Archive for October 14th, 2011

I was just pulling together some material about the 1889 Paris Exhibition from Scientific American, dated 4/6/1889 when I saw this timely article on artistic inventions and employment – here is an excerpt:

“Frequently one sees appalling computations of the vast number of workmen who are constantly thrown out of employment by new mechanical inventions that take the place of human hands. But along with the displacement of hand labor there has gone a replacement, in consequence of the increased production that always follows a cheaper process of manufacture. Especially is this observable in all artistic matters. Pictures that are now produced and given away as advertisements could not be bought except by the well-to-do a century ago. Art has been applied to a thousand articles of daily use, and artistic forms thus perpetuated have come to the homes even of the poor. Cheaper processes of engraving are now in use; but instead of causing the employment of fewer artists this requires the services of more and better artists, and they are paid now more than they ever were. A new class of artists have sprung into existence. They are known as pen and ink draughtsmen, and it is they who have made the illustrated newspapers of to-day far superior to those of a century ago. …

But it is not alone in picture making that the progress of invention gives new employment for artists. … There are armies of artists engaged in making patterns and designs that were never needed in the world until new processes of duplication created an almost insatiable demand for variety. …

[I]t must be admitted that though mechanical inventions have put a great many persons out of work, they have also put a great many persons into work, besides producing for the multitude an endless variety of beautiful and useful as well as cheap products.”

This article was previously published in Baldwin’s Textile Designer.  The original Scientific American edition dated April 6, 1889 is available for sale at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.


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