High above the courtyard of the Boott Cotton Mills stands a clock tower, crowned by a street bell. The bells chimed six times each day, summoning workers to and from their machines. In the new industrial cities of America, the factory bell replaced the sun as a signal for daily tasks.
Each day the workers passed through the mill gates to a workplace where danger, noise and filth were common. Workers arriving late found locked gates and had to enter through the adjacent countinghouse. There they faced the mill agent and the penalty of docked pay or dismissal. Today the sidewalk leads to the Boott Cotton Mills Museum.
Among the workers were children—-often from immigrant families. Pay was poor, and many families depended on children's wages for survival. Child labor laws encouraged children to obtain working papers to work in the factories.
(Inscription beside the photo on the lower left)
"Bell Time" by Winslow Homer, Harpers Weekly, 1868
(Inscription under the photo in the center)
Boott Cotton Mills spinning room, 1938
(Inscription over the photo on the right)
Workers leaving the mills, ca.1910