Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology: The Challenge of Change

Front Cover
Cornell University Press, Apr 30, 1980 - Business & Economics - 363 pages
0 Reviews

Focusing on the day-to-day operations of the U.S. armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, from 1798 to 1861, this book shows what the "new technology" of mechanized production meant in terms of organization, management, and worker morale. A local study of much more than local significance, it highlights the major problems of technical innovation and social adaptation in antebellum America.

Merritt Roe Smith describes how positions of authority at the armory were tied to a larger network of political and economic influence in the community; how these relationships, in turn, affected managerial behavior; and how local social conditions reinforced the reactions of decision makers. He also demonstrates how craft traditions and variant attitudes toward work vis--vis New England created an atmosphere in which the machine was held suspect and inventive activity was hampered.

Of central importance is the author's analysis of the drastic differences between Harpers Ferry and its counterpart, the national armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, which played a pivotal role in the emergence of the new technology. The flow of technical information between the two armories, he shows, moved in one direction only— north to south. "In the end," Smith concludes, "the stamina of local culture is paramount in explaining why the Harpers Ferry armory never really flourished as a center of technological innovation."

Pointing up the complexities of industrial change, this account of the Harpers Ferry experience challenges the commonly held view that Americans have always been eagerly receptive to new technological advances.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mdobe - LibraryThing

In his "Introduction," Smith points to labor saving machinery is America's genius. As Hindle and Lubar describe in their Engines of Change, for many reasons, mechanization found a welcome environment ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
17
The Craft Origins of Production 17981816
52
Production Labor and Management 18011816
69
Early Manufacturing Techniques 1816
85
Cooperation between the Armories 18151829
104
Virginia Entrepreneur 18151829
140
Yankee in the Garden 18191841
184
Hall and the American System 18241840
219
Politics and Technology 18291859
252
The Community in Crisis 18591861
305
In Retrospect
323
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 3 - ... the eagerness with which they call in the aid of machinery in almost every department of industry. Wherever it can be introduced as a substitute for manual labour, it is universally and willingly resorted to.
Page 3 - ... where one woman does the work of 100. It is this condition of the labour market, and this eager resort to machinery wherever it can be applied, to which, under the guidance of superior education and intelligence, the remarkable prosperity of the United States is mainly due.

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1980)

Merritt Roe Smith is Leverett Howell and William King Cutten Professor of the History of Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.