Week 2 Questions/Comments

Add your comment/question about the reading as a comment on this post before class starts on Thursday.

24 responses to “Week 2 Questions/Comments

  1. I found both readings, Pursell and Smith and Clancey interesting both still talking about the history of technology but in two different way. I find it interesting and ended up taking the time to stop and think about a statement Pursell had made on page 22 stating, “historians’ definitions of technology reflect the fact that we have written mostly about nineteenth- and twentieth- century technology and have given little thought to early modern technology or to farm technology generally.”
    After reading this statement it made think about how true it really and what historians are mostly focused on today. I think this is why I find this class in particular very interesting because it is a part of history that isn’t always looked at and most historians tend to skip over it. Technology means more than machines and our knowledge of how to use them. Every form of technology has to come from somewhere which in deed is history. What we have today was built off of something and will now build our future. This is a really strong quote to remember and think about throughout the semester as we are learning about early technology and the process of how technology always comes from something.

  2. While I found both readings interesting, I enjoyed reading about Pursell’s take on the progression of technology. As we discussed in class, all inventions have antecedents and Pursell explains this through the progression of farming. He makes an interesting point by not only talking about how tools have progressed but how animals in a way are antecedents. On page 25, he starts to explain how livestock husbandry has changed through the years and for what reasons. Inventions come out of needs of people at the time. It is important to remember that not all inventions have a purpose at the time of their creation but can later find a purpose when there is a necessity.

  3. One of the topics that both the readings touch upon was how family was interconnected with technology during the Early Republic. In the Pursell reading, she discusses how few “women’s” tools were mentioned in inventories yet based on the letters and accounts described in the Smith and Clancey reading, we know how important women and their labor was to the family. While the people living in America wanted to become wealthy off the abundance of resources that they found there, they often had a hard time because they produced little that could be consumed outside the family. One quote that I found interesting in the Smith and Clancey reading was “…a public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource.” This quote shows how little wealth was controlled by people other than the elite and how the central government needed to intervene in the economies of smaller families to keep them afloat.

    I found it interesting how technology was gendered in the way that men’s technology was handed down or represented in the inventories while women’s technology was not represented even though it had just as much importance.

  4. In the Pursell reading, I actually found the inventory documents and their explanations very interesting. When we think of eighteenth century or earlier America, there are a few tools and pieces of technology that we assume every frontiersman used on the daily. But in fact, the documents show “no standard array of implements” that were common to a majority of households and businesses. A family on the frontier might have the only iron-clad cauldron within 50 miles, and not everyone had guns, even in the ‘great unknown.’ The tools they used often differed in origin and implementation, and the diversity in technology was due in part by the “networks of exchange;” technology transfer. In addition, America as a nation is so large and its population so diverse, it would be over-simplifying to characterize technology only by time period and not regionally. A farmer in West Virginia probably wouldn’t own and use the same tools as a farmer in Georgia .

  5. Alli Leibowitz

    I found it interesting how both readings discussed the same subject matter but in different ways. I preferred reading Pursell’s, but I also understand the importance of of reading the primary sources in Smith and Clancey. The excerpt from Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” (1791) in Smith and Clancey was particularly fascinating with his views on manufacturing and machinery. It also offered a more economic and political view on technology and the ties it has to government. Pursell offered a more “every day” analysis of agricultural and early American technology while Smith and Clancey’s work provided excerpts from primary sources.

  6. So, the most interesting thing I found in the Pursell reading was the statement that people were more likely to own a gun than a bible. I really like how Pursell explained that the version that people normally think of when they think of 18th century farmers is not necessarily true. I also found it interesting that there was no such thing as a “standard array of household tools”. In a practicum that I had last semester, students were learning about westward expansion and we watched a video about people who like had did like a “real world” experience of going and trying to live in the middle of no where Montana. But they were given a few supplies that all the families were said to have had. And I know the time period is different but I just think that it is interesting that their probably wasn’t two families that had the same exact tools. Except possibly an axe. I also think that it is interesting that Pursell says that there had to have been some sort of market because not everyone produced everything for themselves. therefore I feel like Jefferson not wanting to do manufacturing was just absurd. I agree with Hamilton that American would have to try to do things on it’s own if it truely wanted independence from England.

    A question that I have is I don’t fully understand why Jefferson was so against manufacturing. It wouldn’t be possible for everyone to just farm and never move forward. There would never be any innovation.

  7. Pursell’s study of tools in the Middle Atlantic states was quite interesting in that it connected back to our lecture on axes on Tuesday. While reading Pursell, I thought I saw a clear contradiction from Tuesday’s lecture when she said, “three-quarters […] of households lacked mauls and wedges for splitting wood. Saws […] were even less common” (Pursell 24). Naturally, this statement confused me until I read forward a page and saw that while most English colonists arrived without axes, most of their descendents owned multiple axes. It makes sense that English colonists, coming from land that has long been cleared, would not anticipate the need for an axe in the new world, while their children would have been brought up in an uncleared frontier environment.

