Pietro and Maria Botto House
83 Norwood Street
Haledon, New Jersey 07508
Where Workers Altered the Fabric of America
During the second half of the 19th century, Paterson, New Jersey became an industrialized city, with a specialty in silk and fabric production. By 1900, 175 companies there processed two-thirds of all the silk in the country. Immigrant labor ran the machinery under grueling conditions. Workers were paid by the piece and they were expected to put in ten hour days, plus a half day on Saturday.
Unhappy with working conditions, strikes were not uncommon. Between 1880 and 1910 at least 140 strikes or work stoppages were recorded. By 1913, as factory owners converted to higher-speed looms, which increased the workload, the workers went on strike again, bringing production in Paterson’s mills to a stop. International Workers of the World organizers moved protests to nearby Haledon, whose mayor was sympathetic to the cause. Haledon was also the home to many mill workers. Pietro Botto was one of them.
The Pietro and Maria Botto House became the focal point of the strike. Every Sunday from March through July, the residence hosted speeches by labor leaders, which were given from the balcony of the home. As many as 20,000 striking silk workers would gather in the yard, which resembled a natural amphitheater.
After five months, the strike ended without most of the sought-for results. However, while the strike did not have an immediate impact, it did have lasting effects. The effort raised attention for the plight of immigrant workers and helped lay the groundwork for reforms such as minimum wages, the forty-hour week, and child labor laws.
Today, the Pietro and Maria Botto House has been transformed into The American Labor Museum, dedicated to teaching the public about the history and contemporary issues of workers, the workplace, and organized labor with special attention to the ethnicity of working people. The 1908 Victorian home is interpreted to 1913, featuring typical furnishings and clothing of the time. In the museum, there’s a permanent exhibit on the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike and changing exhibits relating to work and labor issues.