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Cotton Spinners

Burrell Collection Photo Library

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Cotton Spinners

A painted tin tray made c 1825, probably as a retirement gift to an office bearer of the Friendly Association of Cotton Spinners. The illustration is based on the FACS's banner, and shows a cotton spinner holding out his hand to a fellow child or woman worker standing in front of a large spinning mule.

Friendly societies were mutual self-help associations formed to assist members in times of unemployment or ill-health. The Glasgow Friendly Association of Cotton Spinners was formed c 1806, but in the face of attempts by the owners of Glasgow's cotton spinning mills to reduce wages the FACS evolved to become a trade defence organisation or union. Its militant members sometimes resorted to violence, harassing unpopular employers and "knobs" (spinners willing to accept wages below the rate set by the Society), in some cases shooting or throwing vitriol (acid) in the faces of their victims.

In 1837 the Society called on its members to strike in response to a reduction in wages in Glasgow's spinning factories. The Society's funds drained away, its leaders were arrested and the strike collapsed. The FACS then faded away.

Reference: 1420.78.502 / A.1938.11.du

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums

Keywords:
blacklegs, children, coats of arms, cotton mills, cotton plants, cotton spinners, cotton spinning, cotton weaving, crowns, Friendly Association of Cotton Spinners, friendly societies, knobs, looms, retirement gifts, sailing ships, scabs, ships, shootings, spinning mules, strikes, textiles, trade unions, trays, union banners, vitriol, weavers, women



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