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European Themeroute | Production and Manufacturing

Domestic handmade textile production was typical for the pre-industrial age. The father sat at the loom and the women of the family were responsible for spinning the yarn. An entrepreneur (in Germany he was called a "Verleger") delivered the raw material and organised sales, often over considerable ... more

Icon: Production and ManufacturingGoods for the world. European Theme Route Manufacturing

Domestic handmade textile production was typical for the pre-industrial age. The father sat at the loom and the women of the family were responsible for spinning the yarn. An entrepreneur (in Germany he was called a "Verleger") delivered the raw material and organised sales, often over considerable distances. Textile manufacture was the leading industry in Europe: from the 16th century onwards it was basically organised on such a system.

The first types of factories grew up in the 17th century, when larger groups of workers were concentrated in so-called "manufactories". Although this also applied to textiles, it was more common in glass and salt production, ironworks and hammer works. In France, Royal manufactories produced tapestries, furniture and porcelain in magnificent style. The process was divided up into sections from the start, and the workers had to keep to a strict discipline despite the fact that the majority were still working individually by hand. The decisive element which turned the whole world of work on its head was mechanisation.

The factory age began around the end of the 18th century in Britain, with large spinning mills in the county of Lancashire. Here one waterwheel was able to drive around 1000 spindles. Shortly afterwards there followed the steam engine, which made production independent of swiftly flowing water and gave a huge boost to mechanical spinning, weaving and, soon after, the whole of the British economy.

From now on machines dictated the organisation and tempo of work: but not only in textile manufacturing. The Economist, Adam Smith, tells of a factory where the manufacture of a pin was divided up into 18 working sections. In 1769, the English pioneer, Josiah Wedgwood, opened up his porcelain factory "Etruria" near Stoke-on-Trent. Whereas before that, workers had followed the path of their product from the pottery wheel to decorating, firing and storing, they were now ordered to keep strictly to their own department.

Division of labour raised productivity considerably. The actions of the workers, on the other hand, were increasingly reduced to a few, constantly repeated movements. As a result they gradually became alienated from the products they made. Formerly their products had been the pride of hand workers. Since expert knowledge was hardly necessary, employers now preferred to employ women and children whom they could pay less than men. The workers were ruthlessly exploited. Women and children in textile factories had to work shifts of between 14 and 16 hours. Even hen working conditions improved during the course of the 19th century – primarily for children – this tendency was aggravated even more by the introduction of mass production.

As early as 1797 an American by the name of Eli Whitney suggested making rifle locks from exchangeable parts, instead of making them individually for every weapon. Thanks to this standardisation – a basic prerequisite for mass production - costs were drastically reduced and production further accelerated. The manufacture of exchangeable parts only really came to the fore at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of new metal precision tools. After that, the production of standard quality tools gradually became a manufacturing branch in its own right: machine tool manufacturing.
In 1881 in the USA, Frederick W. Taylor began to divide working processes systematically into their smallest components, in order to rationalise them even more. His quantitative analyses laid the foundations for "Taylorism": scientific production management. The immediate results were that engineers would go round the factories checking working processes with a watch in their hand in order to speed up the work.

The last stage of mass production was the introduction of the conveyor belt. This began in the stockyards of Chicago and Cincinnati. It was then adapted by Henry Ford in 1911 for his motor car factories in Manchester and Detroit. Whilst the conveyor belt was moving forward the next chassis at a constant speed the workers had to mount the components with as few actions as possible to avoid any "unproductive" movements. The pace of production was even more drastically increased. Whereas it had formerly taken 12.5 man-hours to mount a chassis, by 1914 only 93 man-minutes were needed. Thus Ford cars could be afforded by everyone.

In the second half of the 19th century methods of industrial production reached the food sector. The powerful engines which delivered energy independent of the specific location, encouraged entrepreneurs to set up large bakeries and breweries. New techniques made the processing of agrarian products increasingly independent of the seasons of the year.
The invention of artificial cooling methods was an important step. In 1748 a Scotsman by the name of William Cullen was the first man to demonstrate how to extract warmth from the environment by reducing a fluid to steam. The process was made even more effective by compressing the refrigerating agents. That said, it was quite a long time before these principles could be used to make the first effective refrigerator. An American by the name of Jacob Perkins is reputed to have built the first model in 1835. Around 20 years later an Australian, James Harrison, introduced refrigerators to the meat and brewing industries.

