Week 3 Questions/Comments

Add your thoughts about the reading in the comments below.

22 responses to “Week 3 Questions/Comments

  1. Pursell’s Fighting Technological Change was very interesting to me. It had caught my attention right away in the introduction talking about those who are “for” and those who are “against” technology. This reading really stressed the importance of water and how a lot of factors played into waterpower. For example, building major new textile cities down stream, having year-round flow of water, water storage such as a dam or reservoir, and even the navigation of water. Many landowners had conflicts with textile cities building near their land and having their water involved that many problems occurred that I did not realize could happen until I read this chapter. It all clearly makes sense and I can see how issues can occur it just never would of crossed my mind to think of water power in this way. I thought it was interesting and gave me a new perspective to look at.
    The document section at the end of the chapter, Winipisiogee Lake Company v. Worster gave a lot of great detailed information on the case and how much time and effort was put into these laws and restrictions.
    Pursell’s reading always fit good with class discussion and give you a new perspective to look at on each piece of technology.

  2. This week, I was pretty intrigued by the Smith and Clancey reading and the overall emphasis on economic growth and invention. That focus is not exactly that different from today. However, our country is so focused on this version of progress, that we tend to ignore the less happy parts of this system. For example, the sources reference all sorts of risks for both men and women in the paper mills, like breathing in poisonous fumes or falling into machinery. Of course, issues of race appear when white workers fear free black men taking their jobs and therefore beating Douglass as a result. Not a whole lot has changed in the respect of worker treatment. Today, we have more efficient machines and better forms of technology, but we still have people working in unsafe environments where they are also undervalued and exploited. This reading really made me think about how we define progress, and if it’s really what we should be so focused on.

  3. I enjoyed Pursell’s perspective on how people fought for control of water used for power. It makes sense that factories would want to control the water they used for power at the source and attempt to control it. I had never thought about the effects it had on people who owned that land before, though. The way the factories exploited the water for their own use and did not seem to really care how it affected others seems to demonstrate the stereotype that large companies do not care about anything other than making money and getting ahead. I also appreciated the individual stories of those who attempted to destroy the dams.

  4. Both readings showed different aspects to the rise of factories and companies in Northern states. The Pursell reading dealt with how water mill companies affected the surrounding area physically, socially and legally, while the Smith and Clancey article spoke about what was happening inside these factories, specifically socially.
    The Pursell reading uses the various water mills that sprang up in New Hampshire to prove how disruptive they were to the surrounding community. Although some benefited from these water mills others were harmed by them. Many farmers complained that the mills either caused overflow, destroyed their crops or too little water also causing harm to their crop. Few chose to take legal action and others chose to take a violent approach to correct this problem. The court tried to appease both the company and the community members but they was still upset from these court decisions.
    The Smith and Clancey piece spoke about women and minorities that worked in factories and also the degree of separation between men and women workers in these factories. While men had more dangerous jobs, women still had jobs that could cause physical breakdown, just in smaller ways. Rather than getting crushed by a machine they instead could risk broken tendons and respiratory issues. In this way, work in factories became “gendered” and while women would work just as hard as men their laborer was still cheaper. Also women were willing to work for a few years for their own personal choices which differed from men.
    I found the letter written by Frederick Douglass to be very fascinating and I wish the piece would have delved into the issue of race in factories more.

  5. While both readings were informative, I found the passages in Pursell to be very interesting, specifically the focus on Lowell Mills and water power. To not only think about pay but water as an issue during work was a different frame of thought. This meant that in order for factories to be planned and function properly, water had to be distributed equally among factories and citizens. when thinking about labor issues, we tend to think about race and gender but not issues in the way the factories were being powered. Water had to be redirected and this in turn could affect many that were around a factory. In the case of Lowell, it was a very mechanized area and therefore it was a little easier to decipher distribution patterns for the water.

  6. Athena Tavuchis

    Pursell’s focus on water power was very eye opening. It made me think about how important it was at the time and how much we take it for granted today. Having water available at all times is just a given for us and back then that was not the case. It was interesting to read about how it affected the farmers by destroying their crops and flooding their land. This is something you dont hear about much when learning about the use of water mills as a source of power to fuel factories. The uprising of communities about the dams and water mills is also something that is commonly left out.

