Thompsonville Carpet Weavers Strike of 1834

How To

Classroom Setup

This lesson begins with a short lecture and video on the market revolution to the whole class.  Then students will read two articles and respond to prompts provided in guided reading sheets.  Finally, they will construct a narrative to add to the Enfield history website about the carpet weavers strike. 

Activity 1 

  1. Give students a context of the economic change that came in the beginning of the 19th century.  Distinguish between workers and employers/owners/industrialists. Brainstorm how their interests would be the same and how their interests might be different.

Watch the short video (2:02) on the Market Revolution narrated by Eric Foner. Help students to define what factors made the Market Revolution happen.

  1. Read the 12-paragraph secondary source, "The Thompsonville Carpet Weavers Case," written by historians at the Connecticut State Library.

From the first paragraph we find out that "the carpet weavers...significantly contributed to the early labor movement." Your job in this exercise is to figure out what their contributions were. Answer the following questions on the accompanying worksheet.

  1. When the author uses the term "labor movement," they mean that the workers got together to stand up for their rights. This was unusual in the 1830s when this story occurs. Before you read anymore, for what issues do you think workers would band together? Use paragraph 1 and your background knowledge.
  2. In the 1820s and 1830s, what did weavers need to weave carpets? Use paragraph 2.
  3. What do you think the author means when they say that the "weavers had both individual and collective bargaining power"? Use paragraph 3.
  4. Give an example of what workers might bargain over. Use paragraph 4 and background knowledge.
  5. What specifically did the weavers ask for? Use paragraph 4.
  6. Why did the company's board of trustees say the weavers did not deserve a raise in pay? Use paragraph 5.
  7. How did the weavers respond to the board of trustees saying no? Use paragraph 6.
  8. Why did the weavers feel like they had the power to do this? Use inference and paragraph 5.
  9. What did the weavers do to keep the agent from hiring replacement workers? Use paragraph 7.
  10. With what did the company charge the weavers? Use paragraph 7.
  11. The case went to a five day trial. What were the three issues brought up in the trial? Use paragraph 8.
  12. Paragraph 9 describes two types of agreements the workers might have made - which do you think they made?
  13. In whose favor did the jury decide? Use paragraph 10.
  14. Why did the era of bargaining power of carpet weavers end in the late 1840s? Use paragraph 11.
  15. What is this story about in relationship to the Market Revolution?
  16. Why was their case significant? Use paragraph 10.
  1. Read Diana McCain's "Enfield weavers loom large in history," an 11-paragraph secondary source.

From the title, we find out that the carpet weavers had an impact on our history. As you read the article, it is your job to figure out what the significance is of these weavers. 
Now read the article and answer the questions on the accompanying worksheet as you go through it.

Article from the Hartford Courant about the Thompsonville carpet weavers strike of 1833. Written by Diana Ross McCain. Published July 18, 1990

  1. What did the Scottish weavers want from the Thompsonville Carpet Manufacturing Company? Use paragraph 1.
  2. What did these weavers do to get what they wanted? Use paragraph 1.
  3. What were two reasons the Scottish weavers migrated to Enfield? Use paragraph 2.
  4. How did the Thompsonville Carpet Manufacturing Co. figure out how much to pay the weavers? Use paragraph 3.
  5. What specifically did the weavers ask for when they got together on July 23, 1833, and what were the 2 reasons why they asked for it? Use paragraph 3.
  6. Did the company give the raise and what was the reason? Use paragraph 4.
  7. How did the weavers respond to this decision? And what did the company do in return? Use paragraph 4.
  8. How did the company threaten the workers? Use paragraph 5 and paragraph 6.
  9. What 2 other actions did the company take to hurt the weavers who went on strike? Use paragraph 7.
  10. The weavers fought back! What did they do? Use paragraph 8.
  11. Why did the company have so much power to get the weavers back to work? Use paragraph 8.
  12. Why would the author say that the weavers won, even though they were forced to go back to work with no raise in wages? Use paragraph 9.
  13. Historians say that this strike was important for organized labor - often called unions. What did the carpet weavers do that is similar to modern day unions? Use paragraph 10.
  14. What is the significance of this strike to workers today?
  15. What is this story about in relationship to the Market Revolution?
  16. Which piece of information is most important to understand in this story? Look back at the answers you gave and tell which box helped you understand this issue the best and why.
  1. Now tell the story of this worker action from a point of view from 1836 after the court case. What happened? What events were most important? Who won and what did they win? Who lost and what did they lose? Possible roles:
  • Scottish migrant skilled carpet weaver
  • Agent who runs the factory
  • Strikebreaker
  • Consumer who buys rugs
  • Another point of view from 1836 who would have a point of view on the event