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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.

Reading | United Kingdom
Reading, one of England’s most important market towns, a port on the River Thames, and the county town of Berkshire, was celebrated in the nineteenth century for its biscuit factories. A large collection relating to the most famous of them, Huntley & Palmers, is held by the town museum, which ...
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Reading Museum & Town Hall
Blagrave Street
RG1 1QH Reading, United Kingdom

Rochdale | United Kingdom
The Rochdale Pioneers Museum exists to preserve the original store of the Rochdale Pioneers and to generate an understanding of the ideals and principles of the co-operative movement. Toad Lane, Rochdale is widely regarded as the home of the worldwide co-operative movement. The Pioneers put ...
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Rochdale Pioneers Museum
31 Toad Lane
OL12 0NU Rochdale, United Kingdom

Royston | United Kingdom
Wimpole Hall is a magnificent Georgian mansion with extensive formal and working kitchen gardens set in Grade 1 landscaped parkland. The original house was built in 1640 by Lord Chicheley and has undergone various changes over the years which can be attributed to famous architects such as Gibbs, ...
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Wimpole Home Farm
Wimpole Estate Near Royston
SG8 0BW Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Saxmundham | United Kingdom
Snape Maltings is a huge complex of granaries and malthouses that nestle beside the River Alde. Formerly one of the largest working maltings in East Anglia, barley was once processed here for the brewing industry. The owners, the Gooderham family, bought the site in the 1960´s and set about its ...
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Snape Maltings and Port
IP17 1SR Saxmundham, United Kingdom

Singleton | United Kingdom
The Weald & Downland Living Museum at Singleton, 12 km north of Chichester, is a Skansen-style museums extending over 16 ha with a collection of more than 50 traditional buildings from the varied landscapes of south-east England. It opened in 1967 and is managed by a charitable trust. Its ...
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Weald & Downland Living Museum
Open Air Theatre Road
PO18 0EU Singleton, United Kingdom

St Helens | United Kingdom
England´s best small visitor attraction (2006) provides a journey of discovery into one of the most common substances on earth and features live glass blowing demonstrations, multi-media shows, underground tunnels, galleries and special exhibitions. St Helens is one of the most famous glassmaking ...
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The World of Glass
Chalon Way East
WA10 1BX St Helens, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom
The manufacture of porcelain required finely-ground materials that when fired produced white-bodied wares. When the ceramics industry of North Stafford, around the present city of Stoke-on-Trent were at their most prosperous numerous mills in the region ground flint and bones to supply potters who ...
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Etruria Industrial Museum
Lower Bedford Street Etruria
ST4 7AF Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom
Black clouds once hung over Stoke-on-Trent. This was due to the countless bottle kilns which darkened the heavens with their coal fires. Low wages and appalling living conditions made the town a nightmare for generations of industrial workers. All this was a stark contrast to the exquisite china and ...
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Gladstone Pottery Museum
Uttoxeter Road Longton
ST3 1PQ Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom
The Middleport Pottery is an outstanding model factory of the late nineteenth century for which new uses have been found.  Frederick Rathbone Burgess (died 1895) and William Leigh (died 1889) took over a pottery in Burslem in 1862, and subsequently moved to the Hill Pottery before establishing ...
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Middleport Pottery - Home of Burleigh
Port Street
ST6 3DE Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery (formerly the City Museum) occupies a purpose-designed building opened in 1981. It contains a collection of Staffordshire ceramics of every possible kind, earthenwares, porcelains and tiles, that is unrivalled by any other museum. Some 5,000 pieces are generally on ...
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Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Bethesda Street
ST1 3DW Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom
Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95) was a leading figure in Britain’s Industrial Revolution, a successful entrepreneur in the ceramics industry, a promoter of canals, and a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, the centre of Enlightenment thinking in the English Midlands.Wedgwood established his ...
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Wedgwood Museum / World of Wedgwood
Wedgwood Drive
ST12 9ER. Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stourbridge | United Kingdom
Can you imagine having to work 12 hours on, 12 hours off, 7 days a week, in sweltering heat, with rats threatening to run up your trouser legs? It sounds like a horror movie but that’s exactly what the ‘teasers’ at the Red House Glass Cone glasshouse had to endure. These were the men that stoked the ...
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Red House Glass Cone
High Street Wordsley
DY8 4AZ Stourbridge, United Kingdom

The Ruskin Glass Centre at Amblecote, Stourbridge, keeps alive the long glass-making traditions of the western part of the Black Country. It includes an English glass cone that was once part of the Webb Corbett Glasshouse, and was used for glassmaking until 1936. The Webb Corbett works closed in ...
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Webb Corbett Visitor Centre | Ruskin Glass Centre
Wollaston Road Amblecote
DY8 4HF Stourbridge, United Kingdom

Stowmarket | United Kingdom
The Museum of East Anglian Life is an open air landscape of buildings and machinery covering a huge 28 hectare site near the centre of one of East Anglia´s historic market towns, Stowmarket in Suffolk. This area has been long associated with the development of agricultural engineering and was a ...
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Museum of East Anglian Life
Stowmarket, United Kingdom

Street | United Kingdom
The manufacture of shoes became the principal feature of the economy of the small Somerset market town of Street during the nineteenth century. A Quaker, Cyrus Clark began a leather-working business in the town in 1829 and the following year began to make shoes. Later in the century his descendants ...
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Shoe Museum
40 High Street
BA16 0YA Street, United Kingdom

Swindon | United Kingdom
Large objects from the collection of the National Museum of Science & Industry that cannot be displayed at South Kensingon are held at the former RAF base at Wroughton, Wiltshire, in six hangars and a research store built in 1993. Aircraft held there include a Boeing 247 Electra of 1934, one of ...
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Science Museum
Wroughton
SN4 9LT Swindon, United Kingdom

Tavistock | United Kingdom
Tavistock is a busy market town in West Devon. A former abbey and Medieval stannary town it was in the 19th century largely owned by the Dukes of Bedford who in the mid -19th century reinvested some of their vast royalties from the copper mining back into the town. This paid for fine public ...
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Tavistock Museum
Guildhall Square
PL19 0AE Tavistock, United Kingdom

Telford | United Kingdom
It’s a bit of a surprise when you first see the bottle ovens between the trees. There are very few of these structures left, but they are generally in the middle of urban areas – not in the middle of a forest. The works here were once part of a whole string of factories producing china wares and ...
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Coalport China Museum
High Street Coalport
TF8 7NH Telford, United Kingdom

Telford | United Kingdom
What do an underground railway station, a hotel bar, a hospital ward and a butcher’s shop have in common? Their tiles. At Jackfield Tile Museum, all of these places are recreated, showing the stunning tile-work which was the hall-mark of their design. Whilst it is tempting to think that tiles are ...
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Jackfield Tile Museum
Salthouse Road Jackfield
TF8 7LJ Telford, United Kingdom

Telford-Ironbridge | United Kingdom
You’ll need to exchange some money at the bank when you arrive, because the coins they used in 1900 were very different to the ones in your pocket today. But even a few pennies can buy quite a lot in 1900; a bag of boiled sweets, a pork pie, a glass of beer. The recreation of Victorian life here ...
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Blists Hill Victorian Town
Legges Way Madeley
TF7 5DU Telford, United Kingdom