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Views on Industrializations

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Prude: Views on Industrialization

Randy Bright


SS 340-03

Jennifer Harrison


Prude: Views on Industrialization

What picture comes to one’s mind when they hear the term factory and how might that change if we altered that term to ask; what of a factory in the early American industrialization period? What impact might our ideas and thoughts have in regards to our modern day conceptualizations of industry or industrialization and how might that impact our views of historic industrialization? In order to answer that question we must first examine our views and thoughts today and then compare that to what the actual definition of a factory was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries during the birth of capitalism and industry. We must also examine whether the progress of factories was a representation of progress and was this progress positive or negative in its impact and entirety.

Today, factories are large buildings with very advanced technologies and machines which can mass produce a product or products in a very cost and time efficient manner. Some of these factories consist of several buildings, warehouses, and even administrative buildings and can be placed on large parcels of land and in some cases may even have companion sites in other states, regions, or countries. Modern factories today use computers and robotics, as well as vast systems of machinery and technology to produce and move products with less and less intervention by people. The bulk of today’s factory workers who work on assembly lines are not highly skilled or educated, while those who are needed to repair or develop the new technologies used posses both skills and education. When I think about my views of a factory in modern times and compare that to the definition of a factory in the early eighteenth century, it is very different.

Factories in the early eighteenth century were mostly large buildings where the labor was still done manually, there was little use of new technologies or machines and much of the work was still completed by hand. Prude (1983), points out that while there were two definitions of factory in the early 17th and 18th centuries, the one that came to represent our idea of a factory today, would be that of manufacturing. Prude states, “There was not a lexographical connection in the antebellum era between factory and mill, or between factory and sizable mechanized workplaces of any kind. Insofar as factory meant manufactory, it was a term contemporaries could properly apply to various arenas of production.” This could include a facility where a group of individuals gathered to complete a product, that could be an artisans shop, a blacksmith shop, or home based sites of outworkers,(Prude,1983).

This being stated, one can easily see how our views of today’s modern factories might impact or skew our view of factories during the early American period. If one were to fix their views on today’s factories, it would indeed lead us down the wrong path of what the factory was and how it had an impact on the industrialization period. It is also important to understand that industrialization was in the post revolutionary

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