Home Steel Making Categories Manufacturing and the Economy of Machinery


Enquiries Previous To Commencing Any Manufactory
298. There are many enquiries which ought always to be made ...

On The Exportation Of Machinery
437. A few years only have elapsed, since our workmen were n...

On The Influence Of Durability On Price
197. Having now considered the circumstances that modify what...

On The Position Of Large Factories
277. It is found in every country, that the situation of lar...

Saving Time In Natural Operations
47. The process of tanning will furnish us with a striking i...

Of Raw Materials
210. Although the cost of any article may be reduced in its ...

On The Influence Of Verification On Price
181. The money price of an article at any given period is us...

On The Effect Of Machinery In Reducing The Demand For Labour
404. One of the objections most frequently urged against mac...

On Combinations Of Masters Against The Public
376. A species of combination occasionally takes place among...

Distinction Between Making And Manufacturing
163. The economical principles which regulate the application...

On The Future Prospects Of Manufactures As Connected With Science
453. In reviewing the various processes offered as illustrat...

Exerting Forces Too Great For Human Power And Executing Operations Too Delicate For Human Touch
56. It requires some skill and a considerable apparatus to e...

Accumulating Power
20. Whenever the work to be done requires more force for its ...

Printing From Surface
91. This second department of printing is of more frequent a...

Of Copying By Punching
133. This mode of copying consists in driving a steel punch ...

Regulating Power
27. Uniformity and steadiness in the rate at which machinery ...

On The Effect Of Taxes And Of Legal Restrictions Upon Manufactures
414. As soon as a tax is put upon any article, the ingenuity ...

On The Division Of Labour
241. We have already mentioned what may, perhaps, appear par...

Sources Of The Advantages Arising From Machinery And Manufactures
1. There exists, perhaps, no single circumstance which disti...

On The Method Of Observing Manufacturies
160. Having now reviewed the mechanical principles which reg...

On The Causes And Consequences Of Large Factories

Category: On the domestic and political economy of manufactures

263. On examining the analysis which has been given in
chapter XIX of the operations in the art of pin-making, it will
be observed, that ten individuals are employed in it, and also
that the time occupied in executing the several processes is very
different. In order, however, to render more simple the reasoning
which follows, it will be convenient to suppose that each of the
seven processes there described requires an equal quantity of
time. This being supposed, it is at once apparent, that, to
conduct an establishment for pin-making most profitably, the
number of persons employed must be a multiple of ten. For if a
person with small means has only sufficient capital to enable him
to employ half that number of persons, they cannot each of them
constantly adhere to the execution of the same process; and if a
manufacturer employs any number not a multiple of ten, a similar
result must ensue with respect to some portion of them. The same
reflection constantly presents itself on examining any
well-arranged factory. In that of Mr Mordan, the patentee of the
ever-pointed pencils, one room is devoted to some of the
processes by which steel pens are manufactured. Six fly-presses
are here constantly at work; in the first a sheet of thin steel
is brought by the workman under the die which at each blow cuts
out a flat piece of the metal, having the form intended for the
pen. Two other workmen are employed in placing these flat pieces
under two other presses, in which a steel chisel cuts the slit.
Three other workmen occupy other presses, in which the pieces so
prepared receive their semi-cylindrical form. The longer time
required for adjusting the small pieces in the two latter
operations renders them less rapid in execution than the first;
so that two workmen are fully occupied in slitting, and three in
bending the flat pieces, which one man can punch out of the sheet
of steel. If, therefore, it were necessary to enlarge this
factory, it is clear that twelve or eighteen presses would be
worked with more economy than any number not a multiple of six.

The same reasoning extends to every manufacture which is
conducted upon the principle of the division of labour, and we
arrive at this general conclusion: When the number of processes
into which it is most advantageous to divide it, and the number
of individuals to be employed in it, are ascertained, then all
factories which do not employ a direct multiple of this latter
number, will produce the article at a greater cost. This
principle ought always to be kept in view in great
establishments, although it is quite impossible, even with the
best division of the labour, to attend to it rigidly in practice.
The proportionate number of the persons who possess the greatest
skill, is of course to be first attended to. That exact ratio
which is more profitable for a factory employing a hundred
workmen, may not be quite the best where there are five hundred;
and the arrangements of both may probably admit of variations,
without materially increasing the cost of their produce. But it
is quite certain that no individual, nor in the case of
pin-making could any five individuals, ever hope to compete with
an extensive establishment. Hence arises one cause of the great
size of manufacturing establishments, which have increased with
the progress of civilization. Other circumstances, however,
contribute to the same end, and arise also from the same cause--
the division of labour.

