Saturday, April 28, 2012

Trade School

This week we will be exploring a bygone era when we actually made things in this country. We will be doing this by looking at a series of pictures of turn of the century trade schools. Today's picture is from 1899 and shows students at the Hampton, Virginia Institute. The students are being taught to weave a rug from scratch, and starting with a spinning wheel.

What a foreign image this is. We really don't make anything in this country any more. Of people reading this blog, how many of you have a job where you actually build something? I mean, your hands touch a product in its manufacturing process?


  1. My "job" is technically to stay at home with my children and homeschooling but as part of that job I knit and sew a fair amount of what both my daughter and I wear. I don't spin (yet) and I don't make the cloth.

    My husband is a carpenter, timberframer, and woodworker. He earns his living making things. But it's not as common as it used to be that people in his line are true craftsmen.

    Neither of these are manufacturing in the greater sense though. We have some old woolen mills nearby that are now museums. It's a bit sad to see that all of that production, which used to be entirely local (the wool was from locally raised sheep, it was processed locally, and then spun and woven, boiled, or knit locally) is now pretty much all done overseas. The Pendleton Woolen Mills company is one of the few in the US that still gets most of it's wool from US sources and does it's processing and manufacturing of most if not all products hear in the US.

  2. And really I do know the difference between hear and here.

    1. Hear is what your ears do, just think of ear and hear. As in an ear is part of hear
      Here is where you are at, just think of here and there

    2. Oh I know. That's what I was saying, I DO know. I was just distracted by my kids and typing automatically.

  3. It is good that we are finally becoming conscious of the good that buying local does for us. We are buying North American made everything -- as much as possible. :)

  4. I only buy American made cars. I have never even considered any over seas auto,

  5. I am a custom woodworker who builds furniture, built-in-place cabinets, etc. Heather is right that craftsmanship disappears if it is neglected long enough. This current recession has had a devastating effect on craftsmanship.

    In woodworking there is a solid body of books and videos that teach the craft to future generations. I am self taught and can tell you how important it is to preserve something of the old ways and pass them on.

  6. Not now but ten years ago I worked for a manufacturer. We made wire that when energized, the wire created heat. I know, sounds pretty strange, doesn't. I started in Production making "blanket heaters" that wrapped around coffee maker tanks to the keep the coffee hot . . . and worked my way up to better things. Unfortunately, 10 years ago, the corporate office moved that production to Mexico. I have no idea if they are still actually producing in Mexico. They weren't real productive the last I knew.

  7. Where I work we have about 1300 in production, but I, and others, write software and other "office" tasks. In production they start with "raw" sheet metal.

  8. I am actually in the textile business. The job I learned is called textile mechanic ( a year longer apprenticeship than the normal weaver ). Later I got my master degree in textiles. Differs from internationally known master degree -like MBA for example- as you also have pedagogical classes since it includes a teaching degree.

    As for the old weaving looms; those are still in use even today (just not the hand powered ones), as some of the most high tech articles can only be woven on old technology. Sadly, I have only the modern machines to tinker with.

  9. Lack of manufacturing in this country is the whole problem. Cheap labor and American consumers buying all the made in China junk from Walmart is how we got to where we are now. Really sad.

    I own and operate an industrial screen printing business with my sister. No we don't do T shirts. We make safety decals, aluminum data/rating plates and graphic overlays (embossed keypads like on your microwave oven) for manufacturing. Our printed labeling finds it's way onto products in many industries:

    Heavy Construction Equipment
    Aerospace/Aviation (A tiny aluminum label we make went to space onboard the space shuttle fleet.)
    Medical Equipment
    Various Electronic Devices
    Agricultural Equipment
    Printing Industry (We print labels that go on printing presses. That's kinda funny)
    Fluid/material handling

    I'm happy to report that business has been booming so far this year. Sure alot of manufacturing has gone away but things are starting to look up from my point of view. We are getting lots of reorders of old parts and catching new jobs as well.

    What I've learned over the years is to take everything you hear on the idiot box with a grain of salt.


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