Card Setting Machine Tenters' Society
The following source list was originally available only on paper in one of the West Yorkshire Archive Service offices. It may have been compiled many years ago and could be out of date. It was designed to act as a signpost to records of interest on a particular historical subject, but may relate only to one West Yorkshire district, or be an incomplete list of sources available. Please feel free to add or update with any additional information.
The decision to establish the Society was made in the latter part of 1872 when the structure of the Society was agreed and the location of branches decided. In January 1873, five branches were formed in Manchester, Cleckheaton, Halifax, Haughton Dale and Rochdale, with Manchester acting as the Central Branch. At this first meeting, the branches elected their own officers and the union formally came into existence.
At its foundation the Card Setting Machine Tenters Society (CSMTS) was very much a loose federation of branches with no executive council and where matters of general concern were decided at ad hoc delegate meetings of the whole Society. The five branches looked after their own affairs, conducting their own local activities and making their own demands on employers. Each branch elected a president, treasurer, secretary and two committee men. The first General Secretary was Samuel Green (Manchester Branch), First General President Joseph Waterhouse and the first General Secretary was Benjamin Alderson. Contributions were 3d per week and apart from the first twelve months, membership was confined to persons between 21-40 years of age. Apprentices were admitted 'in the last six months of their time provided they have at the time of admission served six years and a half at the trade'. There were probably no more than forty members at the Society's foundation. Cleckheaton had nine branches and Halifax had seven, which by the end of the year had increased to seventeen and fourteen respectively.
In 1875, the Halifax Branch passed a resolution calling for an Executive Committee to be set up which represented all the branches. As a result the running of the day to day affairs of the union were taken out of the hands of the Manchester Branch Officers and given to the new Executive Committee with Halifax becoming the Central Branch. Head Office was transferred to the Bee Hive Inn, Halifax and Samuel Midgley became the new General Secretary.
The early days of the Society were taken up with the concerns relating to the length of the working week which varied from branch to branch. This ultimately led to their first defeat in 1875, when the Cleckheaton Branch decided that the men at Sykes Brothers and at Goldthorpe's should give notice of their intention to work no longer that 56 hours per week. This was approved by the Executive Committee and the resulting stoppage of work proved to be both costly and injurious to the union and its officers. The strike was a disaster. The funds had disappeared, the General Secretary forced to resign, a broken man and the new Secretary was unable to work as a card setter. Some of the men had been unfaithful and returned to work thus breaking the strike and the employers had won. With the resignation of Samuel Midgley, both Rochdale Branch and the Cleckheaton Branch collapsed and by 1877, the CSMTS was down to three branches and no more than sixty members, many of whom were still unable to find work as card setters.
However, the remaining officers were not disheartened, and thanks to two members of the Halifax Branch, the union survived and by 1882 the Cleckheaton Branch was revived. In 1881 Charles Ainley took over as General Secretary a post that he held for five years. It was during this time that he asked for and got in 1885, permission to destroy all correspondence that was more than twelve years old, a rule that seems to have been continued by all General Secretaries until the election of Tom Forrest in 1898, thus there is a gap in the correspondence between these years.
From 1892, membership grew and in 1897 the Mirfield Branch was formed. The first agreements were made between the CSMTS and an employer in 1896 with Joseph Sykes Brothers. There were changes in union policy which by the turn of the century saw the first 'negotiations' conducted and at the same time more interest being expressed in political activities and the using of political pressures to change working conditions. In 1900 the CSMTS became affiliated to the newly formed General Federation of Trade Unions and the merging of some of the major firms into the English Card Clothing Company also made the union aware of the need to improve its organisation and co-ordinate its activities more meaningfully; as a result Tom Forrest was elected to the new post of General and Organising Secretary. The Society was also reorganised, new rules were prepared and a period of change and immense activity began with the union becoming involved in a major struggle with the English Card Clothing Syndicate and the Executive Council became the supreme policy making body of the whole union.
In 1903 the CSMTS joined the Labour Representation Committee and continued its affiliation when the LRC reformed itself as the Labour Party in 1906. The minute books frequently mention local politics, records of donations and the industrial disputes that took place. With the outbreak of war, the CSMTS saw a period of full employment and earlier disputes were forgotten. However as the cost of living rose, working men including the CSMTS soon made angry demands to the Government for improved controls and to employers for increased wages. In October 1915, the Cleckheaton Branch passed a resolution that the society demand of the employers a minimum advance in wages of 15 per cent. Tom Forrest wrote to 17 firms in Lancashire and Yorkshire asking for this with the reply from the Employer's Federation being an unequivocal 'No'. The CSMTS hesitated, not wanting to rush into a strike, but a ballot of the Branches saw only 37 voting against strike action. On December 11th 1915, work stopped and strike benefit was set at 16 shillings per week plus 2 shillings for each child; non-members received nothing. The strike lasted for 23 weeks and was the longest stoppage by any group of workers that occurred during the First World War. The CSMTS paid out 3,000 pounds in strike benefits and owed nearly 450 pounds at the end of the dispute. The result of the strike was a 2 shillings per week rise, something they could have had much earlier and was therefore a defeat for the union.. The end of the strike saw the union in crisis, but surprisingly, it recovered quickly and by 1917 all debts had been repaid and the small sum of 98 pounds had been banked. At the end of the war, the Society had 237 members in four branches (Mirfield Branch had been merged with Cleckheaton in 1917). Tom Forrest retired in July 1918 and was replaced by James Midgley who's approach was very different to that of Forrest's.
The CSMTS branches did not appear to adopt 'militant' tactics in any way, their successes in bargaining appeared to be sufficient, though with the post-war boom faltering in 1921 and the unsuccessful General Strike in 1926, success was perhaps short lived. At the end of World War Two however, the CSMTS had 276 members and over 5,000 pound in the bank. They were in a strong financial position and now had only to re-establish their strong bargaining position. In 1947, the Manchester Branch merged with the Halifax Branch which in 1948 proposed that the CSMTS disaffiliate from the GFTU and instead affiliate to the TUC. After initially rejecting the proposal the advantages of non-affiliation became obvious and after 77 years the CSMTS was affiliated into the TUC.
Membership peaked in 1952 with 297 members, but the growth of the use of metallic carding which was not made by card setting machine tenters saw the number of members fall. By the 1970s the Society was still a going organisation although it only had one branch. However, by 2005 membership was virtually non-existent. With only 5 members remaining the Society was finally wound up at the end of 2007.
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