Thus large-scale beer production became possible during the summer months. At the same time people learnt how to control the temperature of the mash with a thermometer, and the amount of original gravity with a saccharometer. Such scientific knowledge was characteristic for the whole area of food production.

Conservation was a further step. The fact that food remains edible when it is kept in a closed container at a certain temperature over a long period of time, was discovered by a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, in 1809 when he was charged with supplying food to Napoleon's armies. His British colleague, Peter Durand, discovered that tins were the best containers for doing so. But it was not until 1863 that a scientist by the name of Louis Pasteur discovered that microbes could be killed by heating. The production of tinned food spread quickly, most of all in the USA, and the United States soon became the market leader.

Milk conservation can also be traced back to military requirements. During the American Civil War in the 1860s Gail Borden developed condensed milk. A Swiss firm launched it onto the European market and soon after it merged with another firm owned by Henri Nestlé, the inventor of baby food. The result was that condensed milk became famous under Nestlé’s name.

Around the end of the 19th century a new form of co-operative manufacturing arose in dairy production. Dairy farmers, above all in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and northern Germany, joined forces to market their dairy produce. Cooperative dairies produced butter and cheese to uniform standards and conquered ever larger markets beyond national boundaries. The standardisation of food production, increasingly independent of the time of manufacture and the region where it was made, has continued right down to the present day.

Houghton | United Kingdom
One of the largest timber-built water mills in Europe, Houghton Mill is open to the public for the main tourist season and welcomes around 14,000 visitors a year. There are 3 floors of information and interactive exhibits relating to the milling process and social history of milling. Visitors can ...
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Houghton Mill
Mill Street
PE28 2AZ Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Keith | United Kingdom
The Strathisla Distillery comprises one of the most elegant groups of buildings in the Scotch whisky industry. The distillery is the oldest in the Speyside region, having been founded in 1786 by Alexander Milne and George Taylor. It has been known by several different names and was called the Milton ...
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Strathisla Distillery
Seafield Avenue
AB55 5BS Keith, United Kingdom

Keswick | United Kingdom
Nestling between the peaks at the head of the Honister Pass in the Lake District, the Buttermere and Westmorland Green Slate Company Limited is England´s only Slate Mine. Unlike slate taken from quarries, our Westmorland Green Slate is wholly extracted from beneath the hills - from eleven ...
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Honister Slate Mine
Honister Pass Borrowdale
CA12 5XN Keswick, United Kingdom

Kettering | United Kingdom
Kettering grew from a market town with a population of just over 5000 in 1851 to a major centre of shoe manufacturing with nearly 29000 inhabitants in 1901. In the years of its most rapid expansion between 1870 and 1900 about 2000 houses were built with small workshops for shoemaking mostly at the ...
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Manor House Museum
The Coach House
Sheep Street
NN16 0AN Kettering, United Kingdom

Kingswinford | United Kingdom
Broadfield Glass Museum houses one of the finest collections of glass in the country, and here you can still see craftspeople demonstrate their skills in the museum’s hot glass studio. The collection concentrates on the products of the local glass making industry, whilst the nearby Red House Glass ...
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Broadfield House Glass Museum
Compton Drive
DY6 9NS Kingswinford, United Kingdom

Leeds | United Kingdom
Leeds is well-known as the commercial centre of the Yorkshire woollen industry, and as the location of many woollen mills. It was also the principal flax-spinning town in England, and its mechanical engineering, tailoring, printing and leather industries were also of major importance.The city’s ...
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Leeds Industrial Museum
Armley Mill
Canal Road
LS12 2QF Leeds, United Kingdom

Leighton Buzzard | United Kingdom
Sand is a universal building material throughout Europe but particularly pure deposits of sand, such as those around Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, are a valuable mineral resource, used in glassworks, foundries and other manufacturing concerns. Much of the sand used by British industry before ...
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Leighton Buzzard Railway
Page’s Park Station
Billington Road
LU7 4NT Leighton Buzzard, United Kingdom

Leiston | United Kingdom
Welcome to the Long Shop Museum the home of the Garrett Collection and one of the first assembly line buildings in the world. The Museum, inaugurated in 1984, stands in the original 19th century works site of Richard Garrett & Sons, once world-famous manufacturers of steam engines and other ...
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Long Shop Museum
Main Street
IP16 4ES Leiston, Suffolk, United Kingdom

London | United Kingdom
The Bramah museum is located close to the Pool of London, and to wharves which were once the centre of the trade in tea and coffee between the United Kingdom and China, India, Sri Lanka and Africa. It was founded by Edward Bramah who spent 50 years in the tea and coffee trades, and formed his own ...
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Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
40 Southwark Street
SE1 1UN London, United Kingdom

London | United Kingdom
Robert Opie is the acknowledged authority in the United Kingdom on the packaging, posters, journals, song sheets, comics, postcards, film and television commercials and merchandise used  in the marketing of manufactured products, and his collection, begun in 1963, now totals more than half a million ...
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Museum of Brands
111-117 Lancaster Road Notting Hill
W11 1QT London, United Kingdom

London | United Kingdom
London’s docks, like those in every other major port in Europe, changed utterly from the 1960s. Warehouses, transit sheds and wet docks were abandoned as more and more goods were carried in containers, and huge bulk carriers came into use for transporting grain, coal and metallic ores. The location ...
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Museum of London Dockland
No 1 Warehouse
West India Dock Road Canary Wharf
E14 4AL London, United Kingdom

London | United Kingdom
The Science Museum in London holds one of Europe’s greatest collections of artefacts relating to the history of science and industry. A collection of objects from the Great Exhibition of 1851was put on permanent display in South Kensington in 1857, from which, in due course the Science Museum, the ...
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National Museum of Science and Industry
Science Museum
Exhibition Road South Kensington
SW7 2DD London, United Kingdom

London | United Kingdom
The Victoria and Albert is essentially a museum of the applied arts, but its collections are an illuminating resource for anyone concerned with the industrial history of Europe. It was founded, as the South Kensington Museum, in the year after the Great Exhibition of 1851 with a mission to improve ...
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Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
SW7 2RL London, United Kingdom

Long Hanborough | United Kingdom
There was a traditional water corn mill on the River Evenlode in the Oxfordshire village of Combe for many centuries. In 1766 it was became part of the Blenheim estate of the Dukes of Marlborough, given by the nation to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) in recognition of his ...
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Blenheim Palace Saw Mill |Combe Mill
Combe
OX29 8EJ Long Hanborough, United Kingdom

Manchester was one of the very first industrial cities in the world. It is a byword for unrestrained capitalism and appalling social poverty; but also for its pioneering achievements. One of these was the first passenger railway service in the world - and with it the world’s oldest existing station ...
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The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
Liverpool Road Castlefield
M3 4FP Manchester, United Kingdom

Manningtree | United Kingdom
Arthur Young (1741-1820) regarded Mistley in Essex as ‘one of the most interesting places to be seen in England’. The first quay was built there about 1720, but in the late eighteenth century the estate, overlooking the Stour estuary, was owned by Richard Rigby (1722-88), whose fortune was derived ...
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Mistley
Manningtree Museum The Library
High Street
CO11 1AD Manningtree, United Kingdom

Milnthorpe | United Kingdom
Beetham is a small village on the southern border of Cumbria near to the border with Lancashire. It stands on the River Bela on which there have been water mills for at least 900 years. Heron Mill, known by that name since the seventeenth century, had ceased to grind flour by 1927. The manufacture ...
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Heron Corn Mill and Papermuseum
Mill Lane Beetham
LA7 7PQ Milnthorpe, United Kingdom

Newtown | United Kingdom
The shops of W H Smith & Son, selling newspapers, stationery and books, could be seen on most high streets of England and Wales during the twentieth century. The growth of the company was due principally to William Henry Smith (1825-91), grandson of the founder of a London news vending business, who ...
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W H Smith Museum
24 High Street
SY16 2NP Newtown, United Kingdom

Northampton | United Kingdom
Northampton became the principal shoemaking centre in England in the 19th century, its population increasing from just over 26,000 in 1851 to more than 87,000 in 1901. Factory production began in the late 1850s, and many characteristic 3-storey factory buildings remain, adapted as apartments or put ...
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Northampton Museum
4-6 Guildhall Road
NN1 1DP Northampton, United Kingdom

The great medieval city of Norwich offers such a wealth of heritage that it is easy to overlook the variety of industrial buildings from all periods and particularly the nineteenth century that lie within the city centre. The industrial economy of Norwich was built on the diverse mixture of ...
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Bridewell Museum & Norwich Industrial Heritage
Bridewell Alley
NR2 1AQ Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom