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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Working in a factory

Herring describes a brief stint working at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which it appears she did as part of her master's work at Bryn Mawr. She describes the process of making bullet casings and the deafening noise of the factory.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What did you do at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company?
I worked on a different machine twice a week. I worked in the drawing room, and the drawing room has had a different connotation to me ever since. The drawing room was where they make cases for the cartridge. It starts off a round of brass, and they cut it, but it's real thick. And so then they had a machine that drew it (that was the drawing room) longer and longer every time it went through a different one of these machines to make the cartridge. And then finally somebody had a machine that put a shoulder on it, you know. Then finally somebody put the powder in and sealed it. But there were all different operations. This drawing, there were about six or seven drawings, and it had to be annealed (brass if it's been bent, it has to be heated again or it will break—it will make it brittle—to keep it flexible). You had a dial and these little rounds (I was running ones about just right to go on my little finger). And you wiggled your finger like that to make them walk into a thing that was circling; it was a guide. One at a time, a hundred and twenty a minute: you wiggled enough to keep it busy at that. You were wiggling here to feed it into that thing, and this to keep them all in motion so they'd float in, you see. That was called the drawing room. And it went on: I reckon there must have been three or four hundred of those machines. You could speak, but you didn't hear yourself at all. A little Polish girl taught me—no, she wasn't the one; there was one in another job that I did that I thought I was being awful slow at. And she said (I was complaining about it), "Well, you're the best polisher I ever had." I was polishing screwtops for Springfield Rifles in that time. You had to hold it to an emory wheel which was whirring around, and the sparks just flew. Then you'd take it out of that and put another one in. Of course I was very slow at it. The person that was teaching me, I said, "I'm so slow at it! I didn't make but nineteen hundred all day." And she said, "Well, that's the most anybody's ever made here." [laughter]
[laughter] What was the purpose of having you go to Winchester and learn all these things? To have you get a better sense for what people have to do in a factory?