The Social Fabric
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Page contents:  Innungen - Guilds,  Berufe - Occupations, ever wondered ? 

Evere society has a certain social structure. The European one evolved over centuries and no end is in sight. With the slow evolution of modern tools and the availabilty of iron, certain trades evolved and a change in  society took place, from a total agrarian society  to partial city living.  This changed the agrarian society, which had to grow enough food not only for themselves but also for for city dwellers as well. With it, it required  storage facilities and methods of moving agricultural product to market. The reader has to keep in mind road were almost not existing, watertransport was only available about  8 months out of the year in some part of the country. Many of the commodities were only delivered during the Winter months because of poor road condition in general, but sleighs could be more sturdily built and had no moving parts which needed servicing. Keep in mind ballbearings became  part of the industrial revolution.  It became a logistic problem as well. This was not really solved until the introduction  of the railroad  from about 1842 on. One just has to remember the potatoe famine in Ireland. Many people died because of logistic problem, not being able to supply food at the right time and right quantities.

INNUNG/.. EN - Guilds

All tradespeople who made a living and charged for their services had to be licensed. The governing body for these trades are the Guilds. The creation of trades people also created the need for a society to oversee the quality, price, and proper training of all of them. A careful guarded  privileg given to the guilds which subsequently appointed the amount of craftsmen who could work in a certain city or district.   The head of a guild was an Obermeister, on his council several or all of the Meister would serve. Only if a need existed for the addition of an additional Meister, would a journeyman who had the proper training and years of experience and after a proper testing( Meisterprüfung) appointed.  Naturally preference would be given to sons of Meister or the lucky?  fellow who was able to marry a daughter of an existing Meister who was about to retire. Additional openings were created by population growth and the death of a Meister.    To become a Meister, you started out as a Lehrling(apprentice),  after an up to seven years learningtime (Lehrzeit) and a test (Gesellenprüfung) before the proper authorities, you were declared a journeyman, at which time you would be let loose and gained additional experience by travelling ( Wanderzeit)        Iím not sure at what time this practice stopped  but at one time an apprentice had to pay Lehrgeld, money he had to pay to learn a trade.  The expression is quite often used in the German language today in conjunction with a bad experience which result in a loss of money insofar  that he or she  had to pay  Lehrgeld.   Er musste Lehrgeld bezahlen.  You paid for your bad experience.    During their Wanderzeit journeymen could stay for free at a respective Meister who practiced his trade.  Today, Guilds are still controlling certain aspects of trades, but not the number and location of shops.


  A short explanation of terms  which explain the semi-independent populationís obligation towards the owner of the land, the crown and sometimes the church.

 Handwerker - a Craftsman. working with his hands. See also INNUNG

Böttcher                                                    Fassmacher, barrel maker,cooper

Dachdecker                                               Roofer

Leinweber                                                  weaver of linen  (Lein - Linen)

Maurer                                                       Bricklayer

Möbeltischler                                            Cabinetmaker

Müller                                                       Miller, (mill owner)

Rademacher - Stellmacher ,  Rade - Rad  - Wheel  Wheelmaker, Cartmaker, wheelwright

Schlachter                                                   Butcher

Schmied/..e                                                Blacksmith

Schneider                                                   Taylor

Schuster - Schuhmacher - Shoemaker.  The word Schuster has some negative connotation in the German language. Normally applied to somebody who does inferior work,                    zusammen geschustert.

Steinbrügger .. Steineversetzer, Pflasterer dr Steine für Straßen verlegt.

Tischler                                    Finish-carpenter. Somebody who did finer, more precise work.             

Zimmermann/.. leute                                    Carpenter


                                                             Ever wondered ?

 If you ever wondered if you of nobility because of the v. or von.  Rule of thump:       The ďvonĒ just assigns you to a location:    Max von Hinterberg  would just tell you that one of your ancestors was from behind the Berg  -- Hinterberg. Translated it would be:  of  or from.   The v.  would give you as a rule a lower (entry level  :-))) ) nobility. Similar to the title Sir or Dame in the UK.

   So you got a coat of arms from somebody in New York, which they researched very thoroughly and authentisized.   Well good for you !.  The average person was more concerned about bringing food on the table and hoped to survive the next winter, next flood, next Cholera epidemic etc. Donít burn it in your fireplace, but hang it in a prominent place, if you havenít already,  to remind you of Barnumís saying: Thereís a sucker born every minute.   If does not have a minimum of a unicorn, shield, lion you really got taken. 

The Good old Days in Jolly Old England

This article was copied with the permission of Mrs. Judith Doyle , Calgary Alberta, Canada

Albeit it reflects the condition in England, similar circumstances existed in Germany.

During the Industrial Revolution, the Population of England more than doubled. Men, women and children unable to find work on farms moved to towns and cities to seek work in factories, mills, mines and shops. Working conditions and crowded unsanitary housing took a terrible toll on workers who toiled long hours, being poorly fed, poorly housed, and poorly paid. ( Women and boys working the cotton mills in dreadful conditions were paid 2 shillings to 2 shillings and sixpence, a pittance , per week.) Working conditions were dangerous, accidents were rife, and workers were afflicted by industrial disease. Long shifts of 12 hours or more led to chronic fatigue that caused terrible accidents, especially for tired children working around machines with no guard rails.

Little was done to improve the lot of these unfortunate people as it was commonly held that the "masses" were less intelligent and inferior, due to heredity, than the "best stocks" found in the upper strata of society. From 1871 to 1880, life expectancy in Great Britain was 41 for males and 44 for females. These low figures were caused by high numbers of still birth, deaths of newborns, and failure to survive common childhood diseases, such as diphteria, scarlet fever, whooping cough and diarrhea. Those who survide childhood, diseases, accidents and giving birth, might live to their 60s, 70s and even 80s.

Industrial diseases arose in the mills. Mule spinners suffered cancer of the skin from constant contact with crude lubricating oils. Severe eczema was brought on by working with mineral oil and toiling with flax straw to produce linen thread. Cotton bale dust impaired lungs, bringing on asthma. The deadly Bacillus anthraces of ten present in bales of wool from Asia and Asia Minor could kill in one day! Phossy jaw was a nasty form of gangrene caused by working with white phosphorus, once used to make matches. Bakers developed itching blisters from daily kneading of bread dough, and asthma from the flour dust.

Plumbers and painters suffered from lead poisining along with those who worked in white lead production and chinaware glazing, and file cutters and enamellers, developed anemia leading to abdominal pain ( painter's colic ). sickness, defective vision, dropped wrist and paralysis of the hands. It was not until 1926 that The Lead Paint Act was passed to inprove working condition.

In quarries , flint dust rendered the lungs hard and in-elastic ( silicosis ), which easily led to tuberculosis. Miners not only suffered a high degree of accidents from caveins caused by firedamp ( methane ) explosions or careless propping practices, they often developed black lung from inhaling coal dust from a young age. Mine working condition were so abominable that in 1842, employment of women and girls in mines was prohibited. After that, only males over 10 years of age were allowed to work underground, the youngest hurrying carts of coal up low tunnels that forced them to work bent over, or crawl for 12 hours a day.

In 1897 a number of Workmen's Compensation Acts were passed. Safety devices were installed in mills and mines, and safety regulations were supposed to be enforced. In 1901 the Factory and Workshop Act required notice of all cases of anthrax, arsenic, lead, phosphorus and mercury poisoning so that sufferers and their dependents could be compensated for contracting such diseases.

Rheumatism and tuberculosis were scourges for people weakened by malnutrition and deficiencies. cold and filth, and parasites such as fleas and lice. The leading cause of death was diarrhea or dysentry, followed by tuberculosis and influenza. Despite the discovery of cowpox inoculation. smallpox was still a feared killer. Cholera and typhoid were spred by contaminated water in public water fountains that were the sole source of household water for many thousands of people living in crowded streets. Sewage disposal was primitive and not improved in some areas until the last century.

Childhood diseases were often fatal for children on poor diets. Famine was not unknown and adequate quantities of nutritious food were beyond most workers, who often existed on tea, bread, and cheap jam, stew made from meat bones, cabbage and potatoes. On a diet such as this children with severey bowed legs ( rickets) were a common sight. They suffered chilblains, gumbols, toothache, earache, skin diseases, head lice, frequent colds and bronchitis

To add to the misery large families of children were the rule, a new mouth to feed being born every two or three years on average. Most women bore 8 or 10 children, some were put to work as soon as they were able, to bring more money into the household. They wore homemade and hand-me down clothes, and handmedown shoes if they were lucky, or went barefoot. Children listed as scholars on censuses often stayed at home to tend smaller sisters and brothers. or were put to work, sometimes as young as three ! Men, women and children worked their guts out and died no better off than they were born. They were hard times, as Dickens related.

Toward the end of the 19th century came the dawn of public health, public education, amd more humane treatment of the workforce, yet most children continued to leave school at 12 to work long shifts for meager pay. Children as young as 12 drove carts and did manual work in rural areas

It was not until 1876 that Benjamin Disraeli's government passed a law introducing universal compulsory attendance at the elementary day schools. By 1880, attendance reached the 4 million mark. No child was excluded for want of ability to pay. No longer would people "make their mark": they would be be able to sign their names and read newspaper. Free secondary schools were still to come. In 1918 nursery schools were established, and the school leaving age was raised to 14. Even in 1930 my mother left school at the age of 14 to work full time weaving cloth in a woollen mill to help support her family, a common practice among all working class families. Only when their children were out working could parents save for their old age.

In th good old days, families were responsible for their old people. Most sick people were nursed at home and died at home. Birth still took place at home as late as the 1930s and 1940s, often with only a midwife. The destitute depended upon the parish, or as a last resort, had to subsists in the workhouse.

Improvement in housing for the working classes were slow to come. In the 1940s, many workers were still living in ancient sidebyside, backtoback, two-room, stonefloored, terraced houses with no heating other than a small open fire, and no indoor plumbing, except in some cases, a cold watertap. They had to share an outside toilet or privy with one or more families. Thes homes were almost universally rented from a landlord, often a millowner.

There was a silver lining to all this gloom for the bright, the strong and the healthy, lucky enough to be in work in smaller towns and villages. Shops and places of employment were within easy walking distance, so people got plenty of execise, and in semirural areas, fresh air. Most people were in the same boat, practicing extreme thrift with great skill, skill passed on from mothers and fathers to their children. Friends, neighbours and relatives saw each other on a daily basis as they went about their lives. shopkeepers, publicans and tradesmen lived and worked among the working families and were familiar faces to all. Few people lived alone.

Many people managed some comforts. Some rented garden allotments, if they had no gardens behind the house, to grow vegetables and keep a few hens. They kept their houses clean inside and out, dressed their children in clean clothes, struggled to pay their bills ( including the doctor's), and went to church. In the West Riding of Yorkshire, there was, close by, much beautiful countryside for walks and picnics on summer weekends, and this is where the young smitten lads and lasses went walking together. Along the country lanes, women and children picked nuts,and blackberries and other fruit to make jam. Just as today, all hoped not to be struck down by accident or ill health, and many were not, living to a ripe old age in spite of many an adversity.

For the less fortunate, the widowed. orphaned or old, those out of work or sick or injured, or those living in squalid tenements in large cities, the outlook was bleak. Only for the healthy and rich were there "good old days"

Last Update: April 6, 2008
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