Fearing that machines and unskilled labour would replace them, skilled workers were the first to organize unions in Canada. Shoemakers, printers, carpenters and tailors, for example, all formed their own craft unions in order to promote common interests. Unfortunately, as the interviews below reveal, many were fighting a losing battle.

Thomas Crowley, a journeyman shoemaker, Windsor, being interviewed during the 1889 Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital.

What is the condition of the shoe business in Windsor?

It is in a very poor condition, and has been for some time...

Does machinery interfere with custom work?


What machines do you speak of?

Well, there is the sewing machine, the riveting machine, and almost all kinds of machines...

I suppose in a short time shoemaking will die out?

Well, the present race of shoemakers will die out.

Reading of interview from 1889 Royal Commission. Listen to a similar interview with Richard Sommerville, a cooper.

Link to the Social Progress Gallery