The early 20th century was a time of increased conflict between labor and management throughout the United States. From the textile mills of the Northeast, to the steel mills and factories of the Midwest, to the mines and lumber camps of the Rocky Mountain West, thousands of workers all over the country walked picket lines. According to one source, there were at least 1,800 work stoppages a year at the turn of the century and as many as 2,000 a year in 1910.¹ One of the most famous strikes occurred in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1913, when more than 20,000 silk workers joined in an industry-wide strike that lasted more than five months.Silk was a relative latecomer in Paterson's long industrial history. The city had been established during the great debate of the 1790s between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson and their allies about industrial development. Hamilton encouraged the creation of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), a private corporation that selected the Great Falls of the Passaic as the location for an industrial city in 1792. By 1794 the S.U.M. had completed the first of a series of canals to harness the power of the falls for industrial use. When the first "manufactory" failed in 1796, the S.U.M. abandoned manufacturing to become a real estate and energy broker, leasing water power and land to private entrepreneurs, inventors, and industrialists into the post World War II era.Silk was first manufactured in Paterson in 1840, but did not prosper until after the Civil War, when high tariffs on imported silk products helped American producers compete with their European rivals. Silk manufacturing was a big business before the days of synthetics. Silk, the "queen of fibers," dominated high fashion and the luxury trade, but women at all economic levels wanted their "best dresses" to be silk. Paterson had many advantages for the silk trade. It had abundant water supplies for power and processing and good transportation facilities. It also was close to New York City, the center of the fashion industry. Most importantly, Paterson had a supply of workers who understood the peculiar characteristics of the delicate silk fiber. By the 1880s, the city was producing almost half of the silk manufactured in the United States and had earned a nationwide reputation as "Silk City."¹Bernard Bailyn, Robert Dallek, et al. The Great Republic (D.C. Heath and Company, 1981), 611.
The hands of the silk worker are one of his most important assets. . . . Machinery does not do away with the use of hands in silk manufacture. The hands still remain, and will always remain, in my opinion, a very important factor in the operation. A man with clumsy, awkward hands handling silk warp is a very different factor from the man whose grandfather before him handled the silk fabric.²
On January 27, 1913, 800 broad silk weavers walked off the job at the Henry Doherty plant, one of Paterson's largest and most modern silk mills. Their grievance centered on Doherty's extension of the four-loom system in broad silk throughout the mill. Doherty's new looms were equipped with automatic controls that stopped the machinery whenever a thread broke. This technological improvement made it possible for one weaver to tend three or four looms, instead of the customary two. Claiming competition from low wage silk mills in Pennsylvania and the South, Doherty said he had turned to the four-loom system to increase productivity and thus save jobs. He refused to discontinue the system for which he invested a great deal of money.The broad silk weavers were soon joined by the ribbon weavers and the dye house workers. Soon after the strike started, the local representative of the Industrial Workers of the World union sent out a call to national headquarters requesting help in organizing the strike. The IWW, usually called the "Wobblies," advocated the formation of unions that included all workers in an industry, whether skilled or unskilled, and openly rejected the capitalist system. The union had earned a reputation for militant radicalism, even among other union organizers. "Big Bill" Hayward, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Carlo Tresca, and other famous IWW leaders arrived in Paterson in mid-February. They helped organize a central strike committee to unite the various craft and ethnic groups.Committees were established to handle communications, to manage a strike relief fund, to provide legal help for arrested strikers, and to organize mass meetings. By the end of February, nearly 300 mills and dye houses were closed, as 24,000 men, women, and children joined in an industry-wide strike.The strike immediately divided the Paterson community. On the one side were the mill owners and managers, the mayor, the chief-of-police, the judiciary, the clergy, the local press, and most of Paterson's middle class professionals and merchants. On the other side were the workers led both by their own people and by the IWW militants. The battle lines were drawn. This polarization was a major factor in the extraordinary length of the strike.The strikers' demands were radical for the times. They included the abolition of the three- and four-loom system in broad silk and the two-loom system in ribbon weaving; wage increases for broad and ribbon weavers, dyers' helpers, and other