restricted access 5. Managing Visions of Industry: The Managerial Eye

From: Work Sights

University of Massachusetts Press colophon
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

155 Chapter 5 Managing Visions of Industry The Managerial Eye Most of us cannot even imagine entering a slaughterhouse. The mere thought of the smells and sights, the squeals of dying pigs and the sounds of their bodies being disassembled, is enough to turn the stomachs of the majority of twenty-first-century readers. And yet in 1867, James Parton wrote in the Atlantic Monthly that despite a “most horrid scene of massacre and blood,” the operation of a Cincinnati pork slaughterhouse “claims the attention of the polite reader.”1 Just a few years later, a guidebook to American cities wrote that “Pork-packing is a highly-interesting process” and hoped that “a visit to one of the numerous Pork-packing Houses [of Cincinnati] will repay the tourist.”2 What could “polite” tourists want with the carnage of the abattoir? Nothing less than a whirlwind tour through the innovations in managerial organization and job specialization that characterized the emergence of industrial capitalism in the United States after the Civil War. Slaughterhouses—to many contemporary readers horrible reminders of truths we would rather not face—were put forward in the nineteenth century as trailblazers in new forms of efficient production, beacons of modernity, and bastions of organized, rational manufacturing. Henry F. Farny’s spectacular panoramic images, printed in Harper’s Weekly in 1873, showed these modern forms of production in all their glory—and with a level of detail that still surprises (and possibly disgusts ) today (fig. 43). Farny’s dramatic scenes of hog butchering, laying Schulman_Main_Pgs 1-226.indd 155 11/5/2015 9:08:07 AM Figure 43. Henry F. Farny (American, 1847–1916). “Hog-Slaughtering and Pork-Packing in Cincinnati,” Harper’s Weekly, September 6, 1873, 776–77. Wood engraving, 14 x 21 in. Schulman_Main_Pgs 1-226.indd 156 11/5/2015 9:08:12 AM Schulman_Main_Pgs 1-226.indd 157 11/5/2015 9:08:17 AM 158 Chapter 5 each ­ segment of production open to the eye of the observer, comprise­ outstanding examples of a mode of visual representation that arose during the years following the Civil War, a style of illustration that I call the “managerial eye,” a form of visual communication that helps the viewer understand at a single glance what a manager would have to know. Illustrations of the 1860s through 1880s demonstrate consistent interest in exploring the steps required to bring a commodity to the market and a desire to explicate visually the connectedness and interreliance of each phase of manufacture. Throughout the popular illustrated magazines of these years—though most markedly in Harper’s Weekly and Scientific American—artists developed compositional methods designed to introduce viewers to a splendid and brave new world, the world of managerial wage capitalism and the concurrent developments of the assembly line and mass-production techniques.3 This style of illustration takes the viewer inside the factory walls to observe the making of everyday consumer goods such as prepared foods and drinks, clothing, shoes, matches, sewing machines, and firearms.4 A similar style was used to depict heavy industrial activities such as glass-blowing, iron and steel working, mining , and the manufacture of machine parts. Taken together, these images suggested a new interest in the minute details of all kinds of manufacturing . They also showed an editorial presumption that subscribers wished to have these industries explained to them and an artistic attention to the power of combined image and text for making step-by-step processes clear to viewers. Farny’s panoramas are but one example of the dozens, if not hundreds, of visually innovative, factually informative compositions created by American illustrators to introduce their viewers to the exciting and changing world of manufacturing. I have called this mode of representation the managerial eye, and in this chapter I explore how this style of viewing enabled readers of magazines to position themselves in relation both to the commodities they purchased every day and to the workers who made and distributed those products. Artists developed and expanded on three key compositional techniques— cut-aways, multi-paneled images, and panoramas—to give the viewer a sense of power, control, and knowledge over manufacturing. This attention to the details, sequence, and interdependent nature of proto–assembly line and proto–mass production techniques arose simultaneously with the emergence of a managerial class in the United States. A revolution in the way manufacturing structured its operations went hand in hand with a shift in the composition of images representing those manufactures...


pdf

Subject Headings

  • Art and industry -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Art and technology -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Art and society -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Industries in art.
  • Technology in art.
  • National characteristics, American, in art.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access