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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  January 18, 2015 10:00pm-10:31pm EST

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at 4:00, gil sheehy on her life and journalism career. been allen west on the importance of preserving core values and that he feels these values are under attack by the far left. monday morning her experiences during the civil rights movement. state of the union addresses by presidents lyndon johnson, gerald ford, and bill clinton. historians talk about the history of race relations in ferguson missouri, and help policing -- help policing have related to the conflict. let us know what you think about the programs you are watching. e-mail us or send us a tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook. follow us on twitter.
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>> located at the edge of the water at baltimore's inner harbor, the museum of industry was once the cannery. we is to learn about the garment industry which employed over 20% of the part relation -- population. >> i have been working here for the last 12 years. trying to bring up the idea of what the garment business was like here maybe 100 years ago. what we have here is a typical clothing company. i might say garment company, but i'm surprised at the numbers of children that come here that really do not know what the word "garment" means. we first try to get them indoctrinated into that word. this was a garment company or clothing company typical of
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1920. what we have here is a little unusual that you'd find in a regular clothing company because we have the sowing -- sewing machines and the cutting machines all on the same floor and that would not be done. that would not be in a garment company. the sewing people would be upstairs or downstairs and normally the cutters and what have you would be on the top floors. we have here a sample of a cutting table in the real world, there would be about 90 feet long and will probably be about three of them to a cutting floor. we talk about the beginning of the cutting business and what takes place in here and then we go on through the various stages of the manufacturing of it. but we really have to go back to
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the civil war and let you know that there were uniforms for the soldiers and sailors being made across the river, across the the river in fells point. they were made in small, medium and large and they were very sloppy so they were called slops because sometimes a small was too small for a big guy and big too small for the little guy. there was no such thing as sizes. during the civil war the government in its infinite wisdom decided to take some statistics from these folks that were needing uniforms for the navy and the army and they found out the average height of a soldier or sailor during the civil war was 5'7 1/2", so because of that, they decided, well, a man 5'7 1/2" would have a certain size arm, certain size neck, certain size chest and
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that's where the beginning of the sizing business started to grow up. we were making uniforms for the north, of course, but what you might not know is we were making uniforms for the confederacy. they would ship their cotton to baltimore and maine and woven in the cloth and come down here and we make uniforms and because of our location we could send it back by boat or by train so yes, we were making uniforms, it was an entrepreneurship, it was money to be made in it but in the very beginning, the german jewish immigrants that were coming into baltimore by the thousands were really responsible for starting the garment or the clothing business here. the folks would do the cutting here in the building like this and then the cloth would be sent
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home to their wives or daughters and they'd be finishing the sewing in their basement or in their living room and then bring it back into the shop to have the finishing touches put on. that's where the original word of sweat shop came from because they were working in pretty bad conditions in their houses and even also here in the building here. to tell you one other thing, i have to tell you this it's usually a secret i keep myself but when i was 16 i worked in my father's garment business as a spreader, and i did the same thing the next year during the summer vacations when i was 17 and i really have to tell you this. i hated every minute of it because it was a tough, tough job. but let me first of all explain to you some of the things that we did here. the guy who really made the best
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amount of money and since we don't really have a complete idea of the actual amount that he made, i don't quote too many facts and figures about their salary, but the man who designs the suit would get the best pay. he would probably design a suit for a size 38 man, and then we have to, everybody doesn't wear a size 38, so consequently we had to have a patternmaker, a man who cuts patterns, as we have sitting up there to the right, the cardboard patterns up on the hangers there, and he would graduate maybe by 1/8" for each size up and down and he would get the next amount of money, next pay. now, we do have an idea of what the cutters were making back in about the 1900's. a really, really good cutter
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could make between $600 and $800 a year. the ladies that were working in the sewing department, they were working by each piece. they got paid for, but they could make between $5 and $7 a week. now, in my job i was called a spreader. my job was to take the cloth and spread it on the table so that the cutters would have something to cut. i worked eight, nine hours a day, as they used to, back in the early days of the cutting business, the amount of time was about ten hours a day, so why don't we follow me around this way here, guys, and i'll get behind a table and give you an idea of what i did. this machine right here is called a spreading machine. it has a track that runs the entire length of the table which
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most likely would be about 90 feet, and my job as a spreader would be, i'd come in, in the morning, and i would probably start work about 7:30, and i would have a work order and my work order says i have to go upstairs to a warehouse and get some bolts of material that happens to have, is a blue wool that has a red square stripe in this case. it would have a lot number on here like one, two, three four . and i'd find that material up in the warehouse, i'd bring it down, and i would put it on here and then i would pull it out so i could have it laying here very flat. and i would take a tailor's weight, which is about eight pound, and i would put it right on that spot right there. and then i would take my spreading machine and travel the
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entire length of the table. you'll have to use your imagination. all the way down, 90 feet away until i got to the end, and then i would put a brass bar across it like this. the material would then fold over and then i'd go all the way back then. oh, i did not like that job too much. now, my work order says that i'm going to use this as an exaggeration, but we did cut things this thick, but i'm going to use 80 layers so my work order today says i've got to put 80 layers of cloth on the table. now i didn't work very fast when i was 16 and i certainly do not work very fast now either because if i did when i was 16 they would put me on another table and i'd have to do it all over again. lots of times when i went back
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and forth, i would forget to count. i never told my father that. i don't know how they found it out but sometimes i didn't know if i'd wind up with 80 layers or 75 layers or 82 layers but they did find out that i was getting a little bit mixed up there, so they came up with a new machine that has a thumbwheel on it and every time i go down and back i would change the thumbwheel and that way i could sort of keep track of what i was doing. to make matters worse here i'm a kid 16 years old and all these people around me are much, much older than i was, and they would kid me, make jokes about all kinds of things and that would really get me upset and that would help me forget what count i was going to do. we didn't have electricity in downtown baltimore until 1881, so these guys were doing a lot of this stuff by hand.
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this is a sample of a size 40 man's sleeve and if i were a cutter back then i would lay it on a piece of cloth like this. i'd take a piece of tailor's chalk and i'd go all the way around. that's just one piece there for a size 40 and then i would take off. and i would take this small pair of scissors, well, that's a joke, guys, ok? a small pair of scissors and i would cut it out. but this is a clothing factory and we have to cut out more than one sleeve or we have to cut out more than one back, we had to do many, many, many backs at one time. so after 1881, the garment business is now really taking off. actually the clothing business in baltimore was the number one business from the civil war all the way up through the second world war, and it was number
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five in the entire nation of making men's clothes. we didn't make ladies clothes in the beginning because ladies were not going out in the workplace to work until really from the end of the first world war and mostly during the second world war, so when they did get out to the marketplace, they had to have ready-made clothes and that's when we started into making clothes for ladies. now, talking about the cutters let's do this. i want to show you what we have now after 1881, of course, once we got electricity here, they came up with machines called vertical shears. i'm going to simulate cutting 80 layers of cloth. 80 layers of cloth would be something about three inches thick. it's quite rare to do this. i'm using the top of the
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exaggeration curve. mostly we would be cutting 35, 40 layers but i have seen cuts made with 80 layers. this is felt but it represents about 80 layers of material and in the ladies clothing business it was nylon, rayon, and things like that. you have to be very careful of the kind of material that you're cutting because nylon material is slippery and it would move all over the place because you might start out in the front here at a size 40 but by the time you get down to the bottom , it could be a size 38 or a 42, and you'd have to have weights on everything that you're cutting. each cutter would be responsible for about three sizes. let's say 32, 34, 36 on a 90-foot table there. he had to lay out all his patterns, everything has to fit so he's not wasting material, so it's going to take him from
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about 2:00 in the afternoon when i'm finished until maybe the next morning, 10:00, 11:00 before he would have all his sizes all chalked in before it's time for him to start cutting. along here, people, is the same thing as having the light rail in downtown baltimore. what this does, it keeps the man from having to plug into his machine every time he moves down to another part of the table. so what i'm going to do, i'm going to simulate cutting in here but i'm only cutting a piece of paper, so i'm going to turn on the power here, and i'm going to get this thing working here. now let me just show you this guy here. i'm going to raise up the footing here and i'm going to start this and i'm going to stop it very quickly. now when it starts to stop that's kind of a crazy eye here -- crazy idea.
