What Were the Working Conditions of Sweatshops in the 1800s?

According to the Independence Hall Association's website, sweatshops of the 1800s in the United States and England often forced employees to work long hours with little time off in dangerous, uncomfortable conditions. Many of these workers were children.

The Industrial Revolution, which spanned the 18th and 19th centuries in both the United States and England, saw manufacturing shift from a home-based enterprise to a factory-based endeavor of large-scale proportions, thanks to the development of machines capable of mass production. According to the History Channel, while the increase in availability of goods improved the standard of living for some people, it created dismal living and working conditions for the poor. Children, for example, were often forced to clean machinery, which could be a hazardous and even fatal task. Many workers were placed in overcrowded, unsanitary housing.

According to the Independence Hall Association's history website, the first factory built in the United States was a textile operation constructed shortly after George Washington was elected president. Inside, nine children powered 72 spindles by pushing foot pedals.

The British and American working class, including children, saw improvements in factory working conditions as the 19th century wound to a close and the government established a number of reforms, including allowing employees to form trade unions.