The Factory Inspection Reports

The four Annual Reports of the Factory Inspectors of Illinois, filed by Florence Kelley for the years 1893, 1894, 1895, and 1896, the years in which she held the office of Chief Factory Inspector, are official reports to the Governor, a compendium of information on prosecutions under the Factory and Workshop Inspection Act, and a history of the constitutional challenge to the legislation brought by the Illinois Manufacturers Association under the leadership of Levy Mayer.

The details of the inspections, the descriptions of what the investigators saw and found, and the specificity and particularity of the information raise these Reports from the routine, the mundane of government work. In addition to the factual findings, the descriptions of what the Factory Inspectors were doing and how they conceived of their work are extraordinarily articulate and precise. [See, e.g. Appendix A, First Annual Report (p. 24) Details of Inspections in the Garment Trades.] The Reports offer countless examples of how facts can be transposed into argument, or song.

The Annual Factory Inspection Reports were occasionally supplemented by Special Reports, such as the First Special Report of the Factory Inspectors of Illinois on Small-Pox in the Tenement House Sweat-Shops of Chicago, July 1, 1894. Again, the agenda for these Reports was multifaceted, more than the simple accumulation of factual detail.

In addition to being mandated by the legislation, Reports under the Factory and Workshop Inspection Law and the reality they described were powerful tools to advocate for more public schools, or improved garbage collection or the provision of clean water, services allegedly provided by the City to the Nineteenth Ward.

The Annual Reports are legal history, urban history, advocacy petitions, and most importantly writings chronicling how people lived and worked at this time, in this place, as observed by the people, mostly women, who went to investigate.

Next: 3 Pivotal Court Cases

Note To Geneologists: The Factory Inspection Reports and many other Archives documents here include the names and addresses of companies and many references to individuals.