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but when it starts to stop you're going to be able to see how fast that blade is going up and down. and i have to tell all my kids watching this, you know there's , four things you don't want to have in front of that blade and of course they come up with the fact you don't want to have your fingers in front of it. remember, guys, i've got cloth on here this thick, not just a piece of paper. let's get this guy started here. [loud machine noise] that is only cutting out a piece of paper. they're cutting out many, many layers of material and of course then, it would go upstairs or downstairs to the ladies and they would go ahead and finish their job and do what they had to do. over here, people, i have a
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sample of a straight sewer. now, in some of the shops they could have, oh, they could have 30 machines like this, and i need to turn this on because osha would never allow something like this today. the noise level would just be absolutely terrible. so here we go. we're going to just simulate with one cloth here. [loud machine noise] now you take that noise and multiply it by about, they had about 30 straight sewers on this shop, and you can see where the noise level would be deafening. it would just be terrible. it wasn't a nice place to work in the clothing business because for instance, let me explain to you about the ladies here. you can see the sewing machines
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as i said in the beginning, they would not be on the same floor as the cutters, and they would be working upstairs or even downstairs and being paid by each piece that they do, not necessarily like an assembly line. for instance, each piece, each lady would have a specific job such as this lady right here she might just do nothing but sleeves, the other one might do another sleeve but it's not things that are passed back and forth like that. ok, after we do all the sewing of course, before it can be sold and put out on the floor, it has to be ironed. and ladies, the ones that are here, i want to tell you something. men in the beginning did all the ironing. yes, you're laughing. but that's the truth. the men did all the ironing. in the very beginning they ironed with this guy, this is about a 10-#he must -- a 10
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pound behemoth here, they would heat it over a fire and they'd have a glove on, they'd iron for a little while and have to heat it all over again. this little guy had a wooden handle, this was used for sleeves and things like that. the same thing, it was heated over a hot fire. then one of the first irons that we had here was a gas iron like this, taking, now the gas that we're using is manufactured gas gas that is created by burning coal, coal gas, and so the gas would come in, they light the internal workings here so you'd have a fire, heat inside of here, and then the plate would get hot and then they would iron with that. that was a really, really big change. then when we got electricity this guy is about 22 pound. this would take the place of it. and then the cloth would come back here, it would be packaged up and sold retail for the various clothing outlets. we had many of them here.
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i have some samples here of some of the clothing companies that were in baltimore at that time. joseph a. bank started here and of course they're still here. the glyph company, we had schoenman, schloss brothers, most all located downtown in an area of four blocks. we also had, we were big in tie manufacturing from the schechter tie company. when we walk around on part of this tour i'll show you the case that holds the schechter ties. before we do that, there were two other things that we really manufactured in baltimore. we were the umbrella capital of the world up until 1981, and it all went overseas after that. no more umbrellas were made here. here is a typical example of the
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umbrella business in baltimore. if you'll notice must be close to, there's at least 50 or 60 ladies in that picture there but we made all kinds of umbrellas. we made parisols, umbrellas with sterling handles, we made -- the umbrella business was really big in baltimore. it was gaines brothers, polding, cats and fielder and the gaines' brothers slogan was born in baltimore, raised everywhere. that was a pretty neat slogan. we also were the hat capital of the world. we made hats just like the one i have on. we made felt hats. we made hats for men and made some hats for ladies but mostly hats for men but what i'm telling you, something happened in the world right here in america when john f. kennedy went to his inauguration for the first time in january
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20th of '61, without wearing a hat, he didn't even have a topcoat on and he set a precedent, that means that night, that very night the entire hat business in the baltimore area folded up because men stopped wearing hats immediately. they said if the president doesn't wear a hat to his inauguration, we're not going to wear a hat and there were no more hat businesses left in baltimore after that time. this hat is very symbolic of the kind of hat that we made here in baltimore. it is a straw hat. we were making about 1,000 before the hat business folded up. and i just wear it because it gives, when i'm talking about the hats it gives you a living example of what kind of hats men wore back then, and that is very rare to see a man with a hat it's even rarer to see women. women always wore hats to church and what have you, and that's kind of gone by the wayside, but i like to just keep the old
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tradition going, wearing a hat here, and i have lots of people ask questions about it, and that gets me started into a good conversation with them. now, we did not have any air conditioning where i worked downtown baltimore. and i worked for a company that was the largest nurse's uniform company maker in the united states. that was morris and company, and they were the ones that were responsible for making the mini blouse. anybody over 50 or 60 at this time would know what a mini blouse is. it's a blouse that was made for women that simulated the kind of a top of a sailor suit that the sailors would wear. it took off and it really, really did sell well here. so without having any air conditioning, it was cold in the winter and hot in the summer and we were not allowed to open the windows because burning coal in downtown baltimore to make
