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Making History - Mass production of olives for trade

Making History - Mass production of olives for trade

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Stone age people begin to produce a surplus of food so they can trade it to neighboring villages for food or products not available in their area

The Origins and History of Winemaking

Pakin Songmor / Getty Images

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes, and depending on your definition of "made from grapes" there are at least two independent inventions of it. The oldest known possible evidence for the use of grapes as part of a wine recipe with fermented rice and honey comes from China, about 9,000 years ago. Two thousand years later, the seeds of what became the European winemaking tradition began in western Asia.

Forgotten History – Mass Production and the Portsmouth Block Mills

Who invented mass production? Surely it was Henry Ford in 1910 or thereabouts? Didn’t he invent the production line to produce the Model T motor car?

A Frenchman called Marc Isambard Brunel [the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel] has a better claim to being the father of the production line because he created such a line in the Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth at least a century before Ford.

The Royal Navy needed about 100,000 pulley blocks of various sizes each year. They were used in a variety of ways including hoisting sales and handling guns. A 74 gun ship might use a thousand of various sizes.

These used to be made according to the ‘craftsman’ method of working with one person carrying out all the operations needed to produce a block. This was expensive and the quality unreliable. Incidentally, Ford used the craftsman model to assemble his first cars. It was only later that he introduced production lines.

In 1795, Sir Samuel Bentham was appointed Inspector General of Naval Works with the task of modernising the Portsmouth Dockyard including introducing steam power and mechanising the production processes in the dockyard. He was very receptive to innovations.

In 1802 Brunel put forward a system of making blocks using machinery he had designed. Bentham appreciated the superiority of Brunel’s system and in August 1802 he was authorised by the Admiralty to proceed.

Bentham and Brunel set up the Portsmouth Block Mills and commissioned Henry Maudslay to make its machines. Their idea was that there would be a line of general purpose [e.g. saws] and specialised machines and a block would pass down the line with one operation being carried out at each stage. Unskilled labour would be used. There is evidence that Maudslay made a significant contribution to the design of the machines. Brunel’s first plans show wooden framed machines and bear little resemblance to the final designs.

The Portsmouth Block Mills today

Some of the machines used are listed below.

  • Pendulum saw: This machine cut the wood for making the block shells from an elm log.
  • Boring machine: This machine bored out the shells One drill bored the hole for the pivot pin that passes through the shell on which the sheave runs. The other bored a larger initial hole at right angles that will be elongated by the mortising machine chisel to form the slot for the sheave.
  • Mortising machine: The mortising machine chiseled out the slot in which the sheave turned.
  • Corner Saw: The circular saw cut away the angle required.
  • Shaping engine: . This machine cut the faces and sides of the block shells, creating a more rounded shape. Ten shells were mounted on a drum that rotates past the cutter. After cutting one side the shells are accurately rotated through 90o, presenting the next side to be cut.
  • Scoring engine: This formed a groove locating the fixed rope running around the outside of the pulley block to hold it in its required position during use. The shells were then removed to receive some light finishing by hand.
  • Circular saw: This cut a segment from a log of Lignum Vitae – a resilient dense hardwood from the West Indies or South America – to form the sheave.
  • Crown saw: The wood segment for the sheave cut by the circular saw was trimmed by this machine into a circular disc of the required diameter while a hole was simultaneously drilled through the middle.
  • Coaking engine: This maked three recesses in the outside edges of the hole provided by the rounding saw in order to locate and secure the ears of the coak – a bronze fitting which acted as the sheaves bearing.
  • Riveting hammer: This riveted pins through the holes in the coak made by the drilling machine, holding the coak in position.
  • Broaching machine: This bored out the inside of the coak making it smooth, cylindrical and concentric with the sheave rim.
  • Face-turning lathe: The lathe turned the faces of the sheave until they were smooth and cut a groove in the edge for the rope.

The specialised machines were almost entirely hand-made, the only machine tools used used by Maudsley being lathes to machine circular parts, and drilling machines for boring small holes. At that time there were no milling, planing or shaping machines, and all flat surfaces were made by hand chipping, filing and scraping. Each nut was made to fit its matching bolt and were numbered to ensure they were replaced correctly. The materials used were cast and wrought iron, brass and gun-metal. The use of metal throughout their construction greatly improved their rigidity and accuracy which became the standard for later machine tool manufacture.

There were three series of block-making machines, each designed to make a range of block sizes. The production line for medium blocks, was installed in January 1803. The line for smaller blocks in May 1803, and the third line for large blocks in March 1805. A total of 45 machines were installed. Machinery was modified and different techniques tried until in September 1807 the plant was felt able to provide all the block needed by the Navy. By 1808 the forty-five machines were turning out 130,000 pulley blocks per year and ten unskilled men were able to equal the output of 100 skilled men working according to the craftsman model. The capital cost of the project was recovered in three years. Brunel was paid a sum equal to the annual saving in 1810 he calculated this at £21174 12s 10d.