workers; and the eight hour day. To achieve these demands, the workers relied on maintaining industry-wide unity. They agreed that no one would return to work until all of the owners accepted their terms. Picket lines kept strike breakers out of the mills and intimidated those who did go back to work. More than 2,000 workers allowed themselves to be arrested, flooding the jails. Mass meetings informed the workers of strike developments, quelled rumors, and boosted morale. Dramatizing the arrests of prominent IWW leaders and the funeral of a bystander shot by one of the private security guards hired by the owners helped maintain the solidarity of the strike, the commitment of all the workers to the common cause. A pageant in Madison Square Garden in New York City, organized by workers, IWW organizers, and sympathetic Greenwich Village intellectuals, attracted national attention.The strike was remarkably free of violence. "Your power is in your folded arms," Haywood said. "You have killed the mills; you have stopped production; you have broken off the profits. Any other violence you may commit is less than this, and it will only react upon yourselves."¹The mill owners refused to talk to the union. They tried to set old and new immigrants against each other and worked with police and the courts to forbid speeches and rallies by the strikers. "Solidarity, unconquered, unconquerable," the IWW's battle cry, also became the mill owners' primary tactic. They formed a manufacturers' association whose purpose was clear; the mill owners would stand united. The owners agreed that the best way to break the strike was to hold out until the harsh reality of empty stomachs and crying children forced the workers to answer the mill whistle. They farmed out what work they could to their Pennsylvania mills and waited.By the end of May 1913, the workers' solidarity began to crack. The English-speaking and better paid workers were the first to break. They instructed their representatives on the central strike committee to vote to accept settlements with individual mill owners. At the same time workers started to cross the picket lines, despite the pleas of the IWW leaders. In July the central strike committee voted to endorse shop-by-shop settlements. The Paterson silk strike was over. The owners had conceded nothing. According to some estimates, the workers lost $5 million in unpaid wages during the strike and the mill owners lost $10 million in profits.There is still debate about the effects of the strike. Although the owners agreed to none of the strikers' demands, the two-loom system was still the standard in Paterson in 1919. The strike certainly accelerated the transfer of Paterson's large-scale silk manufacturing to Pennsylvania that had begun in the 1880s. There is no debate on the effect of the strike on the IWW. The defeat in Paterson marked the end of the union's effectiveness in the East.Paterson's silk industry did not stop growing after the strike, although its share of national silk production fell. Stimulated by wartime demand, it reached peak employment in 1919. Although hard hit by the Great Depression, a 1939 guide to New Jersey could still report that Paterson was the largest single silk-producing center in the country. By this time, the whole silk industry was in decline. The reasons given in the report were antiquated mills, the replacement of large mills with small family-operated shops, and the introduction of artificial silk (rayon).²Questions for Reading 21. What role did the IWW play in the strike?2. What was the immediate cause of the strike? What changes did the workers demand?3. Who do you think "won" the strike? What were its effects?4. What factors contributed to the decline of the silk industry in Paterson? Do you think the decline might have been prevented if the outcome of the strike had been different? Why or why not?
In nature, web building is an energetically costly process, making it critical that the entire web is strong enough to meet different loading demands11. By creating and modelling synthetic elastomeric webs inspired by nature, we have shown that the mechanical strength of the entire synthetic web is not solely due to the strength of individual threads, but as well to the web architecture. By keeping the total web mass and web topology constant to ensure that the fixed and loading boundary conditions are consistent, we optimized the web strength solely by adjusting the material distribution. Indeed, by controlling the ratio of the diameter of spiral and radial threads (and hence the failure load), the mechanical response of the synthetic web under loading can be systematically tuned and optimized for the given amount of material. We learn this lesson from synthetic webs, but the knowledge gained is useful for understanding how spiders utilize a limited amount of silk proteins to create optimal prey-trapping architectures. Harnessing this insight, we can now create synthetic analogues that possess high strength and low density for a wide range of engineering applications, such as reinforcement of composite materials, scaffolds for biomedical applications or for space exploration. Moreover, by combining computational modelling with novel 3D printing methods, one can use the same material to reach different desired mechanical functions in a facile and precise manner. 2b1af7f3a8