The Black Country. Is it as Black as Mr. Punch has Painted it?
Industry, Manufactories, Environmentalism, Class, Disease, Human Development, Education, Natural History, Physical Geography, Politics
Noting the indignation of Wolverhampton inhabitants prompted by an earlier article (PU1/51/23/13), this writer defends Mr Punch and points out that he would rejoice if his lines on the 'vice, overwork of children, disease, and degradation' in the Black Country would rouse people into action. Insists that Mr Punch 'did not make either his colours or his subject: he found both', and to support this contention the author quotes large extracts from the Report of the Children's Employment Commissioners (doubtless the source for the aforementioned article). These extracts reveal the environmental damage caused by the town's industry, the smoke that blocks out the sun, and the large number of children employed for long hours, often uninterrupted, in 'blast-forges'. (240) Further extracts reveal the poor general knowledge (including 'the commonest and simplest objects of nature') and high illiteracy of these child labourers. To support Mr Punch's attack on the 'conditions of labour, and the greed of gain in the Black Country', the author appeals to the testimony of Edward H Greenhow who produced evidence for the high rate of deaths from pulmonary disease in the Wolverhampton area. Concludes by insisting that the question is 'whether it is possible to paint [the Black Country] blacker than the black reality', and points out that while conditions of labour have improved compared with previous decades, this is no reason to not continue stressing the suffering of the town's workers. (241)
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