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steam and gas, all that residue of the smoke going up the chimney contains sandy-like particles of soot and all that soot is heavier than air so it's coming in all over the cloth if we had the windows open. so we had overhead fans. that helped us inon the cutting floor but it really didn't help these ladies because as you can see there's about 100 women in that shop right there, and it was, it got pretty warm in the summertime but in the wintertime, it was excruciatingly hot. right here, right behind all these gals are the radiator pipes for the hot water, and it's only the size of that lady standing there. sometimes it was blistering hot down there, and they couldn't open the windows either and a lot of those people worked on
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under really bad conditions. they would faint if it got too hot. and if a lady ran a needle through her thumb or her finger, there were no nurses to go to. you had to pull it out by yourself and just hope that you could stop the bleeding and wrap it around something so that it wouldn't get on the cloth that you were selliwing. and sometimes these ladies would faint, sometimes they'd hit their heads on the floor and be out cold and while they were out cold of course they weren't getting paid. now if you'll notice over here, the conditions, this is a typical toilet bathroom, if you will, that would be on the sewing floor. the women, if they left their sewing machine, they never got paid, so they got very good at holding whatever they had to hold until lunch time. oh, boy, and talking about lunch time, i've got to tell you this. i have to tell you this story. and i've seen it with my own
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eyes. if you brought your lunch to work in a paper bag and you left it on the shelf of the lunchroom, chances are by the time you got to eat lunch at around 12:00 or whenever you were able to, the food would be gone, because the rats were prevalent. they were all over the building. you just would kick them out of the way. i did that many times, but the ladies, they didn't like that too much. and so you had, it was necessary that you had to bring your lunch to work in a lunch box or a pail. in 1920, the people of baltimore, they started inspections of these clothing places, and they found out that some of the conditions were really, really pretty horrible. in some of the shops, some of the sweat shops downtown baltimore, these women would come in and work all night and they would actually lock the
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doors to keep these ladies in there, and if you remember back, way back in new york in the triangle shirt company fire, i think there was about 13 people -- about 143 people were trapped in this building because they said all the doors were locked but one. they couldn't use the elevators and they were jumping out the windows. from that time on, most of that changed as far as locking the doors for the garment business. but it was not a nice place to work, but the interesting thing is that the garment business especially in baltimore worked throughout the entire great depression, whereas most of the people were out on the corner selling apples and what have you, they did have jobs. and i can remember in the, oh, about the 1930's, the morris and
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company i guess it must have been about 1935-'36, they decided to join the union, the ladies garment workers union and that's when i can remember my father coming home with this book. he said "look i got this book," it cost him a quarter a week for their dues to become part of this overall union, and he explained to me how things were going to get better and the living conditions are going to get better, and they did. they really, really did, because they became a union shop, and everybody was indoctrinated in the fact that when you go over to buy clothes, you look for that label inside that says "made in the u.s.a. in union." if it didn't have a union label in it, we weren't supposed to even look at it, and there were shops that didn't show the union -- didn't join and union and they did have their problems. during the first world war business was booming. they could not keep up with the orders coming in for uniforms for the soldiers and the sailors and what have you, and for the women. that did not work that way
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during the second world war. if you had a graph from the civil war, the graph line would go up first world war, second world war, comes right down to the base line, because baltimore received no orders from the government in the second world war for uniforms for the soldiers or sailors. because, because of that, our business dropped off terrifically, tragically . the port of baltimore building ships and airplanes, they didn't want to take the people away from those businesses and bring them back into the garment business so that's why the garment business just about folded up during the second world war. and the only, the last garment company to have left baltimore was london fog, and i guess
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that's been 20, 22 years ago now that they left baltimore. we have actually no clothing company other than joseph bank and a lot of their stuff, a lot of their cutting and things i understand are not being done here in baltimore but outside of the country. we do between 150 and 300 children a day here on field trips, and they have no idea about dates, but they need to know where all this, where they came from. why it started, how did it start, why did it start out with making uniforms here in baltimore and making dresses and things like that to wear, and they have no idea where it started from, so we try to bring them into the real world and say yes, there were people working there, making clothes to fit you guys, so that mom and dad, who were working and didn't have time to make clothes, could go out and buy clothes for you, and i found out you really don't grow too old too quickly when
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you're working with children and i love every minute of it. >> you can watch all of the over 100 programs online. browse the topics. you are watching american history tv all weekend on cspan3 . to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> tuesday night, president obama delivers his state of the union address. live coverage begins at 8:00 eastern, including the president speech, the g.o.p. response delivered by the newly elected i was senator, and your reaction on open phones. on c-span2 watch the speech and congressional reaction from the u.s. capitol.


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