August 7 2017
Jobs and labor organization in the paper mills
There is a document from 1820 – Regolamento dell’arte della carta all’uso di Toscana (Guidelines for the art of papermaking in use in Tuscany) – that was drawn up on the model of the paper mills of Pescia, illustrating and reviewing the equipment and tasks of the different professions working in the factories.
The buildings, which had to be located in cool, well-ventilated areas close to abundant high-quality water supplies, had a layout appropriate to the different stages of processing. On the ground floor there was the vat (the tank where the rags were washed) and the multiple hammer mill (wooden hammers driven by water mills that shredded the rags). The first floor was used for the workers’ living quarters and the finishing of paper and its packing into reams and bales. On the second floor there was the drying rack where the sheets were taken to dry.
Of course, there were numerous external factors which could hinder the processes – an environment that was too cold could ruin the pulp, one that was too warm wrecked the gluing. There might be a lack of water to turn the wheels of the mill but too much rain could render them unusable. In summer the paper could dry out too quickly and turn yellow, while in winter the drying process was more difficult. The availability of labor also had seasonal patterns, not to mention the problem of the supply of rags.
The description of factory life and the jobs of each worker were very accurately described. The stracciatore (shredder) selected, shredded and cleaned the rags; the student was responsible for the maintenance of the hammer mills; the lavorente (worker) at the vat supervised the most skilled stages of production, setting a good example for the other workers; and the amministratore (administrator) had the delicate task of gluing the paper. Each of them were paid very different wage packets that varied not only according to their jobs but also between youths and adults and men and women.