In honor of the just-past May Day holiday, we’ve pulled items representing work and workers for this week’s open research hours. Swing by before 1:00 today (or make an appointment any time) to see these in person!
Above, from L-R: image from Old London Street Cries and the Cries of To-Day (London: Field & Tuer, 1885); title page from John Gay; Or, Work for Boys (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1864); image from an untitled Italian book of men and women dressed for different occupations (let us know if you know more about this one!).
Here’s the table of contents from Charles Quill’s The American Mechanic, published in 1838.
Fun fact regarding this book: the Providence Public Library was founded in 1871 when members from The Franklin Society, The Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry, The Franklin Lyceum, and the Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers joined together to form a free public library (and art gallery and natural history museum). When the library first opened its doors in 1878, its collection contained a great number of books from the Mechanics’ Library. Many of those books are still here today, housed in Special Collections, and identifiable by the Mechanics’ Library stamp on the title page. Here’s the (rather faded) evidence that The American Mechanic was part of PPL’s original collection:
For those with a deeper interest in Rhode Island labor history, I recommend checking out some of the labor-related images in our digital collections. I also highly recommend the gorgeous and heartbreaking collection of digitized photographs from the National Child Labor Committee Collection at the Library of Congress. You can search within that collection for photographs taken in Rhode Island, of which there are more than 100. (These investigative photographs were taken by Lewis Hine between 1908 and 1924, while working for the nationwide National Child Labor Committee. They’re an incredible glimpse into the lives of factory and textile workers, as well as immigrants and working class families, in the early 20th century.)