January 21, 2017
History of American Technology & Culture--Spring 2013
Prof. McClurken's HIST 325
Post your comments on the readings on this post.
I have always identified with Thomas Jefferson’s ideas of less centralized government vs. Hamilton and the federal bank. This seems like the same kind of argument. Are we going to forge ahead with technology and make that what our economy is based on, or as Thomas jefferson would like to, keep the farming, simple economy with less government. It is interesting me that Jefferson, loved new technology in his house, as with the beds built into the walls, the clock he had to accomadate the length by putting a hole in his floor and the fact that he had a side business of making nails. He seemed to love new things like ice cream, but saw in the future a more stable economy with America as farmers using simple (maybe improved, but still simple methods.
While most of the Pursell reading reasonated with class discussion, I had an illuminating moment when Pursell describe human’s tendencies to overlook technology. We tend to discuss technology has big, new invention.. never seen before. This is false thinking, most inventions are just modification of past inventions. This was evident when my group got together to discuss what topic we would focus on for our project. We named obvious things, such as record players. Then, we mention coffee machine. Then, we dicussed contacts/glasses. All of our idea were relatively known “inventions”, inventions with written histories. We, finally, became more abstract in our thinking discussing curling irons and lip gloss. These ideas were not cutting it for us, they seemed either too unknown or too known. We ended up picking Barbies, something I know there is information on, we used frequently as children, and yet, was never considered an invention! Barbies were inventions! If I hadn’t have read Pursell, I would have never thought to think outside the typical “invention” into everyday inventions.
*I made a trip to my grandmothers’ house this weekend and forgot my computer. Sorry its a little late.
I found it interesting that Pursell was aiming to push the American Industrial Revolution back to America’s colonial agricultural roots. She wanted to examine how farm practice changed during the era of the American Revolution and into the 19th century so that she could link agricultural innovation to industrial development. While I read this our class discussion kept popping into my head about technological evolution. It seems that Pursell’s argument derives from it.
I really enjoyed the reading for this week especially Smith and Clancey. I thought it was very interesting to see the viewpoints of Jefferson, Coxe and Hamilton on manufacturing and how those viewpoints changed. While I was reading I was wondering why they didn’t think the United States would naturally become more independent over time. And even if they didn’t see that shift happening why would they want to keep depending on other nations for their goods. I don’t know if it is just because I know that we eventually became independent or because I don’t agree with the reasons that they stated for trying not to become an independent nation. When thinking about it I see more pros then cons for becoming more independent.
The readings forced me to reevaluate my perspective on the origins of technology. Before this reading, I never would have considered the tools used by farmers as technology. It helped me understand that technology has changed from simple tools to more complex gadgets found in modern times. It was surprising to realize that people had less access to technological artifacts such as guns than we have today. It was surprising that my perception of frontiersmen has been shaped more by legend than actual fact. It amazed me to realize that frontiersmen were not all like Daniel Boone after the Revolutionary War who were able to survive all alone in a log cabin. It changed my understanding of both technology and accessibility to it in earlier times.
The readings for this week were interesting, especially the reading from American Technology, in that the research performed by the author seemed more scientific than anything and the results that were revealed were astonishing to me. The fact that only half of early Americans owned guns and that even less than that owned Bibles creates a conflict with the stereotype of these individuals I have always held and prompts me to wonder what else do we assume that is not so?
It is alluring to see how generalized early Americans are portrayed and how primitive we believed them to be. After reading the piece by Tom Misa we can clearly see American Colonialist were quite the opposite and rather inventive themselves. It is also intriguing to note that the colonist who moved out west were actually more open to new technology than compared to colonist in the East. I wonder how much innovation and evolution of technology was actually conducted in the West compared to the East considering how we think the East as more technologically savvy? Also since most Americans did not own guns, what kind of weapons if any did these early Patriots wield? And were they even used as weapons (Other than hunting)?
In the Pursell reading, I thought it was interesting how she notes that when looked at Early American agriculture it is necessary to incorporate animals, plants, structures to grow crops, ways to cultivate crops. Often when talking about early agriculture it is common to focus on just the machines that made agriculture easier but her intention to include the other aspects that contributed to early agriculture is interesting.