  8. I found the way McGraw’s article in the book presented her points to be more engaging and clearly stated then Clancey’s approach. Although I saw the importance in including the different views of Jefferson, Coxe, Cooper, and Hamilton, I found it more difficult to organize and understand each man’s opinion on the matter until the very end of the article. Particularly I was interested on the importance of looking past the “famous firsts” and focusing on were more customary and practical in the daily lives of the people. A decent amount of the chapter centers on dispelling previously accepted definitions of frontiersmen and the tools that they used. One such example is the misconception that frontiersmen used outdated tools, when in reality more cutting edge tools frequently were present. In addition a wider variety of tools were present because of a need for more specialized work. The listed experts of wills and records was a beneficial addition that helped me really get a better picture for the tool situation that McGraw explained.

  9. This was the first time that religion was brought into the conversation about tools and the growth of technology. Pursell mentioned the bible and then related it to compare how popular tools were in households, compared to how popular the bible was in households. Pursell, I felt like, did a great job explaining, not only the history of technology, but how it was evolving and what american households really looked like and the tools they had accessible in that day and age.

  10. I had never really thought of the idea that different people in different locations would use various types of tools. When thinking of a farmer I assumed that most tools and means of farming would be the same. I found it informative in Pursell’s reading how she made the very clear distinction between how tools would be used in one area but not another. Lastly, it was interesting, although not surprising, that inventories were shaped around gender (Pursell 20). Tools or property that was associated with females were not exactly listed while on the other hand men’s items of “importance” would be listed. Overall the reading was beneficial in giving background on how people operated and to not assume that everything was the same regardless of location.

  11. While both readings were interesting, I was intrigued by the Smith & Clancey reading. While reading, I realized how similar it sounds to current arguments about technology. The pieces against factories sound like the stereotypical old man who mumbles and grumbles about ‘kids these days’ and how technological advancements are going to ruin society and make everyone lazy. It’s amusing that these same arguments come around everytime things start to change.

    With the Pursell reading, it was interesting how she classified tools by areas they were used in. Most of the time you see the history of things only broken up by time periods and then maybe by continents of use. Explaining the difference between what people near the coast would use versus what people on the frontier would use was a nice deviation from the norm.

  12. I feel that the Smith and Clancy reading really supports what we’ve been discussing in class in that technology does not just appear out of thin air. The arguments between these leaders reflect on existing technology and how it has affected the respective societies. This discussion of large-scale manufacturing was not a brand new idea, similar to the cotton gin having already existed for many years prior to Eli Whitney’s invention. We very much like to think of inventions being a stroke of genius rather than an evolution of something more basic.

    In addition, the discussion of whether or not to implement manufacturing is not at all unlike conversations we have every day about updated systems in our current world. There are always benefits, drawbacks, naysayers, and supporters who will butt heads before a decision is made that may or cause create solutions. Not much has changed after all! Butting heads and wooden houses are every where!

  13. Athena Tavuchis

    I really enjoyed both readings but found Pursell’s to be a little bit more interesting to me. It was interesting to see how Pursell’s discussion of Middle Atlantic tools related back to the axe and the discussion we had in class. I did not realize that back then there wasn’t a “standard array of household tools”. It helped support his point that the idea we have of how people lived during the 18th century is not necessarily true. Both readings opened my eyes to technology in agriculture and how important the technology in the 18th century was during the day to day life of a colonist or farmer.
    Question: Why was it that people were more likely to own a gun than Bible even though religion played such an important role in many aspects of society at the time?

    • Chris .Noebels

      I wonder if more people owned a gun for utilitarian purposes. A bible is likely to get wet on the frontier, a gun is likely to bring food. With limited funds, most probably wanted to save weight and space on the journey and meant to buy a new Bible later.

  14. Ashley Beasley

    I actually enjoyed reading the Clancy reading in its entirety. I found it very eye opening that newly developed technology and mass producing factories were not positively spoken about as found in “Thomas Cooper against factories, 1823” (Clancy 119). It is portrayed that all new technology is cherished by everyone in America like in the lecture of last class with the axe. The axe was owned by everyone in America and most people had more than one. I would assume that technology is not different than most politics, everyone has an opinion and everyone typically picks a side.

  15. While I agree with McGaw’s argument for the importance of studying early American agricultural tools, I find her methodology problematic. As she notes, probate inventories can be very useful resources for historians as long as they are aware of the pitfalls. Although McGaw states some of the problems with probate inventories, she does not seem to recognize some of the issues that skew her own research. As Dr. McClurken said at the end of last class, people’s ownership of tools does not mean that they used them. Similarly, probate inventories do not list objects that were kept, but not owned by the deceased. The objects may have been borrowed by the deceased or owned by the relatives. This applies to tools that circulated through the community. For example, in “The Tools Used in Building Log Houses in Indiana,” an essay aimed at differentiating the round-log cabins of the settlement period from hewn-log houses, Warren Roberts lists the tools used in the construction of hewn-log houses including felling axes, froes, froe clubs, froe horses, shingle cutters, wedges, mauls, sawmills, pit saws, cross-cut saws, cant hooks, crow bars, chalk lines, plumb lines, squares, rules, levels, holdfasts, bench stops, sawhorses, clamps, miter boxes, broad axes, hewing hatchets, shingling hatchets, lathing hatchets, foot adzes, draw-knives, planes, hand saws, mallets, nails, screwdrivers, claw hammers, etc. While Roberts’s research experiences some of the pitfalls of object-related fieldwork, he aptly observes that the average farmer still would have had to borrow many of these tools to construct a hewn-log house. The rural Americans of McGaw’s study also likely shared some of their agricultural tools, so her study does not reflect the actual use (or lack of use) of the tools owned.

  16. Andrew Boswell

    In this week’s Pursell reading, I really enjoyed the various documents at the end with the information on the tools that each individual owned. They really show the many different tools that were available at the time and it makes me wonder about the origin of each one. I also like how the tools and tech differ between the counties.
    The Smith and Clancey readings were pretty enjoyable because of the different speakers for factories and manufacturers. I find it interesting how there seems to be some political influence on the tech being used.

  17. This week’s Pursell reading was interesting, i thought it was good that he broke things up into five counties and how they used different tech. I was surprised at how many tools that had at the time, it was more then i thought. I also really like the quote about more people had guns then bibles. The only problem with Pursell is that it was really dry, so took awhile to get through, but it was still enjoyable. In Smith and Clancey I enjoyed how they should technology is based not on use but politics. Smith and Clancey showed this contrast by having the factories talk to Jefferson and Hamilton and other major players at the time. It was easier to read and follow then Pursell but less enjoyable to me.

  18. I really enjoyed the Smith & Clancy reading more than I thought I would. I thought it was interesting to see the various opinions early Americans had on the economy and the question of whether or not the new government should regulate manufacturing and production. I also had no idea that America tended to be very localized in the 18th century and I think it was interesting to see how the views on government and manufacturing tended to be divided up among various regions.

  19. In the Smith and Clancey article, it talks about what Thomas Jefferson said in 1795 and 1816. In 1795, Jefferson was optimistic about the future and being independent from Europe in terms of manufacturing their own products. Then in 1816, after about 20 years later, Jefferson had experienced what he hoped for in 1795 and he changed his mind and said that he would rather be dependent on Europe than to manufacture in America. This brings up the question of how can a person, especially the President of the United States be afraid and hypocritical of the fact of being independent from Europe? Isn’t Jefferson, as a Founding Father, supposed to believe in what seems like the impossible and want to be independent from Europe?

    In the Pursell reading,I found it interesting that McGaw states that early American historians need to be involved in the history and innovation of technology and not just technology experts.

    • Chris .Noebels

      Jefferson realized specalization is the key to surplus and technology. Jefferson also realized Europe cant farm forever. Jefferson found agriculture quite fun and rewarding and Industry as icky. These three points combine to lead Jefferson into pushing on a beneficial relationship where they get dirty and we plant occasionally. Moreover, with war comes stricter food rations. It would be nice to control that.

  20. In the Smith and Clancy article, I found it very interesting that Thomas Jefferson was against the United States becoming more industrial and independent given that he is the father of the Declaration of Independence. In a country that promotes “the American Dream”, that dream cannot be truly possible if you are depending on other countries to make items for you. The points made that factories and mills were less costly to run and maintain is what would be needed to promote capitalism and independence in the United States and would make the United States a relevant player in the world trade market. Jefferson’s position regarding this matter was shocking to me and very unexpected. Didn’t he remember the Boston Tea Party and the Stamp Act when he published these ideas??

  21. Pursell compares technological study with the American Imagist. An Imagist works with “direct treatment of the thing;” one who studies technology should do the same.
    How does a technologist directly deal with objects? The answer is yes. Yes, the technologists has to observe it, hold it, move it if possible. “We have more often looked at the machine on the drawing board than at the wheelbarrow in the garden.”
    Pursell argues a technological historian has not only observe the object but also ask the correct follow up questions. A technological historian has to read records sheets and compare makes or models, and ask the great questions.
    Jefferson is deciphering how manufacturing fits into the American Idea. Jefferson is cautious to base a society on secondary or tertiary methods of production, he much prefers working with the raw materials.

    Does America today have enough raw material to continue Jefferson’s vision?

  22. I really thought it was interesting how Pursell mentions that people were more likely to own a gun rather than a Bible. This further solidifies what we were talking about on Tuesday about how technology almost becomes an obsession, many people want to make their technology personal. So having a gun was very important to early Americans. I also like how she discusses that while looking at one particular period of time we need to look at some surround periods. on page 16 she says “… understanding American Industrial Revolution requires that we examine American industry’s colonial agricultural roots.” She also mentions that we look at practices changed before that time.

    In Smith’s reading, I thought it was interesting how George Washington was looking at the government’s role in manufacturing, and how that was one of the most important things on his agenda while he was in office. Thomas Jefferson discusses the state of trade in the United States in his Virginia Papers (1785), that most manufacturing was done within the family to make only the necessities. It was also interesting to look at the different manufacturing reports.