  7. In Smith and Clancey the reading was split and focused into several different groups and how each group experienced the mechanization of America. Excerpts from Fredrick Douglas and the two other essays at the end center on race and the role that slave labor played as technology advanced. Other essays focused on how the workers themselves changed, the way they perceived themselves changed, and the risks involved in industry changed. In Purcell the focus is more on how not everyone supported the expansion of new technology, since new technology could threaten their lively hoods. Both sources have examples of the potential threats from technology, however the threats each center on are very different. In Purcell the threat is that new technology often pushed craftsmen and poorer artisans out of their work. While in Smith and Clancey the threat is the new technology itself and the ways it cannot only physically harm workers, but also how it can mentally affect them.

  8. The first few artifacts we discussed were mainly made for personal use and not made on a grand scale, then factories began to rise. Do you think anything is made anymore without the intent to be distributed/for personal use only? From the Pursell reading, it seems like corporate disregard for people and the environment has been around since the start of factories. It was interesting to see that corporations thinking and acting like they can do whatever they want is nowhere near a recent trend.
    The comment in the Smith & Clancey reading about it being “a privilege” to be employed by the Springfield Armory was amusing to me. The word privilege seems a funny choice when working in the Armory involved a lot of physical, and possibly also mental, risk.

  9. It was astounding to see the way water was used and exactly how important it was to the mills in the Pursell reading. I had always realized that water was important and necessary in running mills but I never knew the extensive time and energy put into controlling that resource. The manpower and thought that went into maintaining the water sources through the use of dams was an idea I never had thought about before. The coordination that was necessary to find the right amount of water power to fuel the mills was clearly extensive. In today’s world water is at our fingertips and we never think about how we will maintain access to it. That clearly was not the case back in the day and it was enlightening to see the struggle people went through to try and maintain their business through the one natural resource.

  10. I found the Smith and Clancey reading interesting, as it reinforced/expounded on the ideas we’ve started to touch on in class. American technology did not evolve in a vacuum; it was made and used by people, to positive or negative effects. The technology that made American paper mills more efficient was not in and of itself the perpetrator of the poor working conditions endured by the laborers; it was the demand for the products’ timely completion and the owners’ and managers’ desire to meet the demand that put laborers’ health and safety at risk.
    Likewise, gendered and racialized work environments were human responses to industrialization and a changing workforce.

    Technological progress has been defined as increasing efficiency and power, but this doesn’t apply towards the cultural and social impact of technology, and the progress or regression made in terms of equality, ethical labor practices, etc. The mills and factories during this time saw spikes in technological progress, but as the reading suggests, this was not always to the benefit of society.

  11. Alli Leibowitz

    While I knew that water power was required for the mills, I never realized that when mills started to become more popular, water was something people fought over. I enjoyed reading in Pursell about the roll of dams in the realm of mills and how people would fight and even try to destroy dams in order to have more water power. It also interested me in both readings how people grouped together to either strike or petition different causes as a result of factory life. I liked reading Judith McGaw’s essay in Smith and Clancey because it really focused on the workers and the danger paper making in a factory brought to their health.

  12. James Worster exemplifies the destabilization caused by the dramatic social, economic, and environmental changes brought by transformations in the markets and industrialization in the early American republic. He embodies the resentment and almost irrational behavior of the people economically dispossessed during this time period. Even his behaviors under the legal system reflect changing ideologies. It was legal for him to try to diminish the nuisance of the dam by dismantling it. However, the court documents show the ideological shift towards understanding the government as the protector of private businesses, such as the Lake Company. Worster demonstrates not a resistance to technology, but to the wealth created by technology through the exploitation of natural resources and those unable to harness the technology and resources, like himself.

  13. Water was very important in this day and age and had a huge effect on factories and how effective factories were. I definitely did not know water was so important that people were fighting over it, but it makes sense because the technology transfer was happening so quickly, as soon as one person had a machine that doubled production, everyone wanted that machine and water was usually the source to make things work. Purcell points out that not all new technology was a good thing and one of my questions that came from this reading was does that quote mean that not all the best models of inventions were coming out, making it not a good thing? Or was the economy not ready to handle everything people were trying to create at the same thing, which made it not a good thing?

  14. Andrew Boswell

    This week’s readings were pretty shocking. All of the legal battles and physical fights that people had to go through in order to support the technological change had never really crossed my mind. These past conflicts really show how tough it was for people to create new technology back then. You do not see companies or anybody else fighting against technological change anymore. These conflicts make me wonder. Would the creators would rather fight a battle for their stolen ideas or fight a battle to keep technology growing?
    The Smith and Clancey reading really showed how people were easily mistreated at the mills. Working at the mills had to be tough and it’s terrible that they had nowhere else to work at the time.

  15. Smith and Clancey
    This week’s reading of Smith and Clancey was very good, I thought it gave a nice point of view of how the workers were treated weather they were white or black. It was also intresting to see the transition in the letter by Fredrick Douglas talking about how at first the Black and White carpenter s getting paid and treated the same, but later on they started to be discourse between them. Then the workers of the musket showed just how much they really needed the workers. Why did the workers just take the finished muskets and force the mangers to give them rights?
    Pursell
    The pursell reading was not that interesting in talking about how companies use capitalism to exploit their workers, because we still see this today. It was fun to see that what companies are still doing the same thing today that they were doing in the early republic era. I did like how it gave the documents on why these workers were mad and what they were trying to do. Unlike in Smith and Clancey where the documents show the people as a whole and not as individuals.

  16. In the Pursell reading, the issue of the water mills/factories was an important aspect to the livelihood of many people. The water companies needed the water supply to fuel their factories. I found it interesting that Steinberg explained the process and impact the water companies had on the neighboring towns and townspeople. It seemed as though Steinberg’s tone was defensive for the water companies and was indifferent to the townpeople and their problems that they claimed they face become of the water company.

    In the Smith and Clancey article, it talks about the African-American struggle of freedom, slavery, and trying to have equality in the workplace. This is apparent in the Frederick Douglass excerpt. I like this article because it shows a different point of view from people who were denied their rights and ability to own property and were not able to fight back like the people in the Pursell article. It shows a glimpse of how blacks were treated and had to hope and pursue something better for their lives in the midst of injustice.

  17. Mercia Spicer

    I think that it is really interesting that American’s didn’t want factories because they didn’t want things to be like poverty stricken places in England, yet the companies were still okay with making the farmers and citizens around them poorer and suffer as long as the people they were employing didn’t seem poor. In the Pursell reading it was mentioned that not everyone benefited equally from the dams that were being built and that even though the factories were helping being get cloth and other materials faster it was still not beneficial to farmers and steamboat owners in the near by areas. I also found it really interesting that there was a fight about who would control and profit from the natural world but I don’t think that this is a new argument. For many years people have fought over land and resources and how whether it is more important for them to benefit an overall people or is it owners who live closest to these resources who have the bigger right. It was just a thought that I had. And I guess also a question, who’s true right is it?
    I also found the Smith and Clancy readings pretty interesting. I thought it was interesting to notice that it wasn’t only women who were seen as replaceable but men as well. When men went on strike at Harpers Ferry it was said that it would be easy to replace them with someone who needed the job more and wouldn’t complain about the regulations that were not new but only being enforced. It made me wonder why the regulations weren’t being enforced before and what happened that caused them to be so important to be enforced now? In addition I wondered what happened that changed white and blacks to not caring if they worked together on a ship yard as carpenters to the white men caring sooo much? I am also made to wonder if the reason men were in a factory paper making but women still did piece work if paper making had more dangerous machinery and it wasn’t just that men were being industrialized and women weren’t but if it was just the paper making factory.

  18. Ashley Beasley

    One thing I found very interesting about both of the readings was the focus on gender. The smith and Clancy reading mentions that factory job that made paper were made for men and the clothing/textiles industries were reserved for women. It is indeed a social issue when jobs were decided by race and gender. Both types of jobs were dangerous; men were working for sharp saws and wood grinders, but women had equally as dangerous jobs. Women were working with spinning and weaving machines that can easily strangle them with cloth if they get too close.

