The Salvation Army and the Working Class


Mr. F. A. McKenzie (the Army’s official trumpeter for 1908-9) in his Booth-inspired work of fiction : “Waste Humanity” writes as follows :

“Let us trace what becomes of the man anxious to leave the streets, who appeals to the Salvation Army for aid. He first goes to the Social Headquarters in Whitechapel-road, where he states his case. . . The Army’s officials say to him. Here is a chance for you to rise again. Make the best of it. Do what you are told. Put your heart and back into the work given you. . . . This is not a place of worship—it is a place of work. God bless you !
The man who appears to be genuine, etc., etc., . . . is sent, if there is room, to one of the City Colony Elevators in Spa-road, Bermondsey.”

The process of “Elevation” is both curious and instructive. The “out-of-works” are put to sorting waste paper and refuse. This the Army collects for nothing, under the plea that souls are thereby to bs saved and wastrels (!) “elevated.” As no wages are paid, the luckless inmates experience all the refined tortures of an elaborate “truck” system.

Tickets are given them with which to obtain food and shelter. “At Spa Road and Old Street waste paper sorting elevators, the man, whether on the barrows or at the screens, are lucky if, in addition to their keep (valued at 7s.) they get more than a money grant of 6d. or 1s. for a very long week’s work. Many of the inmates remain for years, without showing any sign or seeing any prospect of Elevation.

“It is only natural that many men leave from dissatisfaction after trying the system long enough to learn that, instead of raising them, it is designed to keep them in perpetual submersion.” (“The Salvation Army and the Public,” p. 66.)

Until recently one of the principal industries connected with these depressors (beg pardon, “Elevators”) was the manufacture of firewood. Si keen was the Army on getting orders for elevated firewood that many of the ordinary makers were forced to engage fewer hands.

Picture to yourselves these aforesaid hands turned on to the street owing to the operation of this precious schema, there to make their way to the nearest Shelter, thence to find work at an Elevator, pushing more hands out, and so on ad infinitum !

In 1892 the average earnings of an Army wood chopper were 1s. 2½d. per day, paid in tokens thus : Breakfast 3d, Dinner 4d., Tea 3d., Bed 2d., and 2½d. reserved as money grant and to cover cost of Sunday meals.

The average wage (!) paid was therefore 7s. 3d. par week, while the highest possible was 11s. per week—7s. of it being in “truck.”

As regards underselling, whilst on the one hand the officials make loose and vague statements to the effect that “no underselling takes place,” on the other hand we have the definite declaration of certain firewood makers that they have lost orders and contracts through being undersold by the Army, and were compelled to employ fewer hands owing to the capture of their trade by the Army.

When confronted with these definite pronouncements (full data being supplied) the Army found a safe refuge in discreet silence. In au interview published in the Blackburn Times, Aug. 3rd, 1907, General Booth said :

“We have practically no firewood-making now. It raised so much prejudice and silly opposition that we gave it up.”

Doubtless the touching pictures in the Social Gazette of March 21st 1908—”Wood-Chopping” and “Preparing Firewood”—were directly the result of “giving it up” !


There is no discipline so brutal as that of the sweater ; there is no slavery so relentless as that front which we seek to deliver the victims.”In Darkest England,” p. 166.

Although our factories will be permanent institutions they will not be anything more than temporary resting places to those who avail themselves of their advantages.—Ibid, p. 109.

One of the most famous—or rather, infamous—of the Salvation Army’s social institutions is the Joinery Elevator in Hanbury Street, White-chapel. Every man who goes into this den has to sign an agreement. From this agreement—a copy of which we have been fortunate enough to obtain—a few quotations will prove very instructive.

CLAUSE 1. “I declare that, being unable to find work elsewhere, and being homeless, friendless, and destitute, I have been admitted to the City Colony, to work only for my subsistence and shelter, and that everything allowed me beyond this will be so allowed by the kindness of the Governor.

CLAUSE 5. “I understand that no payment of any kind is promised beyond food and lodgings, etc.”

CLAUSE 6. “I agree to give my clothes over to the Officer on entrance, and if, in the opinion of the Officer, they are incapable of further use, the Colony to supply me on loan with the necessary clothes, for which I am prepared to give a receipt, with the distinct understanding that should I on leaving the Colony take these clothes with me without written authority for my so doing, I render myself liable to be charged with embezzlement.

CLAUSE 7. “I understand that in the event of my giving the Officer cause for dissatisfaction by bad behaviour, or for any other reason, I am liable to instant dismissal, and also to the forfeiture of my reward promised for industrious work.

From sixty to eighty men are usually employed at these “works.”

Except in the case of a very few outside or “paid hands” taken on from time to time, all the men taken in are “out-of-works.”

“The joinery works,” says Mr. Manson, “are well equipped, the machinery being driven by electricity. Practically every kind of work is undertaken—inside doors and front doors, windows, office partitions, flights of stairs, benches for halls, kitchen tables, and train indicators. To do such work at all competently a man must be a very good joiner. No inexperienced man could do it.

The hours worked at this “Labour Hospital” are from 6.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except on Saturdays). Three-quarters of an hour is allowed for breakfast, and one hour for dinner, both of which are supplied at Quaker Street (a sort of soup kitchen run by the Army) half a mile away.

The working week is 53½ hours, with frequent overtime. And an 11¾ hours’ working day is not uncommon.

The work done is rated by time or by piece. 2s. a day or 12s. a week is the wage or allowance given for time or day work.

9s. a week is deducted as the cost of board and lodging, thus leaving an average of 3s. a week by way of money grant.

Much light from various sources was from time to time thrown upon these “elevating” methods. Forthwith the Salvation Army officials made strenuous efforts to excuse their damnable practices by depreciating and vilifying the quality of the men’s work. “Piece-work” was flatly denied.

Apropos of this last some comparisons of official statements will prove amusing as well as most instructive:

COMMISSIONER STURGESS. (Memorandum July 22nd, 1908.)
“Hanbury St. is not a piecework shop

(Commissioner Sturgess’ assistant.)
“When a man becomes experienced we put him on piecework.”


(Agreement signed by men.)
“In the case of task work,” etc.

(An Army official to a representative of the Times. “It is all piecework.”


(War Cry, May 1st, 1909.)
“We said that the majority of those provided with employment had lost their skill, and could only do the commonest class of work, and little of that.

Salvation Army Year Book, 1908. Page 43. “The majority are accomplished hands, and are able to do any hind of work usually carried on in the trades.” (Carpentry, joinery, and painting).


A knowledge of what the Army professes to pay its hands for piecework is of great importance, because we can then discover, with a fair degree of accuracy, how these prices compare with those paid outside for exactly the same work. The work-tabs which have—unfortun¬ately from the Army’s point of view—come to light, show this clearly.

These tabs supplied to the men for each job give the price to be paid to the man for making, and bear the signature of the officer in charge.

“Comparisons are odorous,” as the old lady said in the play, but the following list (by no means a complete one), showing the prices paid by the Army for certain work, and the prices estimated by a master-builder as those which he would have to pay for the same work, is positively damning.

No amount of plausibility can possibly explain away these stubborn facts.


1.—Make 3 large square bay windows, 6 ft. 6 in. high, 9 ft. 2½in. wide on front; one mullion ; side lights 1 ft. 7 in., 1¾” sashes,
The Lot: Salvation Price £1 12d. 6d. Builder’s Price £2 14s.

2.—Make 5 bathroom mullion frames and sashes, 6 ft. high ; each sash 2 ft. 3 ins. wide ; twelve lights in top sash.
The lot: Salvation Price 12s. 6d. Builder’s Price £1 17s. 6d.

3.—Make 2 glass partitions 5 ft. by 5 ft. 9 in.; two mullions ; one cross bar in each sash.
The lot: Salvation Price 6s. 0d. Builder’s Price 13s. 6d.

4.—Make 4 casement frames, two 5ft. 5 in. high by 9 ft. 6 in. wide, two 5 ft. high by 6 ft. 6 in. wide ; transom bar in each frame ; ten lights in sash, four lights in transom.
The lot: Salvation Price £1 5s. 0d. Builder’s Price £3 10s. 0d.

5.—Make one oriel solid frame and sash, height 5 ft., width 3 ft. over all, depth 1ft. 6 in. ; two upright bars in top sashes, one up¬right bar in bottom sashes
Salvation Price 7s. 0d. Builder’s £1 5s. 0d.

(To be continued)


Leave a Reply