When the public learned of the Portsmouth block making mill it became a tourist attraction and a fence had to be erected to keep people out. Despite the public attention its mass-production principles were not widely applied in British manufacturing until the 1850s. Given that the productivity gains were so dramatic it is hard to understand why the lessons of the Portsmouth Block Mills were not applied elsewhere.

Block-making ceased in 1965.

I visited the dockyard museum some years ago and it had an exhibition explaining what Bentham, Brunel and Maudlsay had achieved. They had some of original machinery. The Science Museum in London also has some of the machines in their Makers of the Modern World Gallery. Photographs of these machines are in this post.

Making History - Mass production of olives for trade - History

Last Modified on March 1, 2009


Do you suffer from torpid liver, scald head, pimples, rheumatism, gout, barber's itch, or That Tired Feeling? If you do, Hood's family of medicines would have had something for you. C.I. Hood & Co. turned out an amazing variety of medicines, but the standard bearer, and mainstay of the company for over half a century, was Hood's Sarsaparilla.

In 1917, Mr. Hood reminisced about the beginnings of his company:

"Forty-two years ago, after ten years of apprenticeship and ownership in an apothecary store, it occurred to me that there was a great opportunity for a business introducing a blood-purifying medicine with efficiency and economy as its base.

"With the ambition and exuberance of young manhood I earnestly determined to make this idea a livewire.

"Fortunately, just at this time, a patient . brought to my drug store a prescription of unusual ingredients, which produced a remarkable cure for this customer, who had been a great sufferer from blood and nerve troubles . for several years.

"I took this prescription as a base and perfected a formula for Hood's Sarsaparilla. The sale of this medicine surpassed all my expectations and made the name of Hood known in every city, town, and village in this country and also widely abroad."

Mr. Hood felt that the success of his medicine was due to his care in analysis and experiments conducted with "all the knowledge which modern research in medical science had developed." Taking the successful prescription, he added other well-known vegetable remedies. The result included the following ingredients:

●            SARSAPARILLA ROOT--of great service for skin disorders, rheumatism, dropsy, and diseases of a scrofulous origin. (Scrofula is an enlargement of the lymph glands, with abscesses. It originates from tuberculosis. Many problems were due to a scrofulous condition of the blood.)

●            UVA URSI--much needed by sufferers from kidney complaints, inflammation of the bladder, chronic diarrhea, diabetes, and troubles of a more delicate nature in either sex.

●            BLUE FLAG--especially recommended for scrofula, syphilis, glandular tumors, rheumatism, dyspepsia, constipation, and certain private diseases.

●            YELLOW DOCK--remarkable in its effect against scorbutic, cutaneous, scrofulous scirrhous, and syphilitic affections.

●            DANDELION--A sign of hope for torpid liver, jaundice, depression, and melancholia.

●            GENTIAN--useful for dyspepsia, loss of appetite, exhaustion, gout, and hysteria.

●            JUNIPER BERRIES--relieve suffering due to catarrh of the bladder, kidney complaint, and diseases of the urinary organs.

●            PIPSISSEWA (Wintergreen)--eminently useful for diseases of the blood, eczema, eruptions, rheumatism, gout, dropsy, and catarrh of the bladder.

●            STILLINGIA--eradicates pimples, boils, abscesses, ulcers, syphilis, and chronic bronchitis.

●            ALCOHOL (18%)--If the other ingredients didn't cure you, at least you wouldn't feel any pain.

Typical C.I. Hood's Sarsaparilla Bottles

From Left to Right: 8.9" High 5.6" High 6.9" High 8.7" High Circa: 1878-1922

Even though these herbs aren't the great cure-alls they were thought to be, they are being rediscovered by modern scientists In their search for new cures.

When the new medicine was placed on the market in 1876, Hood planned to go ahead carefully, not wanting to make extra and improbable claims." However, his new discovery proved so popular that the business soon outgrew his apothecary store. The company moved to larger quarters in 1879. Finally, in 1882-1883, the company constructed a five-story building, known as Hood's Laboratory. It was enlarged in 1886, 1892, and 1897. The final building had a total floor area of 175,000 square feet, making it the largest building in the world dedicated to the manufacture and sale of patent medicine. This building contained an automatic bottling machine capable of filling 10,000 bottles a day. It also included eighteen tanks, in which sarsaparilla was prepared, which had a capacity of 420,000 bottles.

Sarsaparilla was not the only product produced in the Laboratory--C.I. Hood sold a family of medicines promising to cure most of the illnesses plaguing the human race. Other popular Hood's products were:

C.I. Hood Tooth Powder--cleaned the teeth, sweetened the breath, and neutralized the offensive secretions in the mouth.

Wooden tub at left - Size: 2.0"H x 0.7"D Bottles Size from left to right: 4.1"High (including top) 2.0" High 4.3" High 3.5 High, Tin is 4.2" High


C.I. Hood Vegetable Pills--very helpful as a cathartic and liver medicine, the pills also aided digestion, heartburn, headache, jaundice, nausea, and dizziness.

Bottle Size: 1.8" High Wooden Tube Sample Size: 1.7"H x 0.4"D

 C.I. Hood Olive Ointment--to be used in scrofula, festers, pimples, piles, boils, bruises, burns, flesh wounds, ingrown nails, and sore nipples.

Left To Right: Standard Painted Size: 1.8 dia. Embossed Tin Size: 1.8 dia. (Detail at left) Sample Tin Size: 1.1 dia. London Paper Label Size: 1.8 dia.


C.I. Hood Medicated Soap - recommended for skin diseases such as salt rheum, eczema, and scrofula sores. Also used for shaving.

Sample Size: 2.1"H x 1.6"W Regular Size: 3.0"H x 2.2"W


C.I. Hood TusSano--(in Latin, "I cure a cough") was a positive specific for the relief and cure of coughs, colds, hoarseness, bronchitis, asthma, influenza, tonsillitis, and clergyman's sore throat.

Regular Size: 6.9" High Sample Size: 2.2" High


Hood's Peptiron (from Left to Right)

Bottle: $1.00 Round Size: 3.8" high

Wooden Tube Sample Size: 1.7"high x 0.6"Dia

Bottle: 50¢ Round Size: 2.4" high

Bottle: $1.00 Round Size: 3.8" high

Bottle: Rectangular 57¢ Size: 2.5" high

Bottle: Rectangular $1.13 Size: 3.6" high


Hood's Monaid (from Left to Right)

Bottle Sizes: 2.4"H 1.0"D 3.0"H 1.3"D 2.9"H x 1.3"D & 2.6"H x 1.0"D

Wooden Tube Sizes: 3.3"H x 1.25"D & 2.5"H x 1.1"D


Hood's Dyspeplets (from Left to Right)

Bottle Sizes: 2.9"H x 1.3"D 2.9"H 1.3"D & 4.0" H

Wooden Tube Sample Size: 2.0"H x 0.7"D Wooden Tube (far right) Size: 2.9"H 1.3"D

Tin Sizes: 1.0H x 1.7W x 0.3D


Wooden Tube Size: 4.2 x 1.6d Wooden Tube Sample Size: 2.0"H x 0.7"D Bottle Size: 3.7"H x 1.6"D


Bottle Size: 5.5" High Circa: 1915-1922

Not all of Hood's products were as popular as Sarsaparilla and Tooth Powder. Some of the lesser lights included Maltobeef, Quinine Hair Tonic, and Oak Tooth Wash. Maltobeef was a delicious emulsion of cod liver oil, extract of malt, and extract of beef. It would cure paleness, thinness, and defects of the bones. Quinine Hair Tonic removed dandruff, crusts, and scurf from the scalp. Oak Tooth Wash was an astringent wash for spongy bleeding gums, and the cure and prevention of canker.

By 1892, the rapid expansion of his business caused Mr. Hood to seek a diversion from his duties. He began Hood's Farm, located three miles from Lowell, and covering 1,200 acres. He began with fifteen head of Jersey cattle, and by 1893 they were winning prizes at the Chicago World's Fair. One winner was Merry Maiden, pictured in many Hood's advertisements, including the Animal Statuettes. Other residents of the farm were repeated winners at state fairs, world's fairs, and the Columbian Exposition. Hood also raised prize-winning hogs, as well as feed crops, fruits, and vegetables. He took pride in his modern farming methods, and the high yield of his crops.

 In addition to winning prizes, the farm was also profitable. At one auction held on the farm in 1916, Hood sold 73 cows for a total of $38,705, including one Jersey which brought $5,000. He also developed a set of Farm Remedies, which were advertised in the back of many of his booklets. They must have been fairly successful, as they were advertised over quite a long period of time.




Size: 8.9" x 2.8" Circa: 1898-1922

C.I. Hood Farm Abortion Remedy

Size: 10.3" x 6.5"D Circa: 1898-1922

C.I. Hood Farm Disinfectant

 Size: 3.8"H x 1.5"D Circa: 1898-1922

Hood's Farm also produced dairy products. From the reported productivity of his cows, this must have been a thriving business, but the bottles are fairly rare. A final auction was held In 1923, shortly after Mr. Hood's death, and all the stock was sold. We know of no relationship between C.I. Hood's farm and H.P. Hood's Dairy, which still operates in Boston.

Like his farm and his medicines, Hood wanted only the best from his advertising. Like many advertisers of his day, he found the development of color lithography to be a boon, and it filled a need in the life of the common man. The average laborer of the late 1880's led a drab life compared to our existence today. There was no television, radio, or motion pictures, and transportation was slow and difficult. The average worker was hard put to make ends meet and could rarely afford color pictures for his walls. The invention of an inexpensive color printing method changed all this. Families were soon caught up in collecting color prints to decorate their homes, and putting smaller prints in scrapbooks where they could be enjoyed night after night in front of the fireplace.

The advertisers of the day were quick to capitalize on this situation by distributing free color pictures of children, animals, young ladies, and country scenes. These pictures had advertising combined with the design, and text on the back of the extolled the merits of the product. The use of printed advertising developed markets in all parts of the country, and the world. This deluge of printed matter was the first stop taken in the development of name brand products.

Hood's dedication to good patent medicines was equalled by his dedication to good advertising. The Hood Laboratory contained a large, and prolific, advertising department which took almost half of the building. At its height, the printing room contained eighteen cylinder printing presses, two newspaper presses, and a color printing press which was the largest in the world at that time. These presses produced a stream of trade cards, posters, jigsaw puzzles, games, cookbooks, and hundreds of different pamphlets and newspapers.

The glory of the company's advertising style was its calendars. About 150 printers, pressmen, and binders were employed exclusively in the production of the calendars for over five months each year. The artwork was of the highest quality, most of it done especially for these calendars. Not an inch of space was wasted. Each page was filled with almanac information, testimonials, symptoms of diseases, descriptions of products, and coupons for games, puzzles, and other gifts. And with all that, they still managed to squeeze in the days of the month.

Integral to Gutenberg’s design was replacing wood with metal and printing blocks with each letter, creating the European version of moveable type.

In order to make the type available in large quantities and to different stages of printing, Gutenberg applied the concept of replica casting, which saw letters created in reverse in brass and then replicas made from these molds by pouring molten lead.

Researchers have speculated that Gutenberg actually used a sand-casting system that uses carved sand to create the metal molds. The letters were fashioned to fit together uniformly to create level lines of letters and consistent columns on flat media.

Gutenberg’s process would not have worked as seamlessly as it did if he had not made his own ink, devised to affix to metal rather than wood. Gutenberg was also able to perfect a method for flattening printing paper for use by using a winepress, traditionally used to press grapes for wine and olives for oil, retrofitted into his printing press design.

Mass Communication Study Then

In 1949, Carl I. Hovland, Arthur A. Lumsdaine, and Fred D. Sheffield wrote the book Experiments on Mass Communication. They looked at two kinds of films the Army used to train soldiers. First, they examined orientation and training films such as the “Why We Fight” that were intended to teach facts to the soldiers, as well as generate a positive response from them for going to war. The studies determined that significant learning did take place by the soldiers from the films, but primarily with factual items. The Army was disappointed with the results that showed that the orientation films did not do an effective job in generating the kind of positive responses they desired from the soldiers. Imagine, people were not excited about going to war.

With the transition to the industrial age in the 18th century, large populations headed to urban areas, creating mass audiences of all economic classes seeking information and entertainment. Printing technology was at the heart of modernization WHICH led to magazines, newspapers, the telegraph, and the telephone. At the turn of the century (1900), pioneers like Thomas Edison, Theodore Puskas, and Nikola Tesla literally electrified the world and mass communication. With the addition of motion pictures and radio in the early 1900s, and television in the 40s and 50s, the world increasingly embraced the foundations of today’s mass communication. In the 1970s cable started challenging over-the-air broadcasting and traditional program distribution making the United States a wired nation. In 2014, there was an estimated 116.3 million homes in America that own a TV (Nielson, 2014 Advance National TV Household Universe Estimate). While traditionally these televisions would display only the programs that are chosen to be broadcast by cable providers, more and more households have chosen to become more conscious media consumers and actively choose what they watch through alternative viewing options like streaming video.

Today, smart T.V.’s and streaming devices have taken over the market and they are expected to be in 43% of households by 2016. These new forms of broadcasting have created a digital revolution. Thanks to Netflix and other streaming services we are no longer subjected to advertisements during our shows. Similarly, streaming services like Hulu provide the most recent episodes as they appear on cable that viewers can watch any time. These services provide instant access to entire seasons of shows (which can result in binge watching).

