is an emaciated person, like myself, a little woman, and she worked during her childhood, younger than myself, in a factory.

Question: What is the common age to which those that have been accustomed from early youth to work in factories survive.

Answer: I have known very few that have exceeded me in age. I think that most of them die under forty.