Mules with Mule Scavengers

Worst Jobs in the Georgian Period

The Georgian period brought a new variety of worst jobs, such as the Resurrection Man, who kept doctors and scientists supplied with bodies for their research; or the Hermit, who was paid by wealthy landowners to live in the garden and do nothing at all, literally – for 7 to 10 years; or Castrato, young boys, between the ages of 8 and 10, castrated to preserve their singing voices.  However, it was the Mule Scavenger who had the worst job of all in Georgian times.

The Mule Scavenger
Arkwright"The invention of Hargreaves ‘Spinning Jenny’ in 1765, Arkwright’s water frame in 1769, and Crompton’s looms (called “mules”) in 1779, with the addition of an effective steam engine used to supplement the water power that ran the looms, revolutionized the spinning industry.  The most junior of the mill apprentices was the Mule Scavenger. 

Mule Scavenging combined the risk of accident with severe long-term health problems.  To stop the cotton from drying out, the atmosphere was kept warm and humid.  The cotton dust that flew around caused eye infections and lung disease.  The perpetual chugging and clanging of the moving machinery made human interaction next to impossible. 

As the mule moved forward and back weaving the thread, bits and pieces of cotton fluff would drop beneath the machinery as well as in the moving parts.  Weavers earned a piece rate, so the machinery at the mill was never stopped.  For twelve hours a day, the Mule Scavenger worked beneath the moving machinery crawling back and forth with a brush and sack in time with the moving mule gathering up the lost bits of cotton.  They worked barefoot so that the hobnails in their shoes would not cause sparks and ignite the highly flammable cotton dust.  If they’re movements got out of time with the rhythm of the mule, they could lose a finger or hand or even head."