Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making Lace

This picture was taken in 1911, and it shows a poor mother and daughter making lace inside their tenement apartment. The picture was taken in New York City. One wonders whether the current economic downturn will lead to such cottage industries again. Now, things imported from China are so cheap, most things could not be made is such a way (certainly a person could not make lace and sell lace). I think eBay has for many become a cottage industry. How about you all . . . do any of you have a little cottage industry going to try and supplement income, or just to have fun?


  1. A lot has been done to discourage cottage industries like this.

  2. This is a great photo, and it reminds me of my family.

    My paternal grandmother, who emigrated from Italy around 1900, did the same thing here in Providence, RI.

    She was a seamstress and worked at night to make extra money. I wonder if the people in the photo were Italian.

  3. Perhaps there may be a growth of cottage industry as our economic situation affects more and more people.

  4. If anyone is interested in reading about the sweatshop conditions endured by poor immigrants during the Industrial Revolution, check out this website:


    It chronicles the infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City. This tragedy occured in a garment factory in Manhattan with unsafe conditions and locked doors. All of the 146 victims were immigrants who either burned to death or died jumping out of the windows. There was a huge scandal afterwards and a criminal trial.

    In addition, the website has a lot of general info about the working conditions during this time period as well as the early efforts of organized labor to improve them.

    It's very interesting.

  5. Home crafts may go the way of the buggy whip. Sadly, in response to the lead tainted toys from China, Congress passed a law and Bush signed it. It's a perfect example of unintended consequences. Look up CPSIA on the internet. It will drive many, many home craftspeople out of business. Another name for this law is National Bankruptcy Day.

  6. I was just going to say what Marie did. The lead law prohibits a small business from putting their products into the marketplace without expensive lead testing. It's truly a shame. I used to make earrings and bracelets to sell, now I only do custom work for friends and family. I make no money on it any more and I can't afford the $1400 per item tests for lead. Say goodbye to the home based cottage industry in America. China's corrupt government put the kabosh on that for us. :-(

    Oh, plus, tatting uses thread, which you can buy for basically pennies. It's the time to make something that has value, and no one wants to pay for our time anymore.

  7. I have an idea, from reading
    a French writer, Celine, whose
    mother was a lace making, the
    reason there are so many pots
    and pans is for starching the
    I think they used a type of
    pasta to make the starch, but
    can't be sure now. Celine
    himself, hated the smell it
    left everywhere in the house.

  8. SmartGirl,

    It is appauling to me that after all the years of litigation in the suit against the owners of the factory, that each death was awarded only $75.00! And people wonder what caused the formation of the early unions.

    Great site.

  9. A classic work on the tenements of the late 19th, early 20th century is "How The Other Half Lives" (1890) by Jacob Riis. Compelling stories and photographs of life for the tenement dweller in our major east coast cities.

    And people complain today if they don't have 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, a huge kitchen, a living room large enough for their entertainment systems, and a two car garage...

    Man, I'm grouchy today...

  10. Of course, I forget to put a link to the Riis book:


  11. Should read..."whose mother
    was a lace maker." Not making.

  12. Al:

    I'm glad you enjoyed the website. The Industrial Revolution is one of my favorite historical periods.

    And yes, the $75 WAS an insult to the families of those victims.

    Can you believe the conditions they worked in - and did you see the photos of the wreckage after the fire? Awful, awful, awful. My grandparents worked in similar conditions here in Providence RI.

    Organized labor is much maligned in our society today, and in many respects, justifiably so. But . . in the beginning, labor unions served an important purpose in obtaining decent wages and working conditions for their members.

  13. Ray:

    OH MY GOD, now we have the grammar police!!!

    Time to brush up on your spelling, punctuation, and syntax!!

  14. Mike B:

    Thanks for the link, what a great website!!!

    It covers some of my favorite historical periods.

    Of course, this stuff is like cocaine to me . . . .so now I'll be glued to the computer even longer . . . .

  15. SmartGirl 1953:

    I have O.C.D.
    Couldn't let the
    mistake pass.

  16. Ray:

    so do I, but i'm a compulsive cleaner. vacuuming and laundry make me feel good.