There was a time when, as a rule, workmen looked upon machinery as being injurious to their interests; and a feeling of antagonism was naturally raised in them against any invention that aimed at rapid production of manufactured goods. This feeling of hostility was quite natural in the uneducated artisan, who fancied he saw in every new invention an implement of oppression.
It must be admitted, however, that in some instances, at any rate, the introduction of labor-saving machinery has been of great benefit to many of the working classes. But while it cannot be denied that the hours of labor have bean shortened, wages advanced, and to some extent necessaries cheapened, it will be found that employees have increased out of all proportions, and that a larger amount of skilled labor remains idle than ever before; and that although some necessaries are cheaper in name than they were fifty years ago, it must be remembered that the purchasing power of a dollar is but little more than half what it was at that period.
The great cry, also, of high wages being given to mechanics, has but little force, when the fact is taken into consideration that the amount paid to-day has but little more purchasing power than one-half the same amount had half a century ago. We are not prepared to say that the introduction and use of labor-saving machinery have not been a benefit to the world at large; but we think we are safe in saying that whatever may be the benefits derived from this source, they are evidently not evenly divided.
Carpentry and Building – July 1879
– Jeff Burks