Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 183
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 183
 
is also true. I doubt if one of the family in the barge office could read or write his own name. Yet would you fear especial danger to our institutions, to our citizenship, from those four? He lives cheaply, crowds, and underbids even the Jew in the sweat shop. I can myself testify to the truth of these statements. A couple of years ago I was the umpire in a quarrel between the Jewish tailors and the factory inspector whom they arraigned before the governor on charges of inefficiency. The burden of their grievance was that the Italians were underbidding them in their own market, which of course the factory inspector could not prevent. Yet, even so, the evidence is not that the Italian always gets the best of it. I came across a family once working on “knee-pants.” “Twelve pants, ten cents,” said the tailor, when there was work. “Ve work for dem sheenies,” he explained.
  “Ven dey has work, ve gets some; ven dey hasn’t, ve don’t.” He was an unusually gifted tailor as to English, but apparently not as to business capacity. In the Astor tenements, in Elizabeth Street, where we found forty-three families living in rooms intended for sixteen, I saw women finishing “pants” at thirty cents a day. Some of the garments were of good grade, and some of poor; some of them were soldiers’ trousers, made for the government; but whether they received five, seven, eight, or ten

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