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A Look at Manufacturing over the Years, 1790-1982 [Slide Show]

Images from the Archives of Scientific American
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COMPUTER ERA BEGINS:

Electronic computers were invented in the 1940s and by the 1980s were in widespread use. Here a computer guides the motions of a tool, replacing not just the muscle, but some of the learned skill needed in manufacturing.....[ More ]

THE PAPER ERA:

Chemical and mechanical processing of industrial-scale wood processing enabled paper to be mass-manufactured very cheaply (and used by such publications as Scientific American ). Much water was used in paper processing, so it was sometimes safer for the workers to walk around barefoot.....[ More ]

THE MANUFACTURING JOURNEY OF RAW MATERIALS:

This 1913 advertisement shows (rather smugly) the stages from raw natural resource to finished manufactured product. Natural tree latex is collected, shipped, chemically processed by vulcanization into a hard plastic, and manufactured into a pen.....[ More ]

FINGERTIP POWER:

Compressed air was used to enhance the power of muscles, and it could be wielded with almost as much ease as any hand tool. Anywhere a tool was used, in a high-rise building, slaughterhouse or factory floor, compressed air could be used to power it.....[ More ]

PRECISION MANUFACTURING:

A roller bearing factory used this complex, very accurate electro-mechanical device to test the size of manufactured steel bearings and reject those that were too large or too small.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC FURNACE:

When electricity was expensive and supplies uncertain, it had limited uses. By 1913 new methods of capturing, storing and transmitting electricity from sources such as the turbines at the Niagara Falls had made this power source cheap enough to use for melting large quantities of steel.....[ More ]

CONSUMER DRIVEN:

New technology gave rise to new consumer goods, such as automobiles (cars, as we call them now). All these cars needed parts, which gave rise to factories producing just those parts, in this case, rubber tires.....[ More ]

BICYCLE CRAZE:

The chain-driven “safety bicycle” was invented in 1885, and by 1896 the new “bicycle craze” was in full swing. This machine stamped out, in large quantities, metal rims for the new pneumatic tires.....[ More ]

GLASSMAKING II:

Automation. Skipping ahead from our glassmaking image of 1888 to this article from 1920, many glassmaking processes had been completely automated, “putting the glass industry on a scientific basis.”....[ More ]

GLASSMAKING I:

Skilled labor. Some factories, such as this one producing glass in 1888, were based on large groups of artisans working together to produce goods. Here, two workers draw out a glass tube, a boy fans the glass to cool it.....[ More ]

A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT:

Today we might be horrified at the scale of environmental damage caused by so many factories belching smoke. In 1882, though, these busy factories in Pittsburgh, Penn., meant “wonderful prosperity” for everyone.....[ More ]

INDUSTRY AND INFRASTRUCTURE:

As factories grew in number and scale, they relied increasingly on a growing network of transportation provided by railroads, canals and natural waterways. In this factory making woodworking machines, raw materials such as iron and wood arrived, finished products left.....[ More ]

SOCIAL CHANGE:

Factories needed workers, and they were drawn from across society. Here, women work in a watch-making factory in 1870. This factory looks almost pleasant when compared with the dirty and dangerous conditions in many factories.....[ More ]

MAKING A MUSKET:

Man uses a machine to forge small interchangeable parts for the 1863 Springfield muzzle-loading rifle, in much demand during the U.S. Civil War.....[ More ]

HORSE POWER:

A patent drawing from 1863 shows a quartz mill powered by a pair of horses. Power for machines in the early 19th century came from natural sources such as men, horses, water or wind. By the late 19th century mechanical engines had taken over, mostly powered by steam.....[ More ]

FIRST AUTOMATIC FACTORY:

The flour mill patented by Oliver Evans of Philadelphia in 1790 is sometimes considered to be the first automated manufacturing process. Our issue of September, 1982 calls it “the forerunner of the modern production line.”....[ More ]

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