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U.S. Participation in the Great War (World War One)
Italian Munitions Worker

In the excerpt below from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, Charles Fusco describes his memories of working in munitions factories during World War I. What kind of work did Fusco do? How did his boss make him stay in the job when he was unhappy?

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. . . I learn to be a machinist working on die-heads, and assembling different parts of machines, reading blueprints too. Then I went to work making guns before they was over the other side. Then they started the war and I started to work on the Russian machine gun. This was in Marlin-Rockwell. Then America went in and we started to make the Brownie (Browning) machine gun. Oh Boy! when I used to go down stairs where they tested the gun I used to see before my eyes all those men dying and believe me I was glad I was not over there. . . . The government told me that they wouldn't take me because I knew too much about guns to go. When they started to make these guns there was a man from Waltham Watch Co. from Massachusetts and he came down with new machines for experiment and he asked the boss if he had a handy man around machines, and the boss picked me. They put us in a special room with these new machinery and we started to make the guns. Then everything was set then the whole factory started in to make them. Everything had to be to the thousandth of an inch, not like now everything is production and cheap. I got 65 cents an hour and there was others that was making 50 to 60 dollars a a week. Boys 17 and 18 years old. Which makes me remember that I used to kick to the supt. For more money and tell him I was going to get through and that lousy Englishman used to tell me that if you quit, Charlie, we're going to send you across. Finally I got mad one day just before the war stopped, I think 4 months, and I quit but got another job right away with George Griswold Machine Shop making guns for the government for 53 cents an hour. A lotta of people thought I was crazy working for less money -- well maybe I was, but wait till you hear this -- After the war everybody got laid off but I stayed working for over a year making lolly pops dies and funny things about the lolly pops was that when the war was on the lolly pop was small. The kids did not notice it because the old man made money, but after that the people did not have any money so the candy people had to make the pops bigger, so I made the dies bigger.

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View the entire interview with Charles Fusco from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.