Arnold Bennett shows us the reality of mass production without automation. This kind of thing probably went on well into the twentieth century. In some ways I find it more depressing than any amount of squalor described by Dickens.
You may have observed the geometrical exactitude of the broad and thin coloured lines round the edges of a common cup and saucer, and speculated upon the means by which it was arrived at.
A girl drew those lines, a girl with a hand as sure as Giotto’s, and no better tools than a couple of brushes and a small revolving table called a whirler. Forty-eight hours a week Mary Beechinor sat before her whirler. Actuating the treadle, she placed a piece of ware on the flying disc, and with a single unerring flip of the finger pushed it precisely to the centre; then she held the full brush firmly against the ware, and in three seconds the band encircled it truly; another brush taken up, and the line below the band also stood complete.
And this process was repeated, with miraculous swiftness, hour after hour, week after week, year after year. Mary could decorate over thirty dozen cups and saucers in a day, at three halfpence the dozen.
Arnold Bennett - Tales of the Five Towns (1905)