I thought that it was interesting and somewhat eye-opening to see how much the discussion and the decision to advance the manufacturing sector, of the early United States, influenced early American politics. I also thought that it was interesting how some figures, such as Jefferson, who seemed to be adamantly appose to the idea of U.S. manufacturing at first, shifted his views to be more allied with Hamilton’s, later on. I was curious, however, as to why Jefferson believed that we could advance as an independent nation while being largely agriculturally based?
This week’s readings surprised me in some ways. The first major way was the initial reluctance demonstrated towards the development of a manufacturing culture in America. These views were primarily espoused in Jefferson’s writings. He initially believed that manufacture was developed in Europe out of necessity. A necessity that he believed did not exist in America due to the vast amounts of uncultivated land. He believed that America should be a primarily agricultural nation. The second way this week’s readings surprised me was the reversal of this perspective. Jefferson would go on to later accept manufacture. This leads me to ask what high society thought of development of a manufacture society? Did they see it as a good thing? Or as something that would unseat their position of power?
This reading was interesting because it challenged traditional ideals held by Americans. Traditionally, when we are taught about colonial history, there are certain concepts which are generally believed, one of those being traditional ideals of the technology and skills used by colonial Americans. One question brought to my mind is, if the traditional narrative of such simple concepts as farming technology are misconcieved, what other beliefs of early American history are also misconcieved, if not completely false?
I found it interesting in chapter two that inventories were made by gender assumptions. It was often that clothes and other gender stereotyped items were automatically assumed to be a woman’s property and not her husbands. It was ironic how some meaningless items, in a man enumerator’s mind, were assumed to be a woman’s because of its lack of importance. During the advancement in industrialization, women did most of the dirty work. Though it was considered lowly, without the women having tasks like spinning, weaving, or churning there would have been no Industrial Revolution.
In this week’s reading from Pursell’s American Technology, I was both surprised and interested to learn that many tools and items I believed to be commonplace in fact were not. I believe Pursell stated that only half of early Americans owned guns. I was always under the impression that just about everyone owned them. It makes me wonder what items I’ve understood to be commonplace in other time periods in American history are actually not so common. It also makes me wonder if this misunderstanding of early American life has as a result caused me to look at not only colonial life, but colonial events in a distorted or incorrect way.
The readings for this week were rather laborious, as some have previously mentioned, but yielded some very intriguing questions . One question stuck out in my mind as I was examining the readings for this week. If Jefferson and other thinkers had failed in bringing over manufacturing to this nation, would America have still developed into the technological nation that it is today? also how did the invention of new tools aid in the advancement of manufacturing in the industrial revolution?
In the Pursell reading, I thought it was interesting how the study of technology only goes so far back. Yes, historians study the technology for the 18th and 19th centuries, along with technological warfare, but that is about it. The fact that we don’t know much about farming technology or technology that goes beyond our research material is interesting. The other reading talks about Thomas Jefferson and some of his contemporaries discussing manufacturing materials during the time of his presidency. He discusses the relationships between those of the British and Colonists and the technology in which they share.
In class we learned that there was a technology transfer between the europeans and the colonists and between the native americans and the colonists. However, there does not appear to be a distinct technology transfer between the different ethnic communities of colonists. In the Pursell reading, as Judith A. McGaw describes the four communities in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania there becomes a clear difference in the technology used by the primarily British communities and the primarily German communities. One example she used was that modern iron kettles were quickly picked up by York and Westmoreland counties (higher German population), whereas Burlington and Hunterdon (higher British population) continued to use brass kettles longer before adopting iron kettles. My question is, why? Why was there not more of a technology transfer between the communities? I know they had different practices based on different cultures, but some of the less specialized tools like kettles could have easily been transferred.
I thought it was interesting how completely Jefferson reversed his views on domestic manufacturing between the Revolution and the War of 1812. I wondered how representative his views would have been for less wealthy Americans, or upper class people like himself from outside Virginia/areas with a strong agricultural economy, and whether anybody else had a similar change of mind?
Although the readings were long, I found them very interesting. I never knew that some people in the early days after the Revolution had thought that America could reach a “middle landscape” by incorporating European (especially British manufacturing technology) into rural America. I was also surprised that Thomas Jefferson thought that bringing manufacturing technology to America would not change America in the same way that he thought it had changed England. Why did Jefferson and many others believe that in bringing technology to America it would be the technology that would be changed by America instead of America being changed by the technology?
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