The Ball Warpers: The Policy of Their Unions and Its Results

J. W. F. Rowe
1922 Economica  
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more » ... e history of their wages as affected by the policy of their unions is sufficiently interesting and generally instructive to merit a brief study. The facts, for example, that wages have remained at approximately the same level throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, and' that the number of warpers in Lancashire" has remained stationary for thirty years, despite the enormous expansion of the cotton industry are sufficiently striking to demand some explanation, and as will be seen, the history of the warpers throws much light on the general question as to whether wages can be controlled artificially for the permanent benefit of the controller. The process of warping consists essentially in the arrangement of a number of threads of yarni in such a way that they lie parallel to one another and can be separated without any fear of tangling. This is done by leading the threads from a large number of bobbins rnouinted in a framework, through a sort of comb, after which they are collected and passed through a snmall rectangular aperture and wound in the form of a skein round a large revolving drum. When the required length has been wound on to the drum, the ends are cut and knotted, and the skein is then wound off the drum by hand into the form of a ball. Hence the name ball warping, or as it used more often to be called, " mill-warping, " presumably from the big revolving drum. The machine is substantially the same to-day as it was more than half a century ago, though various modifications have, of course, been introduced. To-day the length required is very much greater, and consequently the size of the drums has increased till there are now many of twenty yards in circumference and eight to nine feet high. But it is certain that we need make little or no allowance for changes in the armount of skill required. The operatives are almost entirely men-a female ball warper is a rarity and always has been. It is miost decidedly a skilled occupation, needing a man of intelligence and of education above what was the average of fifty years ago. Even given these requirerments, definite teaching and instruction in the art is necessary; a warper
doi:10.2307/2548453 fatcat:ivw3wyydmnedriylyjkv67y5ue