III.

SOURCES OF THE SUPPLY AND METHODS OF HIRING.

The question next arises as to the chief sources ofPhiladelphia's large supply of colored service. Are these peopleSouthern Negroes, or Philadelphia born? The quality of servicerendered and the standard of excellence may depend in somedegree upon circumstances of birth and training. Hence the factsin regard to nativity as shown in Table II, which follows, areworth considering:

 

TABLE II.

NATIVITY OF COLORED DOMESTIC SERVANTS INPHILADELPHIA.

Number and Per Cent by Sexand Birthplace.

Birthplace.

Number of
Males

Number of
Females

Total
Number

Total
Per cent.

Philadelphia 78 215 293 12.08 }18.52
Pennsylvania 37 94 131 5.72
New Jersey 18 50 68 3.00  
Delaware 34 99 133 5.08  
Maryland 102 359 461 20.14 }48.04
Virginia 199 439 638 27.90
West Virginia 5 14 19    
District of Columbia 50 85 135 5.90  
North Carolina 36 68 104 4.50  
South Carolina 7 5 12    
Georgia 4 11 15    
South Georgia 28 51 79 3.90  
West Georgia 2 3 5    
Ohio 0 5 5    
Missouri 0 2 2    
Kentucky 0 1 1    
Tennessee 2 4 6    
Louisiana 1 2 3    
Mississippi 0 2 2    
Alabama 2 2 4    
West Indies 15 4 19    
New York 8 10 18    
Maine 1 1 2    
Massachusetts 5 2 7    
Connecticut 1 4 5    
Rhode Island 2 0 2    
North Rhode Island 0 1 1    
Canada 1 2 3    
Florida 2 0 2    
Texas 0 2 2    
Hungary 0 1 1    
Scotland 0 1 1    
South America 0 1 1    
Unknown 37 72 109    
Total 677 1612 2289    

 

 

These facts show clearly that the greater part ofPhiladelphia's colored domestic service is supplied from Marylandand Virginia, particularly from the latter State. It will benoticed that less than one-fifth of it (18.5 per cent) issupplied from Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania, whilevery nearly one-half (48.4 percent) comes from the two States ofMaryland and Virginia. Some interesting indications in regard tonativity and quality of service as measured by length of servicewith the same employer, are brought out later in Table XXV.

Methods of Hiring.--Philadelphia is as much at themercy of employment bureaus, and the frequently untrustworthyrecommendations of previous employers, as are other large cities.Yet these and the method of advertising are the only ways open tothe employer for accomplishing what has been called the"inevitable annual change of employes." The coloredpeople in domestic service seldom seek employment through thePhiladelphia intelligence offices or by applying in answer toadvertisement unless it is particularly stated that colored helpis acceptable or preferred. They generally offer therecommendations of former employers, though many of them, seldomthe best ones, offer their services from door to door and areemployed upon the recommendation of personal appearance andgeneral bearing. The colored man's avoidance of the employmentbureau is largely due to the fact that extortionate fees areusually charged him. He patronizes a few bureaus kept by coloredpeople whom he trusts; and his unwillingness to answeradvertisements needs no explanation but the remark alreadyoffered.

Personnel of Colored Domestic Service.--In regard tothe personnel of domestic service, the facts in Philadelphiacorrespond with those for all employes the world over; Negro domesticservants are for the most part women rather than men, and youngrather than middle-aged or old people. An examination of Table Iwill show that only about 30 in 100 of Philadelphia's coloreddomestics are men, while a study of the census figures of 1890shows only 16 men in 100 in domestic service the country over;and the disproportion in English household service is evengreater, there being only 7 men in 100 London servants. The sexesthus engaged in domestic work in Philadelphia, in the UnitedStates and in London are here compared in tabular form:

 

TABLE III.

SEX IN DOMESTIC SERVICE OF DIFFERENTLOCALITIES COMPARED.

Locality

Male
Per cent

Female
Per cent

Colored Domestic Service in Philadelphia 29.6 70.4
Domestic Service in United States (eleventh census) 15.8 84.2
Domestic Service in London (Charles Booth, Vol.
8, p. 211)
6.7 93.3

 

A comparison of the two columns shows very clearly thatdomestic work which has long been considered as "women'swork" is still being done largely by women. A comparison ofthe items of the first column of Table II with each other showsthat, taking the country over, where the domestic service isrepresented largely by Irish, German, English, Swedish andNorwegian elements as well as Negroes, the proportion of menservants falls to only about one-half that of colored menservants in Philadelphia. This again is probably to be accountedfor by the fact that so many avenues of employment which areclosed to colored men are open to men among the white foreignelement which makes up the greater part of American service. Inour shops and markets and in our building trades, on our trolleycars and our delivery wagons we see Irish and German and Swedishmen, but no Negroes. The result upon domestic service of thisclosing of so many doors to the colored man is twofold. Many ofthem, being unable to better themselves financially by leavingservice for other employments, remain in household work muchlonger than they otherwise would do, and when they marry many ofthem "turn waiter" because household service is one ofthe best paid employments open to the blacks. Thus colored menservants tend to remain in service longer than whites do,and thefrequent addition to their ranks of married colored men alsotends to increase the ratio of men servants among Negrodomestics as well as to raise the average age.

Next to the small number of men in domestic service and thefact that a greater proportion of colored than of white men aredomestics, a study of the personnel of domestic service revealspeculiarities concerning the age of servants. Nearly allhousehold servants are comparatively young. This has been foundto be true everywhere, where records have been made, and moreespecially among whites than among blacks. The colored people inservice are older on the average than the whites (as would beexpected from facts just given). Nearly one-half of all thecolored domestics in the Seventh Ward of Philadelphia, both menand women, are included in the age period between twenty-one andthirty years as may be seen by reference to Table I. The averageage among them is 31.9 years for the men, and 29.6 for the women,the combined average for both sexes being 30.3 years. This showsthat Philadelphia's colored domestics are comparatively youngpeople, but an examination of the age of London servants showsalso 30.5 years as the average age of the men and 28.2 years asthe average age of the women in service there. While the UnitedStates Census of 1890 shows men servants the country over toaverage 29.1 years, the women average only 26.8 years. Theseaverage ages are given in tabular form for convenience ofcomparison.

 

TABLE IV.

AVERAGE AGE IN DOMESTIC SERVICE OF DIFFERENTLOCALITIES

COMPARED.

Locality

Male.
Aver. Age

Female
Aver. Age.

Colored Domestic Service in Philadelphia 31.9 29.6
General Domestic Service in London (computed
from Charles Booth's Diagram)
30.5 28.2
General Domestic Service in United States (computed
from eleventh census)
29.1 26.8

 

 


 


 


 


But while these are average ages, the very great excess of theyounger age periods over the older ones may be more clearly seenby the diagrams A, B and C, contrasting the ages of domestic menservants with the ages of all other male wage eamers. Diagram Ashows these differences of age, as exhibited in London, betweenmen in household service and all of occupied London. Diagram Bshows the contrast as it exists between men servants in theUnited States and all the occupied men in the total population.Diagram C contrasts ages of colored male servants in the SeventhWard of Philadelphia and those of all occupied colored males inthat ward. What these three maps mean is that the ratio which theyoung men in domestic service bear to the whole number of men indomestic service is greater (by as much as the diagram indicatesin each case) than the ratio which the young men in alloccupations bear to the whole number of men in all occupations.In London, according to Mr. Booth's diagram, there is an excessof youth in service between ages of fifteen and thirty-three,after which age the males in household work fall behind thoseotherwise occupied. In America, according to diagram B, 6the excess of young men in service begins at fifteen, lastingtill nearly the age of thirty-nine, after which the proportion ofmen in service is less than that of men otherwise occupied. Inthe Seventh Ward of Philadelphia, according to diagram C, wenotice an interesting variation from the comparatively closeagreement of diagrams A and B. The greatest excess of youth inservice, here, as in A and B, is also at about twenty-three totwenty-five years, but diagram C seems to show that in Negrowage-earning in cities, the disproportionately large number ofmen in domestic service holds good for every age except thatperiod which marks a man's greatest physical strength, the periodbetween thirty and forty years. The excess of colored men of thatage in other occupations is no doubt due to the large number ofcolored men of great physical strength who act as stevedores,porters, etc., between the ages of thirty and forty. The suddenbend at thirty-five in the domestic service line, in diagram C,is due to the fact that the last age period recorded was"forty- one years and over," and, therefore, includes afew old servants about sixty. If each decade had beenrecorded, the curve would be more gradual, perhaps crossing theother between forty and forty-five. The excess of sixty-sevenpoints on the forty-five-year line is almost equal to the excessat twenty-five years, and is, therefore, probably in need ofmodIfication, though there is little doubt of its indicating areal condition of Negro labor in cities.

The fact that the highest point of excess of youth in thesethree diagrams is reached at twenty-three to twenty-five years issignificant, and suggests the query why it is that domesticservice so clearly attracts the young of both sexes and of allraces. It is safe to say that one of the most prominentdetermining causes is necessity for immediate income. Many youngmen and women are obliged by circumstances to undertake some formof work which, while requiring no capital and no particularcourse of training, still yields an immediate return, which iscertain to provide them at least their board and lodging, with asmall amount for living expenses. This is the chief reasonwhy the first employment of young men and women justbeginning to support themselves is so often "going out toservice."

 

ENDNOTES:

6 Computed on census figures and after Mr. Booth'smethod.

 

 

From W.E.B. DuBois, The PhiladelphiaNegro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Special Report (Part III),pp. 435-443.


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