264. The material out of which the manufactured article is
produced, must, in the several stages of its progress, be
conveyed from one operator to the next in succession: this can be
done at least expense when they are all working in the same
establishment. If the weight of the material is considerable,
this reason acts with additional force; but even where it is
light, the danger arising from frequent removal may render it
desirable to have all the processes carried on in the same
building. In the cutting and polishing of glass this is the case;
whilst in the art of needle-making several of the processes are
carried on in the cottages of the workmen. It is, however, clear
that the latter plan, which is attended with some advantages to
the family of the workmen, can be adopted only where there exists
a sure and quick method of knowing that the work has been well
done, and that the whole of the materials given out have been
really employed.

265. The inducement to contrive machines for any process of
manufacture increases with the demand for the article; and the
introduction of machinery, on the other hand, tends to increase
the quantity produced and to lead to the establishment of large
factories. An illustration of these principles may be found in
the history of the manufacture of patent net.

The first machines for weaving this article were very
expensive, costing from a thousand to twelve or thirteen hundred
pounds. The possessor of one of these, though it greatly
increased the quantity he could produce, was nevertheless unable,
when working eight hours a day, to compete with the old methods.
This arose from the large capital invested in the machinery; but
he quickly perceived that with the same expense of fixed capital,
and a small addition to his circulating capital, he could work
the machine during the whole twenty-four hours. The profits thus
realized soon induced other persons to direct their attention to
the improvement of those machines; and the price was greatly
reduced, at the same time that the rapidity of production of the
patent net was increased. But if machines be kept working through
the twenty-four hours, it is necessary that some person shall
attend to admit the workmen at the time they relieve each other;
and whether the porter or other servant so employed admit one
person or twenty, his rest will be equally disturbed. It will
also be necessary occasionally to adjust or repair the machine;
and this can be done much better by a workman accustomed to
machine-making, than by the person who uses it. Now, since the
good performance and the duration of machines depend to a very
great extent upon correcting every shake or imperfection in their
parts as soon as they appear, the prompt attention of a workman
resident on the spot will considerably reduce the expenditure
arising from the wear and tear of the machinery. But in the case
of single lace frame, or a single loom, this would be too
expensive a plan. Here then arises another circumstance which
tends to enlarge the extent of a factory. It ought to consist of
such a number of machines as shall occupy the whole time of one
workman in keeping them in order: if extended beyond that number,
the same principle of economy would point out the necessity of
doubling or tripling the number of machines, in order to employ
the whole time of two or three skilful workmen.

266. Where one portion of the workman's labour consists in
the exertion of mere physical force, as in weaving and in many
similar arts, it will soon occur to the manufacturer, that if
that part were executed by a steam-engine, the same man might, in
the case of weaving, attend to two or more looms at once; and,
since we already suppose that one or more operative engineers
have been employed, the number of his looms may be so arranged
that their time shall be fully occupied in keeping the
steam-engine and the looms in order. One of the first results
will be, that the looms can be driven by the engine nearly twice
as fast as before: and as each man, when relieved from bodily
labour, can attend to two looms, one workman can now make almost
as much cloth as four. This increase of producing power is,
however, greater than that which really took place at first; the
velocity of some of the parts of the loom being limited by the
strength of the thread, and the quickness with which it commences
its motion: but an improvement was soon made, by which the motion
commenced slowly, and gradually acquired greater velocity than it
was safe to give it at once; and the speed was thus increased
from 100 to about 120 strokes per minute.

267. Pursuing the same principles, the manufactory becomes
gradually so enlarged, that the expense of lighting during the
night amounts to a considerable sum; and as there are already
attached to the establishment persons who are up all night, and
can therefore constantly attend to it, and also engineers to make
and keep in repair any machinery, the addition of an apparatus
for making gas to light the factory leads to a new extension, at
the same time that it contributes, by diminishing the expense of
lighting, and the risk of accidents from fire, to reduce the cost
of manufacturing.

268. Long before a factory has reached this extent, it will
have been found necessary to establish an accountant's
department, with clerks to pay the workmen, and to see that they
arrive at their stated times; and this department must be in
communication with the agents who purchase the raw produce, and
with those who sell the manufactured article.

269. We have seen that the application of the division of
labour tends to produce cheaper articles; that it thus increases
the demand; and gradually, by the effect of competition, or by
the hope of increased gain, that it causes large capitals to be
embarked in extensive factories. Let us now examine the influence
of this accumulation of capital directed to one object. In the
first place, it enables the most important principle on which the
advantages of the division of labour depends to be carried almost
to its extreme limits: not merely is the precise amount of skill
purchased which is necessary for the execution of each process,
but throughout every stage--from that in which the raw material
is procured, to that by which the finished produce is conveyed
into the hands of the consumer--the same economy of skill
prevails. The quantity of work produced by a given number of
people is greatly augmented by such an extended arrangement; and
the result is necessarily a great reduction in the cost of the
article which is brought to market.

270. Amongst the causes which tend to the cheap production of
any article, and which are connected with the employment of
additional capital, may be mentioned, the care which is taken to
prevent the absolute waste of any part of the raw material. An
attention to this circumstance sometimes causes the union of two
trades in one factory, which otherwise might have been separated.

An enumeration of the arts to which the horns of cattle are
applicable, will furnish a striking example of this kind of
economy. The tanner who has purchased the raw hides, separates
the horns, and sells them to the makers of combs and lanterns.
The horn consists of two parts, an outward horny case, and an
inward conical substance, somewhat intermediate between indurated
hair and bone. The first process consists in separating these two
parts, by means of a blow against a block of wood. The horny
exterior is then cut into three portions with a frame-saw.

1. The lowest of these, next the root of the horn, after
undergoing several processes, by which it is flattened, is made
into combs.

2. The middle of the horn, after being flattened by heat, and
having its transparency improved by oil, is split into thin
layers, and forms a substitute for glass, in lanterns of the
commonest kind.

3. The tip of the horn is used by the makers of knife
handles, and of the tops of whips, and for other similar

4. The interior, or core of the horn, is boiled down in
water. A large quantity of fat rises to the surface; this is put
aside, and sold to the makers of yellow soap.

5. The liquid itself is used as a kind of glue, and is
purchased by cloth dressers for stiffening.

6. The insoluble substance, which remains behind, is then
sent to the mill, and, being ground down, is sold to the farmers
for manure.

7. Besides these various purposes to which the different
parts of the horn are applied, the clippings, which arise in comb
making, are sold to the farmer for manure. In the first year
after they are spread over the soil they have comparatively
little effect, but during the next four or five their efficiency
is considerable. The shavings which form the refuse of the
lantern maker, are of a much thinner texture: some of them are
cut into various figures and painted, and used as toys; for being
hygrometric, they curl up when placed on the palm of a warm hand.
But the greater part of these shavings also are sold for manure,
and from their extremely thin and divided form, the full effect
is produced upon the first crop.

271. Another event which has arisen, in one trade at least,
from the employment of large capital, is, that a class of
middlemen, formerly interposed between the maker and the
merchant, now no longer exist. When calico was woven in the
cottages of the workmen, there existed a class of persons who
travelled about and purchased the pieces so made, in large
numbers, for the purpose of selling them to the exporting
merchant. But the middlemen were obliged to examine every piece,
in order to know that it was perfect, and of full measure. The
greater number of the workmen, it is true, might be depended
upon, but the fraud of a few would render this examination
indispensable: for any single cottager, though detected by one
purchaser, might still hope that the fact would not become known
to all the rest.

The value of character, though great in all circumstances of
life, can never be so fully experienced by persons possessed of
small capital, as by those employing much larger sums: whilst
these larger sums of money for which the merchant deals, render
his character for punctuality more studied and known by others.
Thus it happens that high character supplies the place of an
additional portion of capital; and the merchant, in dealing with
the great manufacturer, is saved from the expense of
verification, by knowing that the loss, or even the impeachment,
of the manufacturer's character, would be attended with greater
injury to himself than any profit upon a single transaction could

272. The amount of well-grounded confidence, which exists in
the character of its merchants and manufacturers, is one of the
many advantages that an old manufacturing country always
possesses over its rivals. To such an extent is this confidence
in character carried in England, that, at one of our largest
towns, sales and purchases on a very extensive scale are made
daily in the course of business without any of the parties ever
exchanging a written document.

273. A breach of confidence of this kind, which might have
been attended with very serious embarrassment, occurred in the
recent expedition to the mouth of the Niger.

'We brought with us from England,' Mr Lander states, 'nearly
a hundred thousand needles of various sizes, and amongst them was
a great quantity of Whitechapel sharps warranted superfine, and
not to cut in the eye. Thus highly recommended, we imagined that
these needles must have been excellent indeed; but what was our
surprise, some time ago, when a number of them which we had
disposed of were returned to us, with a complaint that they were
all eyeless, thus redeeming with a vengeance the pledge of the
manufacturer, that they would not cut in the eye. On
examination afterwards, we found the same fault with the
remainder of the Whitechapel sharps, so that to save our credit
we have been obliged to throw them away.'(1*)

274. The influence of established character in producing
confidence operated in a very remarkable manner at the time of
the exclusion of British manufactures from the continent during
the last war. One of our largest establishments had been in the
habit of doing extensive business with a house in the centre of
Germany; but, on the closing of the continental ports against our
manufactures, heavy penalties were inflicted on all those who
contravened the Berlin and Milan decrees. The English
manufacturer continued, nevertheless, to receive orders, with
directions how to consign them, and appointments for the time and
mode of payment, in letters, the handwriting of which was known
to him, but which were never signed, except by the christian name
of one of the firm, and even in some instances they were without
any signature at all. These orders were executed; and in no
instance was there the least irregularity in the payments.

275. Another circumstance may be noticed, which to a small
extent is more advantageous to large than to small factories. In
the export of several articles of manufacture, a drawback is
allowed by government, of a portion of the duty paid on the
importation of the raw material. In such circumstances, certain
forms must be gone through in order to protect the revenue from
fraud; and a clerk, or one of the partners, must attend at the
custom-house. The agent of the large establishment occupies
nearly the same time in receiving a drawback of several
thousands, as the smaller exporter does of a few shillings. But
if the quantity exported is inconsiderable, the small
manufacturer frequently does not find the drawback will repay him
for the loss of time.

276. In many of the large establishments of our manufacturing
districts, substances are employed which are the produce of
remote countries, and which are, in several instances, almost
peculiar to a few situations. The discovery of any new locality,
where such articles exist in abundance, is a matter of great
importance to any establishment which consumes them in large
quantities; and it has been found, in some instances, that the
expense of sending persons to great distances, purposely to
discover and to collect such produce, has been amply repaid. Thus
it has happened, that the snowy mountains of Sweden and Norway,
as well as the warmer hills of Corsica, have been almost stripped
of one of their vegetable productions, by agents sent expressly
from one of our largest establishments for the dying of calicos.
Owing to the same command of capital, and to the scale upon which
the operations of large factories are carried on, their returns
admit of the expense of sending out agents to examine into the
wants and tastes of distant countries, as well as of trying
experiments, which, although profitable to them, would be ruinous
to smaller establishments possessing more limited resources.

These opinions have been so well expressed in the Report of
the Committee of the House of Commons on the Woollen Trade, in
1806, that we shall close this chapter with an extract, in which
the advantages of great factories are summed up.

Your committee have the satisfaction of seeing, that the
apprehensions entertained of factories are not only vicious in
principle, but they are practically erroneous: to such a degree.
that even the very opposite principles might be reasonably
entertained. Nor would it be difficult to prove, that the
factories, to a certain extent at least, and in the present day,
seem absolutely necessary to the wellbeing of the domestic
system: supplying those very particulars wherein the domestic
system must be acknowledged to be inherently defective: for it is
obvious, that the little master manufacturers cannot afford, like
the man who possesses considerable capital, to try the
experiments which are requisite, and incur the risks, and even
losses, which almost always occur, in inventing and perfecting
new articles of manufacture, or in carrying to a state of greater
perfection articles already established. He cannot learn, by
personal inspection, the wants and habits, the arts,
manufactures, and improvements of foreign countries; diligence,
economy, and prudence, are the requisites of his character, not
invention, taste, and enterprise: nor would he be warranted in
hazarding the loss of any part of his small capital. He walks in
a sure road as long as he treads in the beaten track; but he must
not deviate into the paths of speculation. The owner of a
factory, on the contrary, being commonly possessed of a large
capital, and having all his workmen employed under his own
immediate superintendence, may make experiments, hazard
speculation, invent shorter or better modes of performing old
processes, may introduce new articles, and improve and perfect
old ones, thus giving the range to his taste and fancy, and,
thereby alone enabling our manufacturers to stand the competition
with their commercial rivals in other countries. Meanwhile, as is
well worthy of remark (and experience abundantly warrants the
assertion), many of these new fabrics and inventions, when their
success is once established, become general amongst the whole
body of manufacturers: the domestic manufacturers themselves thus
benefiting, in the end, from those very factories which had been
at first the objects of their jealousy. The history of almost all
our other manufactures, in which great improvements have been
made of late years in some cases at an immense expense, and after
numbers of unsuccessful experiments, strikingly illustrates and
enforces the above remarks. It is besides an acknowledged fact,
that the owners of factories are often amongst the most extensive
purchasers at the halls, where they buy from the domestic
clothier the established articles of manufacture, or are able at
once to answer a great and sudden order; whilst, at home, and
under their own superintendence, they make their fancy goods, and
any articles of a newer, more costly, or more delicate quality,
to which they are enabled by the domestic system to apply a much
larger proportion of their capital. Thus, the two systems,
instead of rivalling, are mutual aids to each other: each
supplying the other's defects, and promoting the other's


1. Lander's Journal of an Expedition to the Mouth of the Niger,
vol. ii., p. 42.

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