National Geographic : 1994 Jun
Solomon Northup, a slave who labored on a Louisiana plantation in the 1840s. "Then the fears and labors of another day begin; and until its close there is no such thing as rest." Meanwhile, life for the textile workers in the north of England wasn't much better. "Not a spark of pity was shewn to the sick of either sex," wrote Robert Blincoe, who had worked as an indentured apprentice at the Litton Mill in Derbyshire in the early 1800s. "If they dropped down, they were put into a wheel barrow and wheeled to the 'prentice house ... and there left to live or die." To recapture the era of workers like Blin coe, I called at the greatest of Arkwright's fac tories, Masson Mill, an imposing six-story building that stands on the banks of the Der went just half a mile from his original plant. Part of the 1783 mill was still running when I was there, but soon it would be silent, a victim of economics and increased international com petition. Yet the mill will remain standing because of its new owner, Robert Aram, a 48 year-old historian and real estate developer who collects mills and chimneys the way less eccentric people collect coins or stamps. Tall, ruddy, with a head of thick gray curls, Aram refuses to divulge how much he paid for Masson, though he says it was "a king's ran som." His voice softens when he speaks of his collection. "I'm just passionately interested in the remains of our industrial past," he said. "Masson is the jewel of my collection." Aram plans to convert his jewel into office and retail space, using the profits to make part of Masson into a museum.