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Sir Titus Salt

I spent a day, with great interest, in visiting the worsted mills and

warehouses at Saltaire, just out from Bradford, England, which cover

about ten acres. The history of the proprietor, Sir Titus Salt, reads

like a romance. A poor boy, the son of a plain Yorkshire man, at

nineteen in a loose blouse he was sorting and washing wool; a little

later, a good salesman, a faithful Christian worker and the

superintendent of a
Sunday school.

At thirty-three, happening to be in Liverpool, he observed on the docks

some huge pieces of dirty-looking alpaca wool. They had long lain in the

warehouses, and becoming a nuisance to the owners, were soon to be

reshipped to Peru. Young Salt took away a handful of the wool in his

handkerchief, scoured and combed it, and was amazed at its attractive

appearance. His father and friends advised him strongly to have nothing

to do with the dirty stuff, as he could sell it to no one; and if he

attempted to make cloth from it himself, he ran a great risk of failure.

Finally he said, "I am going into this alpaca affair right and left, and

I'll either make myself a man or a mouse."

Returning to Liverpool, he bought the whole three hundred bales for a

small sum, and toiled diligently till proper machinery was made for the

new material. The result was a great success. In three years over two

million pounds of alpaca wool were imported, and now four million pounds

are brought to Bradford alone. Employment was soon furnished to

thousands, laborers coming from all over Great Britain and Germany. Ten

years later Mr. Salt was made mayor of Bradford; ten years after this a

member of Parliament, and ten years later still a baronet by Queen

Victoria,--a great change from the boy in his soiled coarse blouse, but

he deserved it all. He was a remarkable man in many ways. Even when

worth his millions, and giving lavishly on every hand, he would save

blank leaves and scraps of paper for writing, and lay them aside for

future use. He was an early riser, always at the works before the

engines were started. It used to be said of him, "Titus Salt makes a

thousand pounds before others are out of bed." He was punctual to the

minute, most exact, and unostentatious. After he was knighted, it was no

uncommon thing for him to take a poor woman and her baby in the carriage

beside him, or a tired workman, or scatter hundreds of tracts in a

village where he happened to be. Once a gypsy, not knowing who he was,

asked him to buy a broom. To her astonishment, he bought all she was


The best of his acts, one which he had thought out carefully, as he

said, "to do good to his fellow-men," was the building of Saltaire for

his four thousand workmen. When asked once what he had been reading of

late, he replied. "Alpaca. If you had four or five thousand people to

provide for every day, you would not have much time left for reading."

Saltaire is a beautiful place on the banks of the river Aire, clean and

restful. In the centre of the town stands the great six-story mill,

well-ventilated, lighted, and warmed, five hundred and forty-five feet

long, of light-colored stone, costing over a half million dollars. The

four engines of eighteen hundred horse-power consume fifteen thousand

tons of coal per year. The weaving shed, covering two acres, holds

twelve hundred looms, which make eighteen miles of fabric per day.

The homes of the work-people are an honor to the capitalist. They are of

light stone, like the mill, two stories high, each containing parlor,

kitchen, pantry, and three bedrooms or more, well ventilated and

tasteful. Flower beds are in every front yard, with a vegetable garden

in the rear. No broken carts or rubbish are to be seen. Not satisfied to

make Saltaire simply healthful, by proper sanitary measures, and

beautiful, for which Napoleon III. made him one of the Legion of Honor,

Mr. Salt provided school buildings at a cost of $200,000, a

Congregational church, costing $80,000, Italian in style,--as are the

other buildings,--a hospital for sick or injured, and forty-five pretty

almshouses, like Italian villas, where the aged and infirm have a

comfortable home. Each married man and his wife receive $2.50 weekly,

and each single man or woman $1.87 for expenses. Once a year Mr. Salt

and his family used to take tea with the inmates, which was a source of

great delight.

Believing that "indoor washing is most pernicious, and a fruitful source

of disease, especially to the young," he built twenty-four baths, at a

cost of $35,000, and public wash-houses. These are supplied with three

steam engines and six washing machines. Each person bringing clothes is

provided with a rubbing and boiling tub, into which steam and hot and

cold water are conveyed by pipes. The clothes are dried by hot air, and

can be washed, dried, mangled, and folded in an hour. In Sweden, I found

the same dislike to having washing done in the homes, and clothes are

usually carried to the public wash-houses.

Perhaps the most interesting of all Mr. Salt's gifts to his workmen is

the Saltaire Club and Institute, costing $125,000; a handsome building,

with large reading-room supplied with daily papers and current

literature, a library, lecture-hall for eight hundred persons, a "School

of Art," with models, drawings, and good teachers, a billiard-room with

four tables, a room for scientific study, each student having proper

appliances for laboratory work, a gymnasium and drill-room nearly sixty

feet square, an armory for rifle-practice, and a smoking-room, though

Mr. Salt did not smoke. The membership fee for all this study and

recreation is only thirty seven cents for each three months. Opposite

the great mill is a dining-hall, where a plate of meat can be purchased

for four cents, a bowl of soup for two cents, and a cup of tea or coffee

for one cent. If the men prefer to bring their own food, it is cooked

free of charge. The manager has a fixed salary, so that there is no

temptation to scrimp the buyers.

Still another gift was made to the work-people; a park of fourteen

acres, with croquet and archery grounds, music pavilion, places for

boating and swimming, and walks with beautiful flowers. No saloon has

ever been allowed in Saltaire. Without the temptation of the beer-shops,

the boys have grown to intelligent manhood, and the girls to virtuous

womanhood. Sir Titus Salt's last gift to his workmen was a Sunday-school

building costing $50,000, where are held the "model Sunday schools of

the country," say those who have attended the meetings. No wonder, at

the death of this man, 40,000 people came to his burial,--members of

Parliament, clergymen, workingmen's unions, and ragged schools. No

wonder that statues have been erected to his memory, and that thousands

go every year to Saltaire, to see what one capitalist has done for his

laborers. No fear of strikes in his workshops; no socialism talked in

the clean and pretty homes of the men; no squalid poverty, no depraving


That capital is feeling its responsibility in this matter of homes for

laborers is one of the hopeful signs of the times. We shall come,

sometime, to believe with the late President Chadbourne, "The rule now

commonly acted upon is that business must be cared for, and men must

care for themselves. The principle of action, in the end, must be that

men must be cared for, and business must be subservient to this great


If, as Spurgeon has well said, "Home is the grandest of all

institutions," capital can do no better work than look to the homes of

the laborer. It is not the mansion which the employer builds for

himself, but the home which he builds for his employe, which will insure

a safe country for his children to dwell in. If discontent and poverty

surround his palace, its foundations are weak; if intelligence has been

disseminated, and comfort promoted by his unselfish thought for others,

then he leaves a goodly heritage for his children.