Lynn Shoemakers Essay, Research Paper
In 17th-century Europe, boots were generally worn. Shoes had moderately high heels and were often decorated with large rosettes made of lace and ribbons. In America, men and women wore stout leather shoes with a moderate heel. In the 18th century, shoes were decorated with gold and silver buckles and real or imitation gemstones. In America, women’s dress shoes copied those in France and England and were made of brocade and had a French heel and usually a buckle; to protect the shoe, an overshoe, called a patten, often of the same material, was worn.
By 1760 the first shoe factory had appeared, in Massachusetts, and shoes began to be produced in quantity. It was not until the 19th century, however, and the development of modern machinery such as the sewing machine, that shoes could be made quickly and inexpensively. In the 20th century, shoes are made in innumerable styles, with various designs and colours.
Blake, Lyman Reed
b. Aug. 24, 1835, South Abington, Mass., U.S.d. Oct. 5, 1883
American inventor who devised a sewing machine for sewing the soles of shoes to the uppers.
At an early age Blake began working for local shoemakers, including his brother, Samuel. He later worked for Isaac M. Singer’s company, setting up sewing machines in shoe factories. In 1856 he became a partner in a shoemaking firm that he mechanized to the fullest extent then possible. At that time he conceived of his machine. He first had to design a shoe that could be made this way. In 1858 he constructed a working model and received a patent. He sold his patent to Gordon McKay in 1859 and worked for McKay from 1861 until his retirement in 1874, selling and installing his machines in factories throughout New England.
An outstanding feature of the Industrial Revolution has been the advance in power technology. At the beginning of this period, the major sources of power available to industry and any other potential consumer were animate energy and the power of wind and water, the only exception of any significance being the atmospheric steam engines that had been installed for pumping purposes, mainly in coal mines. It is to be emphasized that this use of steam power was exceptional and remained so for most industrial purposes until well into the 19th century. Steam did not simply replace other sources of power: it transformed them. The same sort of scientific inquiry that led to the development of the steam engine was also applied to the traditional sources of inanimate energy, with the result that both waterwheels and windmills were improved in design and efficiency. Numerous engineers contributed to the refinement of waterwheel construction, and by the middle of the 19th century new designs made possible increases in the speed of revolution of the waterwheel and thus prepared the way for the emergence of the water turbine, which is still an extremely efficient device for converting energy.
Although the qualification regarding older sources of power is important, steam became the characteristic and ubiquitous power source of the British Industrial Revolution. Little development took place in the Newcomen atmospheric engine until James Watt patented a separate condenser in 1769, but from that point onward the steam engine underwent almost continuous improvements for more than a century. Watt’s separate condenser was the outcome of his work on a model of a Newcomen engine that was being used in a University of Glasgow laboratory. Watt’s inspiration was to separate the two actions of heating the cylinder with hot steam and cooling it to condense the steam for every stroke of the engine. By keeping the cylinder permanently hot and the condenser permanently cold, a great economy on energy used could be effected. This brilliantly simple idea could not be immediately incorporated in a full-scale engine because the engineering of such machines had hitherto been crude and defective. The backing of a Birmingham industrialist, Matthew Boulton, with his resources of capital and technical competence, was needed to convert the idea into a commercial success. Between 1775 and 1800, the period over which Watt’s patents were extended, the Boulton and Watt partnership produced some 500 engines, which despite their high cost in relation to a Newcomen engine were eagerly acquired by the tin-mining industrialists of Cornwall and other power users who badly needed a more economic and reliable source of energy. (See Watt, James, separate condenser, Boulton, Matthew.)
During the quarter of a century in which Boulton and Watt exercised their virtual monopoly over the manufacture of improved steam engines, they introduced many important refinements. Basically they converted the engine from a single-acting (i.e., applying power only on the downward stroke of the piston) atmospheric pumping machine into a versatile prime mover that was double-acting and could be applied to rotary motion, thus driving the wheels of industry. The rotary action engine was quickly adopted by British textile manufacturer Sir Richard Arkwright for use in a cotton mill, and although the ill-fated Albion Mill, at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge in London, was burned down in 1791, when it had been in use for only five years and was still incomplete, it demonstrated the feasibility of applying steam power to large-scale grain milling. Many other industries followed in exploring the possibilities of steam power, and it soon became widely used.
| technology, history of Electricity The development of electricity as a source of power preceded this conjunction with steam power late in the 19th century. The pioneering work had been done by an international collection of scientists including Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Alessandro Volta of the University of Pavia, Italy, and Michael Faraday of Britain. It was the latter who had demonstrated the nature of the elusive relationship between electricity and magnetism in 1831, and his experiments provided the point of departure for both the mechanical generation of electric current, previously available only from chemical reactions within voltaic piles or batteries, and the utilization of such current in electric motors. Both the mechanical generator and the motor depend on the rotation of a continuous coil of conducting wire between the poles of a strong magnet: turning the coil produces a current in it, while passing a current through the coil causes it to turn. Both generators and motors underwent substantial development in the middle decades of the 19th century. In particular, French, German, Belgian, and Swiss engineers evolved the most satisfactory forms of armature (the coil of wire) and produced the dynamo, which made the large-scale generation of electricity commercially feasible. (See electric power, Franklin, Benjamin, Volta, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio, Faraday, Michael.) The next problem was that of finding a market. In Britain, with its now well-established tradition of steam power, coal, and coal gas, such a market was not immediately obvious. But in continental Europe and North America there was more scope for experiment. In the United States Thomas Edison applied his inventive genius to finding fresh uses for electricity, and his development of the carbon-filament lamp showed how this form of energy could rival gas as a domestic illuminant. The problem had been that electricity had been used successfully for large installations such as lighthouses in which arc lamps had been powered by generators on the premises, but no way of subdividing the electric light into many small units had been devised. The principle of the filament lamp was that a thin conductor could be made incandescent by an electric current provided that it was sealed in a vacuum to keep it from burning out. Edison and the English chemist Sir Joseph Swan experimented with various materials for the filament and both chose carbon. The result was a highly successful small lamp, which could be varied in size for any sort of requirement. It is relevant that the success of the carbon-filament lamp did not immediately mean the supersession of gas lighting. Coal gas had first been used for lighting by William Murdock at his home in Redruth, Cornwall, where he was the agent for the Boulton and Watt company, in 1792. When he moved to the headquarters of the firm at Soho in Birmingham in 1798, Matthew Boulton authorized him to experiment in lighting the buildings there by gas, and gas lighting was subsequently adopted by firms and towns all over Britain in the first half of the 19th century. Lighting was normally provided by a fishtail jet of burning gas, but under the stimulus of competition from electric lighting the quality of gas lighting was greatly enhanced by the invention of the gas mantle. Thus improved, gas lighting remained popular for some forms of street lighting until the middle of the 20th century. (See Edison, Thomas Alva, filament lamp, Swan, Sir Joseph Wilson, Murdock, William, Boulton, Matthew, gas mantle.) Lighting alone could not provide an economical market for electricity because its use was confined to the hours of darkness. Successful commercial generation depended upon the development of other uses for electricity, and particularly on electric traction. The popularity of urban electric tramways and the adoption of electric traction on subway systems such as the London Underground thus coincided with the widespread construction of generating equipment in the late 1880s and 1890s. The subsequent spread of this form of energy is one of the most remarkable technological success stories of the 20th century, but most of the basic techniques of generation, distribution, and utilization had been mastered by the end of the 19th century.
The census of 1890 was the first in which the output of America’s factories exceeded the output of its farms. Afterwards U.S. industry went through a period of rapid expansion. By 1913, more than one-third of the world’s industrial production came from the United States.
In that same year, automaker Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line, a method in which conveyor belts brought car parts to workers. By improving efficiency, this innovation made possible large savings in labor costs. It also inspired industrial managers to study factory operations in order to design even more efficient and less costly ways of organizing tasks.
Lower costs made possible both higher wages for workers and lower prices for consumers. More and more Americans became able to afford products made in their own country. During the first half of the 20th century, mass production of consumer goods such as cars, refrigerators, and kitchen stoves helped to revolutionize the American way of life.
The moving assembly line was criticized, however, for its numbing effect on workers, and it was satirized in Charlie Chaplin’s movie Modern Times (1936). In more recent years, factory managers have rediscovered that the quality of the product made is as important as the speed and efficiency with which it is made and that bored, depressed workers tend to do inferior work. The assembly line has been modified in many U.S. factories, including automobile-manufacturing plants, where “quality circles” put together an entire car from start to finish, with workers sometimes performing different tasks.
THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA
Agriculture, mass production, the labor movement, and the economic system
Colonists arrived from other European countries, but the English were far better established in America. By 1733 English settlers had founded 13 colonies along the Atlantic Coast, from New Hampshire in the North to Georgia in the South. Elsewhere in North America, the French controlled Canada and Louisiana, which included the vast Mississippi River watershed. France and England fought several wars during the 18th century, with North America being drawn into every one. The end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 left England in control of Canada and all of North America east of the Mississippi.
The Industrial Revolution was dawning in the United States. At Lowell, Massachusetts, the construction of a big cotton mill began in 1821. It was the first of several that would be built there in the next 10 years. The machinery to spin and weave cotton into cloth would be driven by water power. All that the factory owners needed was a dependable supply of labor to tend the machines.
As most jobs in cotton factories required neither great strength nor special skills, the owners thought women could do the work as well as or better than men. In addition, they were more compliant. The New England region was home to many young, single farm girls who might be recruited. But would stern New England farmers allow their daughters to work in factories? The great majority of them would not. They believed that sooner or later factory workers would be exploited and would sink into hopeless poverty. Economic “laws” would force them to work harder and harder for less and less pay.
