"i worship factories" -- 6/25/18

Today's selection -- from Behemoth by Joshua B. Freeman. The huge factories of the Ford Motor Company, and the widespread use of mass production and the assembly line, captured the imaginations of all of American society, including its artists:

"In a 1926 entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Henry Ford (or the publicist who ghostwrote the article) defined 'mass production' as 'the modern method by which great quantities of a single standardized commodity are manufactured.' If anyone knew about the manufacture of 'great quantities of a single standardized commodity,' it was Ford. His Model T, introduced in 1908, turned the automobile from a luxury plaything into a mass-consumer good. Prior to then, automobile companies typically manufactured at most a few thousand cars a year. By 1914, the Ford Motor Company was roll­ing out nearly a quarter of a million Model Ts annually. By the time the company stopped selling the iconic model in 1927, fifteen million had been produced.

An assembly line of the Ford Motor Company

"Henry Ford's worldwide fame stemmed as much from the methods his company used to make the Model T as from the car itself to man­ufacture it, the Ford Motor Company built some of the largest factories that ever had been seen and introduced countless technical and orga­nizational innovations, including the assembly line, which enormously increased the speed and efficiency of production. To control the tens of thousands of workers who populated its plants, the company devised new methods of labor management that extended beyond the factory walls into workers' homes and minds. Ford pioneered what amounted to a new political economy of inexpensive consumer products that transformed people's lives, high-volume factories to produce them, and high wages and strict controls to discipline the workforce. Before Ford himself popularized the term 'mass production,' commentators often spoke of 'Fordism,' 'Ford methods,' or the 'Ford system,' appropriate terms for the new production, distribution, and consumption regime, for it was Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company that ushered in a new phase of industrialization and a factory scale that would be unsur­passed for nearly a century.

"Just as the 'factory system' of early nineteenth-century England captured the interest and imagination of journalists, political activ­ists, writers, and artists, so, too, did the 'Ford system' of the twentieth century. Once again, it seemed like a new world was aborning. Part of what made Fordism so transfixing was the promise of a wholesale rise in the standard of living and amelioration of the class conflict that had been shaking the United States. In 1924 merchant and reformer Edward Filene wrote that in Fordism lay 'a finer and fairer future than most of us have even dared to dream.' Beyond the social implications of Fordism, many writers, painters, filmmakers, and photographers were entranced by the physical structures in which it unfolded. More than with earlier industrial production, artists and intellectuals explicitly linked Fordism to modernist trends in art and society. The great pho­tographer Margaret Bourke-White, who through her work in Fortune and Life magazines did more than any other individual to popularize industrial imagery, captured the age when she bluntly declared 'I wor­ship factories.'

 | www.delanceyplace.com


Joshua B. Freeman


Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World


W. W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2018 by Joshua B. Freeman


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment