The Salvation Army and the Working Class



The “Balance” Dodge
They have a very curious system of weekly “balances” at the Hanbury Street Elevator. This balance is the sum of money earned by the men over and above the cost of their keep and their money grant. In theory this is placed to their credit week by week, and is shown in a small book. In this book are also entered particulars of the men’s work for the week. These books are not, it would appear, issued upon any regular system. Some of the men get them, some do not. If a worker asks to see his “book,” as often as not he is told that he has no balance.

“Clever” Bookkeeping
The system of bookkeeping in vogue at Hanbury Street has besides the curious effect of gradually reducing a man’s balance to nil, so that eventually the “wretched outcast” who has been taken in and done for, ceases to bother about anything at all. To quote John Hanson’s words :

“This skilled workman goes on, and doubtless will go on to the end, doing his 9¾ or 11¾ hours work in the 24 ; trudging to and fro twice or thrice a day, in all weathers, poorly clad and poorly fed, between the Hanbury Street ‘Hospital’ and the Quaker Street refectory half-a-mile away ; and accepting the Army’s 2s. or 2s. 6d. pittance at the end of the week as a matter of course. It is well for him—and the Army—that there is little time for brooding.”
“With your mind taken up all day with work like this,” he says, “you haven’t time to think about anything else. … I know few things more deplorable in civilized life to-day than the operation of this ‘elevator’ which receives the helpless derelicts of industry, and, with specious promises, systematically imbues them with dull and listless despair….. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might,’ is the appropriate text inscribed in large letters across this philanthropic carpentry shop. It is appropriate—for the officials see that it is acted upon.
“‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’ might fitly be made to supplement it.”

Did space permit, we could enlarge upon the trickery and swindling carried on in connection with the Quaker Street “hostelry.” Those who care to follow up the story of this “side line” of the Army may with advantage refer to page 75 of “The Salvation Army and the Public.”

A Mean Defence
When faced with any criticism of their Hanbury Street methods, the steadfast policy of the officials (from Booth down) has been to cast a slur on the quality of the men’s work. “Decrepit,” “derelict,” are some amongst the choice epithets these curs employ when speaking of their unfortunate victims—victims, some of them, whose shoes they are not worthy to black.

“It is impossible,” said Col. Moss on one occasion to a representative of the Morning Leader, “to pay trade union rates of wages to men who had never known or had forgotten how to perform the work of the trade,” (The italics are ours.)

Go to Victoria Station (L.B.S.C.Ry.). As you enter the building one of the first objects—in fact the first—to catch your eye will be the very elaborate “train indicator.” This was put up toward the end of November, 1907, and was entirely made in the Hanbury Street joinery works, neither foreman nor paid hands being employed on the job from start to finish.

One of the men engaged on this job—he was an elderly man—received as grant the magnificent sum of seven—pounds ?—no, shillings a week for carrying through this special piece of work, the execution of which occupied some three months. The men under him were probably paid less ; they certainly got no more. Think of it ! Seven shining bob a week and no deductions either. Let us hope he laid the money out in a wise and thrifty fashion, as should become a member of the working class. Or did he—nay, perish the thought—spend it in riotous living, consorting with drunkards and—faugh ! don’t we all know the nauseating tag by heart ?

Evidence from Within
As the Army officials have indignantly denied that Hanbury Street undersells its products, a glance at the official selling-price card will prove useful. Here it is:


159-161 Hanbury .St., Whitechapel, E.
Telephone No. 1063 London Wall.

Cheap joinery at the following prices.

1½ in. Sashes & Frames 5½ d. per ft. sup. 15 ft. min.
1¾ in. 6d per ft. sup. 15 ft.min.
2 in. 6½d. per ft. sup. 15 ft min.

Oak sill and brass face pullies 1d. per ft. extra.

2d. extra for every cut Bar over one.

6 ft. 6 in. x 2 ft. 6 in x 1½ in. 4 panel doors from 7s.

Dressers, 3 ft. x 1 ft. 6 in. 18s. each.

4 ft. x 1 ft. 6 in. 21s. each.

5 ft. x 1 ft. 6 in. 25s. each.

Estimates given for Stairs and special joinery, from plans and specifications.

Special seats for Churches and Mission Halls.

Shopfitting a speciality. Repairs promptly attended to.

Contractors for Iron and Wood Buildings of all classes.


Now let us compare these prices with thise estimated by a builder (one of the cheapest in the trade).

Army Price. Builder’s Price.*
Sashes and frames £ s. d.

1½ per foot
1¾ per foot 6 8
2 in. per foot 7 0 9 3
3 ft. x 1 ft. 6 in. 18 0 1 10 0
4 ft. x 1 ft. 6 in. 1 1 0 1 19 4
5 ft. x 1 ft. 6 in. 1 5 0 2 10 4
* Subject to 2% per cent. discount at 1 month.

We leave this damning piece of evidence to the consideration of our readers, and refrain from comment. It is needless.

An Empty Promise
Roused at length into action by the keen criticisms levelled at his scheme, and partly owing to representations made to him by a deputation from the last Trades’ Union Congress, General Booth promised—not that Hanbury Street should cease ; oh no,—but that in the future the institution should confine itself to “the production of articles for the exclusive use of the Salvation Army.”

Much good will that do, even if the performance at all approach the spirit of the promise.

Men cannot be “elevated” by these methods, even if their work is that of making self-denial collection boxes and benches for the Army’s own use at 6d. to 3s. a week in cash, instead of doors, windows and staircases for the suburban builder at the same rate.

Though important in itself, the question of Hanbury Street has a much wider bearing than may at first sight appear. This is not the only joinery “elevator” of the Salvation Army in England. A leading official of that body suggested—as late as 1909—that “the public ought to finance General Booth in running a great many more” ! Already he employs several thousands of men in different competitive industries carried on in his numerous “elevators” throughout the country.

As the Hanbury Street system prevails in all, the same swindle takes place all round. The men are not “elevated” or benefited, the workers are misled, employment at the ordinary rate of wages is diminished as General Booth’s sweated industries expand, and no one profits except the Army and its customers.

(To be continued.)


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