When I was a young boy back in the 1940's
my father would drive me past the dye works in Newark. It was located
on Vanderpool Street in the lower portion of Newark. I think it
was part of the DuPont Paint Division. As a little boy it blew my
mind. All the workers were covered with blue powder. They were literally
dyed blue. I assume it was water soluble since I never seen them
Down Town. It so impressed me that that when I started driving I
would often drive by it. I couldn't imagine any type of employment
with worse working conditions.
Recently my wife and I visited the Anthracite Museum by us in
Scranton, PA. The highlight of the museum is a one hour tour 250'
underground in a coal mine. It was very impressive. It is basically
50 degrees all year so they provide loaner jackets for warmth. We
entered the mine on a cable car that was lowered down a tracked
1,500' incline plane. It was a 3 minute dissent into a cold, dark
and dirty underworld. The guide gave us a dissertation on the mine
and those who worked in it. The original miners were English and
Welsh. Circa 1860 many Irish immigrants were brought over to work
for them. The English and the Welsh miners became their bosses.
Because they were Catholic they were abused. Working conditions
were horrible. Boys as young as 8 would work at the mines as "Breaker
Boy's" 12 hours a day 6 days a week for a $1.50.
The old miners who became to ill-being to work in the mines would
again become "Breaker Boy's ".
It was a bestial circle.
The Irish usually deflected discrimination with latent humor.
Like the Irishmen before them, the new immigrants bore the brunt
of prejudice and resentment. The Slavs thought the Irish miners
were offering a helping hand by teaching them English. They soon
realized they were actually being taught to curse in order to infuriate
In 1900 Scranton, PA. was the richest city for its size in the
world. That was done off the backs of those poor souls who worked
Remember the old saying for Down Neck feet? "Tough as leather
, black as coal" . The miner's whole body met that description.
When I think back at the dye works in Newark it wasn't that bad.