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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.

Antwerp | Belgium
Christopher Plantin (?1520-89) moved to Antwerp in 1549 from Tourcoing and became one of the foremost printers of Renaissance Europe whose products can be found in almost every library that has collections from the 16th century. His descendants, the Moretus family, continued the business until 1876, ...

Plantin-Moretus Museum
Vrijdagmarkt 22
2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Bertrix | Belgium
Bertrix is a community in the Belgian Ardennes notable for its large number of slate-faced buildings. Au Coeur de l’Ardoise is a museum concerned with the heritage of the slate industry in the region. Visitors can go on a 75-minute audio-guided tour that takes them 25 m below ground. They are able ...

Au Coeur de l’Ardoise
Domaine de la Morepire
Rue de Babinay 1
6800 Bertrix, Belgium

Boom, in the Rupel valley, 15 km south of Antwerp, was the centre of the principal brick-making area in Belgium, which, in 1900, was producing 1,000,000,000 bricks a year, using coal from the Charleroi region delivered by canal. The remains of the Hoffman kilns, used from about 1870, dominate the ...

Ecomuseum and archives of the Boom brickmaking region
Noeveren 196
2850 Boom, Belgium

Bruges | Belgium
Belgian makers of chocolate have long been celebrated for the quality of their products, and their skills are celebrated in this museum in the centre of Bruges. It is located in the Maison de Croon, a four-storey brick building of 1480, which was originally a tavern, and has served many purposes ...

Wijnzalstraat 2 Sint-Jansplein
8000 Bruges, Belgium

The Gueuze museum provides an unusual opportunity to see beer brewed in a traditional way on an industrial scale. The museum is a fully-operational brewery, worked by the Van Roy-Cantillon family whose methods have been unchanged since the earliest years of the 20th century. Visitors are able to see ...

Le Musée Bruxellois de la Geuze
Rue Gheude/Straat 56
1070 Brussels, Belgium

Comblain-au-Pont | Belgium
Grey rocky cliffs rise up out of the valley, endowing the gentle countryside of the Ardennes with its fields, meadows and woods with a wild impression. Down in the valley itself the winding River Ourthe joins up with River Amblève just below Comblain-au-Pont. You would scarcely believe that the ...

Carrière souterraine du Petit Banc
Carrières de Gèromont
Gèromont 105
4170 Comblain-au-Pont, Belgium

Dendermonde | Belgium
The city of Dendermonde where the River Dender joins the River Scheldt across which an historic ferry plies to Kastel, is an ancient trading centre, 25 km north-west of Brussels and the same distance south-west of Antwerp. Fishermen from Dendermonde specialised in catching eels that were sold all ...

Baasrode Shipbuilding Museum
Scheepvaartmuseum Baasrode vzw
St Ursmarusstraat 137
9200 Dendermonde, Belgium

Eupen | Belgium
Who can resist the sweet temptation of soft, aromatic melt-in-the-mouth runny chocolate or the hard crunchy bars which make children and adults alike so happy? Originally the art of making chocolate was cloaked in mystery, and chocolate was a mystical cult symbol for many years. It was also used as ...

Chocolaterie Jacques
BCB-Division Jacques
Rue de L´Industrie 16
B-4700 Eupen, Belgium

Genk | Belgium
Bokrijk is an open air museum in the tradition of Skansen, which reflects the social history and material culture of the Flemish provinces of Belgium. It was largely the creation of Dr J Weyns, its first director. It is part of the 540 ha Domein (i.e.estate) Bokrijk, which was acquired by the ...

Bokrijk Open Air Museum
Domein Bokrijk
3600 Genk, Belgium

The location and the building fit the museum perfectly: an old industrial quarter somewhat away from the centre of Liège, a disused sheet metal factory, which was set up by the Dothée brothers in 1848 – this is the site of the Maison de la Metallurgie. The house, which covers 2,5000 square metres, ...