The Information Age eventually began to replace the ideals of the industrial age. In 1983 Time Magazine named the PC the first “Machine of the Year.” Just over a decade later, PCs outsold televisions. Then, in 2006, Time Magazine named “you” as the person of the year for your use of technology to broaden communication. “You” took advantage of changes in global media. Chances are that you, your friends, and family spend hours engaged in data-mediated communication such as emailing, texting, or participating in various form of social media. Romero points out that, “The Net has transformed the way we work, the way we get in contact with others, our access to information, our levels of privacy and indeed notions as basic and deeply rooted in our culture as those of time and space” (88). Social media has also had a large impact in social movements across the globe in recent years by providing the average person with the tools to reach wide audiences around the world for the first time history.

If you’re reading this for a college class, you may belong to the millennial generation. Free wifi, apps, alternative news sources, Facebook, and Twitter have become a way of life. Can you imagine a world without communication technology? How would you find out the name of that song stuck in your head? If you wanted to spontaneously meet up with a friend for lunch, how would you let them know? Mass communication has become such an integral part of our daily lives, most people probably could not function through the day without it. What started as email quickly progressed to chat rooms and basic blogs, such as LiveJournal. From there, we saw the rise and fall of the first widely used social media platform, Myspace. Though now just a shadow of the social media powerhouse it once was, Myspace paved the way for social media to enter the mainstream in forms of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram. Facebook has evolved into a global social media site. It’s available in 37 languages and has over 500 million users. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2005 while studying at Harvard University, and it has universally changed the way we communicate, interact, and share our lives with friends, family, and acquaintances. Many people argue about the good and bad qualities of having a Facebook profile, it can be looked at as your “digital footprint” in social media. Profiles log status updates, timelines photos and videos, and archives messages between members. Here’s a short YouTube video from rapper/poet Prince Ea about Facebook and the effects of social media on society.

Another example of mainstream social media is Twitter. Twitter allows for quick 140 character or less status updates (called tweets) for registered users. Tweets can be sent from any device with access to internet in a fast simple way and connects with a number of people, whether they be family, friends or followers. Twitter’s microblogging format allows for people to share their daily thoughts and experiences on a broad and sometimes public stage. The simplicity of Twitter allows it to be used as a tool for entertainment and blogging, but also as a way of organizing social movements and sharing breaking news.

Snapchat is a newer social media platform used by more and more people every day. The function of Snapchat allows the user to send a photo (with the option of text) that expires after a few seconds. It can be looked at like a digital self-destructing note you would see in an old spy movie. Unlike its competitors, Snapchat is used in a less professional manner, emphasizing humor and spontaneity over information efficiency. Contrary to Facebook, there is no pressure to pose, or display your life. Rather, it is more spontaneous. It’s like the stranger you wink at in the street or a hilarious conversation with a best friend.

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Manchester and Liverpool were fired up by railroad fever. Crowds clustered at stations all along the track, anxious to witness the railway's grand opening. Dignitaries including the Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington and the Austrian ambassador crammed into the carriages for their momentous journey from Liverpool to Manchester.

Carriages, all bedight with scarlet and gold, and filled with gallant gentlemen and gaudy dames (for all the carriages were open), and there was such a flying of flags, and such smiling and bowing, that I was fain to think myself very small sitting on my bench.

Mrs M.M. Sherwood (September 1830)

People waved and cheered as the eight locomotives and their carriages steamed passed. Others threw stones. One journalist reported spectators crowding round the tracks, trying to rip them up. Soldiers and cavalry lined sections of the railroad to protect the passengers and carriages from the masses. As with many leaps in technology, people worried how it would affect their livelihoods.

The passengers were jubilant, but then, part way to Manchester, tragedy struck. The locomotives stopped to refuel, and passengers clambered down onto the tracks only to see Rocket charging towards them. In the confusion and panic, William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, fell with his leg beneath Rocket's wheels. He was taken to a nearby doctor, but later died from his wounds.

After this disaster, the Duke of Wellington favoured returning to Liverpool, but others feared this could lead to a riot in Manchester. The procession continued but the passengers no longer waved at the bulging grandstands or cheering crowds.

Journalists delighted in spreading gruesome tales of Huskisson's death. The railway directors feared this would frighten away passengers, but railway fever only grew. Potters and artisans cashed in on the celebrations, producing souvenirs of every type.

Public and private sectors

The Italian economy is mixed, and until the beginning of the 1990s the state owned a substantial number of enterprises. At that time the economy was organized as a pyramid, with a holding company at the top, a middle layer of financial holding companies divided according to sector of activity, and below them a mass of companies operating in diverse sectors, ranging from banking, expressway construction, media, and telecommunications to manufacturing, engineering, and shipbuilding. One example, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale IRI), set up in 1933 and closed in 2000, was a holding company that regulated public industries and banking. Many of those companies were partly owned by private shareholders and listed on the stock exchange. By the 1980s moves had already been made to increase private participation in some companies. The most notable examples were Mediobanca SpA, Italy’s foremost merchant bank, with shareholdings in major industrial concerns Alitalia, the national airline, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 before being sold to a private investment group and the telecommunications company Telecom Italia SpA, which was created in 1994 through the merger of five state-run telecommunications concerns. Many other banks were also partially privatized under the Banking Act of 1990.

In 1992 a wide privatization program began when four of the main state-controlled holding companies were converted into public limited corporations. The four were the IRI, the National Hydrocarbons Agency (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ENI), the National Electrical Energy Fund (Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica ENEL), and the State Insurance Fund (Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni INA). Other principal agencies include the Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade Statali (ANAS), responsible for some 190,000 miles (350,000 km) of the road network, and the Ente Ferrovie dello Stato (FS “State Railways”), which controls the majority of the rail network.

The private sector was once characterized by a multitude of small companies, many of which were family-run and employed few or no workers outside the family. In the early 21st century, businesses with fewer than 50 employees still represented more than half of total firms, reflecting a trend that showed a decline in large production units and an increase of smaller, more-specialized ones. This trend was especially pronounced in the automobile industry, textiles, electrical goods, and agricultural, industrial, and office equipment.

Following World War II, the economy in the south was mainly dominated by the interests of the government and the public sector. The Southern Development Fund (Cassa per il Mezzogiorno), a state-financed fund set up to stimulate economic and industrial development between 1950 and 1984, met with limited success. It supported early land reform—including land reclamation, irrigation work, infrastructure building, and provision of electricity and water to rural areas—but did little to stimulate the economy. Later the fund financed development of heavy industry in selected areas, hoping that major industrial concerns might attract satellite industries and lay the foundation for sustained economic activity. Yet these projects became known as “cathedrals in the desert” not only did they fail to attract other smaller industries, they also suffered from high absenteeism among workers. The most successful project was undertaken by Finsider, which in 1964 opened what was Europe’s most modern steelworks, in Taranto.

Technological Transitions Shape Media Industries

New media technologies both spring from and cause social changes. For this reason, it can be difficult to neatly sort the evolution of media into clear causes and effects. Did radio fuel the consumerist boom of the 1920s, or did the radio become wildly popular because it appealed to a society that was already exploring consumerist tendencies? Probably a little bit of both. Technological innovations such as the steam engine, electricity, wireless communication, and the Internet have all had lasting and significant effects on American culture. As media historians Asa Briggs and Peter Burke note, every crucial invention came with “a change in historical perspectives.” Electricity altered the way people thought about time because work and play were no longer dependent on the daily rhythms of sunrise and sunset wireless communication collapsed distance the Internet revolutionized the way we store and retrieve information.

The transatlantic telegraph cable made nearly instantaneous communication between the United States and Europe possible for the first time in 1858.

The contemporary media age can trace its origins back to the electrical telegraph, patented in the United States by Samuel Morse in 1837. Thanks to the telegraph, communication was no longer linked to the physical transportation of messages it didn’t matter whether a message needed to travel 5 or 500 miles. Suddenly, information from distant places was nearly as accessible as local news, as telegraph lines began to stretch across the globe, making their own kind of World Wide Web. In this way, the telegraph acted as the precursor to much of the technology that followed, including the telephone, radio, television, and Internet. When the first transatlantic cable was laid in 1858, allowing nearly instantaneous communication from the United States to Europe, the London Times described it as “the greatest discovery since that of Columbus, a vast enlargement…given to the sphere of human activity.”

Not long afterward, wireless communication (which eventually led to the development of radio, television, and other broadcast media) emerged as an extension of telegraph technology. Although many 19th-century inventors, including Nikola Tesla, were involved in early wireless experiments, it was Italian-born Guglielmo Marconi who is recognized as the developer of the first practical wireless radio system. Many people were fascinated by this new invention. Early radio was used for military communication, but soon the technology entered the home. The burgeoning interest in radio inspired hundreds of applications for broadcasting licenses from newspapers and other news outlets, retail stores, schools, and even cities. In the 1920s, large media networks—including the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)—were launched, and they soon began to dominate the airwaves. In 1926, they owned 6.4 percent of U.S. broadcasting stations by 1931, that number had risen to 30 percent.

Gone With the Wind defeated The Wizard of Oz to become the first color film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1939.

In addition to the breakthroughs in audio broadcasting, inventors in the 1800s made significant advances in visual media. The 19th-century development of photographic technologies would lead to the later innovations of cinema and television. As with wireless technology, several inventors independently created a form of photography at the same time, among them the French inventors Joseph Niépce and Louis Daguerre and the British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot. In the United States, George Eastman developed the Kodak camera in 1888, anticipating that Americans would welcome an inexpensive, easy-to-use camera into their homes as they had with the radio and telephone. Moving pictures were first seen around the turn of the century, with the first U.S. projection-hall opening in Pittsburgh in 1905. By the 1920s, Hollywood had already created its first stars, most notably Charlie Chaplin by the end of the 1930s, Americans were watching color films with full sound, including Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

Television—which consists of an image being converted to electrical impulses, transmitted through wires or radio waves, and then reconverted into images—existed before World War II, but gained mainstream popularity in the 1950s. In 1947, there were 178,000 television sets made in the United States 5 years later, 15 million were made. Radio, cinema, and live theater declined because the new medium allowed viewers to be entertained with sound and moving pictures in their homes. In the United States, competing commercial stations (including the radio powerhouses of CBS and NBC) meant that commercial-driven programming dominated. In Great Britain, the government managed broadcasting through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Funding was driven by licensing fees instead of advertisements. In contrast to the U.S. system, the BBC strictly regulated the length and character of commercials that could be aired. However, U.S. television (and its increasingly powerful networks) still dominated. By the beginning of 1955, there were around 36 million television sets in the United States, but only 4.8 million in all of Europe. Important national events, broadcast live for the first time, were an impetus for consumers to buy sets so they could witness the spectacle both England and Japan saw a boom in sales before important royal weddings in the 1950s.

In the 1960s, the concept of a useful portable computer was still a dream huge mainframes were required to run a basic operating system.

In 1969, management consultant Peter Drucker predicted that the next major technological innovation would be an electronic appliance that would revolutionize the way people lived just as thoroughly as Thomas Edison’s light bulb had. This appliance would sell for less than a television set and be “capable of being plugged in wherever there is electricity and giving immediate access to all the information needed for school work from first grade through college.” Although Drucker may have underestimated the cost of this hypothetical machine, he was prescient about the effect these machines—personal computers—and the Internet would have on education, social relationships, and the culture at large. The inventions of random access memory (RAM) chips and microprocessors in the 1970s were important steps to the Internet age. As Briggs and Burke note, these advances meant that “hundreds of thousands of components could be carried on a microprocessor.” The reduction of many different kinds of content to digitally stored information meant that “print, film, recording, radio and television and all forms of telecommunications [were] now being thought of increasingly as part of one complex.” This process, also known as convergence, is a force that’s affecting media today.

Key Takeaways

Media fulfills several roles in society, including the following:

  • entertaining and providing an outlet for the imagination,
  • educating and informing,
  • serving as a public forum for the discussion of important issues, and
  • acting as a watchdog for government, business, and other institutions.


Choose two different types of mass communication—radio shows, television broadcasts, Internet sites, newspaper advertisements, and so on—from two different kinds of media. Make a list of what role(s) each one fills, keeping in mind that much of what we see, hear, or read in the mass media has more than one aspect. Then, answer the following questions. Each response should be a minimum of one paragraph.

  1. To which of the four roles media plays in society do your selections correspond? Why did the creators of these particular messages present them in these particular ways and in these particular mediums?
  2. What events have shaped the adoption of the two kinds of media you selected?
  3. How have technological transitions shaped the industries involved in the two kinds of media you have selected?

Ronald Reagan Paved the Way for Donald Trump

Foll your eyes as much as you like at qualifiers like “artisanal,” “small batch,” “heirloom,” and “bespoke.” Chuckle knowingly, and a little self deprecatingly, as parodies like Portlandia and the spoof Tumblr Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table turn them into their own punch lines. These words are big business.

In my neighborhood looms a billboard advertising a mega developer’s “hand crafted” luxury apartments and townhouses installed in a repurposed nineteenth century brewery. He’s probably laughing hardest of all.

The ongoing turn-of-the-last-century nostalgia spell, fueling contemporary markets for mustache wax and obscure herbaceous liquors — excuse me, tonics (tonics that I find delightful, by the way) — shows no sign of waning anytime soon. Yet as others have argued, this obsession with the artisanal production of yesteryear is hardly unproblematic, ignoring as it does the widespread racial, gender, and class oppression that it entailed and still perpetuates.

As Rachel Laudan explains, in casting foodstuffs like handmade tortillas, traditionally pressed olive oil, and home-cooked meals as more wholesome, both nutritionally and morally, we overlook the fact that these delicacies necessitate hours of physical labor — labor that was traditionally performed by women and poorly paid agricultural and domestic workers.

Nostalgia is a form of remembrance, but one that simultaneously demands willful forgetting. And that is why it is so dangerous — it always runs the risk of justifying and replicating the injustices of past eras by making them invisible.

It is fitting, then, that a warning against this fetishization of the artisanal emerged from the penny-farthing-populated epoch we pine for. Frank Lloyd Wright originally delivered his classic text “The Art and Craft of the Machine” as an address to the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society in 1901. Without ascribing any predictive powers to Wright, we can still glean lessons from his words — lessons that seem more urgent today than perhaps they did at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Wright’s address is one of a number of tracts decrying the application of “unnecessary” ornamentation in architecture and design at the beginning of the century (of which Adolf Loos’s 1908 “Ornament and Crime” is especially entertaining). Together, these works advocated a modernism of ostensibly pure, streamlined forms. Several, including Wright’s, also came with a social message.

In “The Art and Craft of the Machine,” Wright argued that the Machine (which he capitalizes) is one of the great emancipatory developments in the history of humankind. The Machine can relieve workers of needless toil it can be a “tool which frees human labor, lengthens and broadens the life of the simplest man.” However, artists have shunned the Machine because human greed has usurped it and made it a “terrible engine of enslavement, deluging the world with murderous ubiquity, which was plainly enough the damnation of their art and craft.”

According to Wright, artists understandably saw the Machine as a threat, an assault on the “handicraft ideal.” But he argued that this ideal had outlived its usefulness. Rather than lament the obsolescence of the handicraft ideal, we should embrace the fact there is no longer a need for fussy joining and tinkering. Indeed, the Machine could be instrumental in “saving the most precious thing in the world — human effort.”

As a counterpoint, Wright cited William Morris, a prominent figurehead in the nineteenth century Arts and Crafts movement in England. In the face of the Industrial Revolution, Morris and his circle sought to revive what they believed to be a medieval craft tradition.

Morris held socialist ideals, but his artistic project failed to align with them in important ways. As Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt notes in Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream , a major factor behind the skeptical response to the English Arts and Crafts movement was that in producing high quality works made by skilled craftsmen, Morris and company ended up making objects only the rich could afford.

This situation hasn’t changed much over the last century. With growing awareness of the egregious exploitation borne of globalization, artisanal products produced in regions with basic labor protections are presented to consumers not merely as special and precious items, but also as ethical alternatives to mass-produced goods and “factory farmed” food. However, to furnish one’s daily existence with fair-trade, shade-grown coffee and footwear made in Italy instead of Bangladesh is expensive, and a financial impossibility for a great many who would still wish not to rely on exploited labor.

Wright understood this quandary. He asserted that “William Morris’s great work was legitimately done — in the sense that most art and craft of today is an echo the time when such work was useful has gone,” then followed that statement with a one-sentence paragraph: “Echoes are by nature decadent.”

Contemporary consumer culture validates Wright. So-called ethical living has become a luxury, and as long as it depends on consuming artisanal products, it will remain so, despite the glossary of terms devised to avoid that connotation. Those who can afford to perhaps ought to avoid supporting producers who pollute grossly or rely on exploited labor.

But Wright knew all along that returning to an artisanal past does not and cannot advance a democratic, egalitarian project. While we might enjoy certain activities as hobbies, we are not going to shop, quilt, or homebrew our way to a better world.

What we need to do, Wright asserted, is harness the Machine’s liberatory potential. To some extent, modern society has already done so. But for Wright, there were aesthetic benefits in doing this, too — the Machine’s efficiency would respect and best exhibit the inherent physical qualities of materials like wood and poured concrete, all while reducing human toil.

If the artist will only open his eyes he will see that the machine he dreads has made it possible to wipe out the mass of meaningless torture to which mankind, in the name of the artistic, has been more or less subjected since time began, for that matter, has made possible a cleanly strength, an ideality and a poetic fire that the art of the world has not yet seen for the machine, the process now smooths away the necessity for petty structural deceits, soothes this wearisome struggle to make things seem what they are not, and can never be . . .

The Machine, properly used, has the potential to provide for humanity in abundance while liberating it from unnecessary work. The streamlined elimination of “structural parts . . . laboriously joined in such a way as to beautifully emphasize the manner of their joining” would yield a new kind of beauty.

In its contemporary context, the handicraft ideal aligns neatly with neoliberal values of individualism and social atomization. Its emphasis on the small, the local, the limited edition, effectively constrains any imagination of broadly communal forms of living and production, all the while presenting the artisanal as a matter of individual ethics and choice. There’s a reason why the DIY culture of craft is strong on the libertarian right, taking form in home-butchered meat and the construction of bunkers and local militias, among other activities.

And still, the Machine’s liberatory potential remains untapped. It persists as a tool of enslavement, increasing rather than decreasing our workloads by facilitating speedups and allowing professional communication to infiltrate our domestic space.

Yet Wright’s sanguine words still ring true: “The Machine is Intellect mastering the drudgery of the earth that the plastic art may live that the margin of leisure and strength by which man’s life upon earth can be made beautiful, may immeasurably widen its function ultimately to emancipate human expression!”

We have the Machine. And now we possess methods that emit fewer carbons than ever before to power it. There’s hope for us yet.

Watch the video: How Olive Oil Is Farmed and Processed at the Countrys Biggest Producer  How to Make It (May 2022).