LABOR IN AMERICA
By Ira Peck
GROWTH OF THE FACTORY
In colonial America, most manufacturing was done by hand in the home. Some was done in workshops attached to the home. As towns grew into cities, the demand for manufactured goods increased. Some workshop owners began hiring helpers to increase production. Relations between the employer and helper were generally harmonious. They worked side by side, had the same interests and held similar political views.
The factory system that began around 1800 brought great changes. The employer no longer worked beside his employees. He became an executive and a merchant who rarely saw his workers. He was concerned less with their welfare than with the cost of their labor. Many workers were angry about the changes brought by the factory system. In the past, they had taken great pride in their handicraft skills; now machines did practically all the work, and they were reduced to the status of common laborers. In bad times they could lose their jobs. Then they might be replaced by workers who would accept lower wages. To skilled craft workers, the Industrial Revolution meant degradation rather than progress.
As the factory system grew, many workers began to form labor unions to protect their interests. The first union to hold regular meetings and collect dues was organized by Philadelphia shoemakers in 1792. Soon after, carpenters and leather workers in Boston and printers in New York also organized unions. Labor’s tactics in those early times were simple. Members of a union would agree on the wages they thought were fair. They pledged to stop working for employers who would not pay that amount. They also sought to compel employers to hire only union members.
With the rise of factories came significant changes in the work force: the use of children, women and poor immigrants to run machines became commonplace. In New England in the 1820s and 1830s, children under age 16 constituted one-third to one-half of the labor force in some factories, especially in textile plants. Additionally, 5 percent of the entire slave population in the South worked in factories by 1850. About four-fifths of the slaves were owned outright by those using their labor, and the rest were rented to factory owners by their masters.
Industrial growth also brought other changes. Innovations in technology and business practices led to specialization of function for both labor and management. This, coupled with the growing number of workers being employed, led many workers to feel that they had no voice in their economic destinies. They experienced alienation — a feeling of being cut off from their work — and described themselves as cogs in the industrial machines. Some turned to unions to improve their situation.
An Outline of the American Economy (1991)
9: Labor in America: The Trade Unions’ Role
One of the two or three largest trades practiced in 18th-century Williamsburg, historical shoemaking is being rediscovered and preserved through the apprenticeship program at the Shoemaker’s Shop (42k image w/caption) you can visit today.
Our shop represents the firm of George Wilson, who moved in the late 1760’s to Williamsburg from Norfolk, Virginia, where his sister-in-law was the proprietor of the shoe “Factory” of “Mary Wilson and Company.” George’s specialty in 1773 was “Boots and Shoes for Gentlemen,” which he boldly advertised in the Virginia Gazette. Bootmaking was the most sophisticated and prestigious branch of the trade. And, following a centuries old tradition, the making of boots and shoes for men and shoes for women were separate branches. Wilson’s shop competed with between 9 and 12 other Williamsburg shoemakers, all operating in the city at the same dates. Together the local shoemakers struggled with competition from merchants in the colony who imported shoes, ready-made from factories in London and Bristol in England, and several local wholesale factories (one employing more than thirty men) that mass-produced shoes in Norfolk and Petersburg, Virginia.
When a man came into George Wilson’s shop in 1773 to buy a pair of shoes, he selected from a stock of “sale shoes” in popular styles, ready-made in sizes just like today. Or, if his feet were of an unusual size, he could just as easily be measured and have a pair made to suit his taste. Boots for riding were the specialty of the firm, and Wilson advertised seasonally, offering imported leather and boot legs from London as well as work for journeymen shoemakers who could make boots.
Various leathers and tools made by specialty trades and imported from England were readily available for sale from merchants’ stores in Williamsburg, so supplies were no trouble to find in the city. With strange-sounding names such as: “helling sticks,” “petty-boys,” and “St. Hugh’s Bones,” a shoemaker’s complete tool kit included relatively few items and could be purchased for about the same price as a common pair of shoesthe same as one day’s wages for a journeyman shoemaker working for Wilson.
The London shoemaker’s guild, the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, helped finance Captain John Smith’s 1607 expedition to Virginia, and Smith, inducted into the guild himself, was honored with a statue in London. Whether Smith actually made shoes is not known. The first shoemakers arrived in America at Jamestown in 1610, and the trade was thriving as early as 1616. By the 1660s, the Virginia Assembly directed that each county must erect a tannery and a shoe manufactory. It also imposed tariffs on leather and shoes exported from Virginia to control speculation and profiteering in the local shoe trade, and stipulated that the fees collected go to finance the founding of the College of William and Mary.
Olmert, Michael. Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Ninth printing. Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1995.
Wamsley, James S. The Crafts of Williamsburg. Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1982.
The Book of Trades, or Library of the Useful Arts, In Three Parts. Illustrated With Copper Plates, Part 1. London: 1800. Reprinted as Peter Stockham, ed. The Little Book of Early American Crafts & Trades. New York: Dover Publications, 1976.
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