Maison de la Metallurgie et de l´Industrie de Liège - Route du Feu
Boulevard Raymond Poincaré 17
4020 Liège, Belgium

Liége | Belgium
The Musée de la Vie Wallone (Walloon Folk Museum) portrays many aspects of the social history of the French-speaking community in Belgium from the early nineteenth century onwards. Its collection of more than ten thousand artefacts includes tools used by craftsmen and farm workers, toys, clothing, ...

Walloon Folk Museum
Musée de la Vie Wallone
Cours des Mineurs
4020 Liége, Belgium

Nijlen | Belgium
Nijlen is a small town 25 km east of the city of Antwerp where a workshop for cutting, grinding and setting diamonds was established in 1908-10 by Peter Lieckens for his sons who had been apprenticed to the diamond trade in Antwerp. The workshop, or slijperij (grindery) has been restored and now ...

Kempen Diamond Centre
Kempens Diamantcentrum. Briljante Kempen
Spoorweglei 42
2560 Nijlen, Belgium

Ostend | Belgium
Industrial-scale fishing ports, with fleets of steam vessels, ample facilities for landing fish, wholesale markets, ship repair yards and factories for processing both the edible and inedible parts of fish became established in many European countries from the 1870s, outstanding examples being ...

Museum Ship Amadine
Vindictivelaan 35-Z
8400 Ostend, Belgium

Ostend | Belgium
Walraversijde, in the coastal dunes 6 km west of Ostend, is a medieval fishing village that has been excavated since 1992 under the direction of Marnix Pieters of the Free University of Brussels. A museum showing the results of the excavations, was opened in 2000. Walraversijde is perhaps the most ...

Walraversijde Museum
Nieuwpoortsteenweg 636
8400 Ostend, Belgium

Recht/Sante Vith | Belgium
The deposits of slate at Recht in eastern Belgium were worked by open-cast methods from the eighteenth century, but in 1886 the brothers Margraff opened a shaft to layers of slate some 60 m below the surface. They employed 25 men but the mine closed before the outbreak of war in 1914. The last open ...

Recht Slate Mine
Zum Schieferstollen
4780 Recht/Sante Vith, Belgium

Roeselare | Belgium
The Rodenbach brewery south of Roeselare is one of the best-known in Belgium and provides an enlightening introduction to that country’s notable brewing heritage. The tour includes the malthouse and a vast hall in which there are 300 oak casks for maturing beer, which is sometimes used for banquets. ...

Rodenbach brewery
Palm Breweries SA
Spanjestraat 131-41
88-00 Roeselare, Belgium

Outside the gates of Seraing, which is dominated by the huge industrial plant belonging the Cockerill-Sambre concern, lies a truly splendid building on the right bank of the River Maas: the former Cistercian monastery of Val Saint Lambert. Since it was founded it has been heavily damaged many times: ...

Christal Discovery Val Saint Lambert
Val Saint-Lambert
Esplanade du Val
B-4100 Seraing, Belgium

Sprimont | Belgium
The road from Theux is lined with industrial buildings. Shortly behind the sign telling you that you are entering Sprimont there is another smaller sign pointing the way to the Museum of Stone. The road leading to the museum opens out onto a large square covered in hewed stones, cranes and old ...

Museum of Stones
Museé de la Pierre
Rue Joseph Potier 54
B-4140 Sprimont, Belgium

Zagreb | Croatia
The museum of technology in Croatia was established as a result of the efforts of Dr Bonz Tezak, a professor at Zagreb University, and was formally constituted in 1954, although there was an earlier museum of trades and crafts in the city which had ceased to function. It occupies timber buildings ...

Technical museum
Tehnički Muzej
Savska cesta 18
Zagreb, Croatia

Lefkosia | Cyprus
Cyprus has long traditions of jewellery manufacture which are illustrated in this museum, which includes pieces of all kinds made on the island since the eighteenth century, a variety of silver utensils, and tools that were used in silver-smithing, diamond cutting and other specialised aspects of ...

Cyprus Jewellers’ Museum
Odos Praxippou 7-9 Laiki Geitonia
Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus