Image: “Our Honored Guest,” Frank Bellew, Harper’s Weekly, 2 September 1871. From the collection of Bert Hansen, Ph.D., found in his essay, “The Image and Advocacy of Public Health in American Caricature and Cartoons from 1860 to 1900,” published in the American Journal of Public Health, November 1997, Vol. 87, No. 11, 1798-1807.
I have no doubt that Eli, Maggie, and friends would have perceived Josiah Norton in much the same way as the artist who drew the above caricature of 1870s industrialists. Eli and cohort are becoming aware, or at least suspicious of the impact that low wages and poor living conditions have on the health of the employees in Norton Mill No. 3. The only change they might have made to Bellew’s illustration would be to replace the word “Cholera” on Death’s carpet bag with the words “Typhoid Fever.”
Of course, issues regarding the use and abuse of employees in factories is not new to the Saint Maggie series. In Seeing the Elephant, Eli visits factories and mills other than the ones belonging to Josiah Norton in order to write an article on the subject for Blaineton’s newspaper, The Register. Josiah, by the way, views said article as a personal attack. Eli claims it is not, which is partially true.
My crusading newspaperman dislikes the way things are going and has thrown his hat in with the working class.
Now… on to our topic.
What’s the second step in annoying a 19th century industrialist?
Surprise him. Also, go over his head. It’s a two-step process.
When Josiah Norton stamps his little foot and demands that patients stricken with typhoid fever must be removed from Dormitory Number One to make room for new employees, Drs. Lightner and Frost set out to solve the problem, thanks to a brilliant idea from blacksmith Richard Hancock.
Granted, there is no doubt that today their activity would be considered illegal and followed by a big fat lawsuit. But the 1800s were a “can do” era with just a touch of “anything goes.”
I had planned to insert the SCRIBD document here and then follow up with my conclusion, but since Weebly has seen fit to be difficult and insists on not letting me add another text block, I'll do it here. Take that, Weebly. I pay for this site, but it's become really tough to work with ever since you fully hooked up with Square.
In the end, Josiah's annoyance is tempered by the buildings on his land. However, they were constructed free of charge and are ready to be rented to office employees and other higher-ups. In this way, monetary greed eventually overrides his outrage.
Next week, we'll look at the last step in annoying a 19th century industrialist, and Eli will demonstrate it for us in next week's Squeaking Blog.
Until then, stay cool and stay safe, friends,
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder