The crowds of clamoring men and women, most of whom abandoned their posts in the textile mills and manufacturing establishments along the Bowery to join the manifestation of loosely ordered mayhem, marched north until meeting a corridor of policemen along 34th Street, where they then stood their ground for another two hours listening to extemporaneous declamations by members of various organizations for the enforcement of factory laws. It is the opinion of those who witnessed the beginnings of the sudden and violent disturbances that employees of the E. Beigh textile factory in the Bowery were responsible for inciting the general pandemonium that ensued as workers from other factories joined the riot.
Anguish Into Anger
Shortly after 10 o'clock a thunderous explosion was heard in the vicinity of the E. Beigh factory. The explosion, heard as far away as the Brooklyn dockyards, shattered many a shop window on the surrounding blocks.
It is believed that the loud blast was the result of saboteurs who, blind with rage over the death of a young factory girl, introduced iron rods into one of the factory's cutting machines, bringing the mechanism to a fiery halt with a violent swiftness.
This scene of willful destruction was preceded by a gruesome accident on the second floor of the factory wherein a young girl who was feeding cloth into a device for trimming was yanked into the sharp maw of the machine as far as her elbows. While her piteous cries echoed throughout the building, workers attempted to wrest her from the rollers that continued to pull her deeper into the machine's razor-lined bowels. However, the poor girl died before relief could be administered.
Incandescent Light Blamed
Though city ordinances forbid women and children from wage work between the hours of 9 o'clock in the evening and 6 o'clock in the morning, many employers in the Bowery ignore these strictures with both regularity and impunity, and it is believed the number of factories that violate these laws, enacted for the protection of the women and children, has multiplied in recent years due to the favorable atmosphere and ample resources of today's economy.
Some who are familiar with the sundry practices of manufacturing assert that the increasing demand for workingmen to labor into the night, as much as 18 hours a day according to some of the orations of last night, has been facilitated by the introduction of incandescent lights, which by their ingenious design are less costly to operate than gas lighting.
But weariness of the worker has led to accidents on the order of crippling of hands, chronic fatigue, loss of digits and limbs, and, in extreme cases, death.
Eight-Hour Day Proposed
Following on the heels of a thorough inspection of the devastation wreaked upon his engines of production, the manufacturer Geoffrey E. Beigh declared his company's intention to continue its established system of hours. The firm reports that it generously offers scrip to workers who are paid by the day for their work but are required to put in increasingly longer hours.
Wageworkers at the E. Beigh mill and other factories are pleading for a reform of labor rules and, according to several parties familiar with the state governance, Mayor Van Wyck has expressed a keen interest in upholding the rights of the toiler. Amongst the list of improvements to the conditions of the working classes under consideration are the institution of an eight-hour day and the abandonment of scrip as legitimate tender for the rendering of hours worked in excess of a standard work shift.
[Due to a Y2K error, computers at South to the Future misidentified the current year as 1900, rather than 2000. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We expect a patch to be implemented in time for next week's story.]
South to the Future's stories contain fictional and factual elements. Except when public figures are being satirized, any use of real names is accidental and coincidental. Comments? Holler@sttf.org.