  19. Prusell starts Chapter Two debunking the myth “that technological change has always been seen as ‘Progress’ in the American context. Furthermore, Prusell foreshadows an explanation of machine-breakers in America.
    Prusell asserts people invest in technology for profit; if enough money is invested, the “technology” will “win.”
    What does it mean to “win?” Lets examine an essay by Theodore Steinberg.

    Steinberg drops the phrase “social capitalism” but he doesnt readily define it. Steinberg alludes social capitalism is an evolution. The author asserts one must explore social conflict over time (especially conflicts related to nature) to “fuller understand” the “industrial transformation.”

    -Steinberg, could you give us an example of a natural social conflict?
    ~I sure could: “Here the focus will be on the Merrimack valley textile cities of Lowell and Lawrence and their relationship to a number of communities in the distant reaches of New Hampshire . . . For water to best serve the needs of production it must have a uniform year-round flow, a goal achieved by water storage.” Essentially, two major companies fought over the ability to dam water. Human control of the water’s flow devastated the crops of farmers downstream. Court cases arose and eventually a riot formed. (Remember Pursell’s machine-breakers assertion?)
    The court case of: Winnipisiogee Lake Company v. Worster
    -Is best summarized by the paragraph on page 63.

    “The bill states the inadequacy of the common law to render relief in the premises, and prays for an interjection to restrain the defendant from destroying or removing the complaints’ dam, until he shall have established his right by a trial at law.”

    In summary: common law of water rights is a sketchy topic because law hasnt clearly been written on the subject. This is an instance of a cooperation investing in technology (to go back to Pursell’s argument). This technology is a dam, the company in charge of the dam “won” because it kept its dam and the small farmer that could not “pay to play” the lawyer game “lost.” The “looser” is now the owner of unprofitable land that occasionally floods because a bigger company won court cases.

    -The Smith and Clancey article presents another way a company can “win.” When a company adapts piecework methods, a low skill way to build goods, it is self-evident the company will be able to hire lower-skilled workers. When a society generates intense levels of workers; competition for jobs begins. As the supply of jobs drops below the number of employees, the employees cannot demand the wages they desire. This is due to the stronger desire of another worker to undermine wages. Given enough time the company went out of control trying to find workers that would work under the worst possible personal conditions, but the most profitable conditions for the company. Uncomfortable human conditions is not a progressive idea, this article further reflects Pursell’s ideas of “social capitalism.”

  20. I really enjoyed Pursell’s reading. I especially enjoyed when she talked about Meredith, Gilford and Laconia, NewHampshire. I have family in Gilford and I’ve vacationed there every summer since I was a little girl. It was interesting to learn about the history of those towns, I had no idea there was such a disagreement on which portion of Meredith and Gilford would be moved to Laconia. I also liked how she mentioned that, after the Lake Company was formed, that these cities were most of the opposition to the new found source of power.

    Smith’s reading was interesting as well. Frederick Douglass’s telling of his fight in Baltimore was horrible. I thought McGaw’s Gender and Papermaking was really interesting. Breck writes within his letter, that there was strong sense of specialization among workers. And he also mentioned how the unemployed were willing to preform more tasks than those workers who often held a preference to tasks. There were terrible working conditions in the paper mills, and that led to many injuries, even deaths within the mills.

  21. I was interested in the Smith & Clancy reading on gender and paper making. I think it speaks to a lot about the socioeconomics within a specific industry. I also enjoyed how it explained the organization of the mills and gave a closer look at the new methods managers and owners used to organize their businesses. The essays within the reading provided insight to every aspect of mill life in the late 19th Century.

  22. I would like to say that the Smith and Clancey reading surprised me but I didnt. For a country that tried so hard to be different from the factories in Britain, it is ironic that the same exploitation occurred in the United States as did in Britain. It seems to be a story that replays throughout US history in general. A group is exploited and the powers that be do just enough is done to remedy the situation to keep strikes/protests from happening. Women and minorities seem to always get the brunt of the exploitation which to a certain extent still continues today so it wasn’t surprising to read that Douglas had to turn over his pay to his owner or that women weren’t paid as much as the men. Over 200 years later women STILL aren’t being paid as much as men…