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Friday, 9 August 2013

Sepia Saturday 189: Strange contraptions on the factory floor

Sepia Saturday 189: strange contraptions

A lot of machines used in previous centuries would be seen as contraptions these days, and the topic reminded me of  this photograph from the Alexander Turnbull Library  in New Zealand , which was taken at my 3x great uncle's sawmill in Invercargill in the 1880s. The machines in those times were not only weird but also downright dangerous, with no health and safety regulations to protect the workers back then. One of William Cruickshank's own daughters lost a finger in an accident while working in her father's mill. Prior to this William and his brother Adam (my 2x GGF) established the first flax mill in that part of NZ.

Man working at balling machine at W Cruickshank's sawmill, Invercargill. Natusch, Sheila Ellen, 1926- :Photographs of Southland families and carte de visite albums. Ref: 1/2-066218-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Another machine I've had occasion to investigate relates to the printing industry. The occupation of my ancestor John Daw is recorded in the censuses from 1841 onwards as that of machine ruler, or sometimes as account book manufacturer's assistant, so I was interested to hear from P Herrington in England that :

" [The trade of a Machine Ruler] "was very closely linked to printing.The printer, obviously, put the words on the paper; whereas the ruler put the lines on ledgers, cash books, record cards, invoices, statements, minute books, analysis paper, graph paper etc, etc.

The trade grew out of the production of music score sheets which were originally drawn with multi nibbed pens producing the necessary lines in one sweep. The first mechanical method involved using a rod fitted with discs which transferred ink from a feed roller to the paper as it passed underneath.

This method was not suitable for ledgers though and so the Pen ruling machine was developed which produced the lines by means of brass pens held in a slide which stretched across the bed of the machine. The machines were made mainly of beech since the drying time for the ink required the paper to be carried on a very long continous canvas within the machine and wood eliminated the risk of any expansion in hot weather."

  Mr Herrington kindly sent me the following photograph, which comes from p. 6 of a publication by printing machine manufacturers
 Waite and Sheard, of Honley nr. Huddersfield : 

The model used by John Daw would probably have been an earlier one, but you get the picture. 

By the way, if anyone is ever in the vicinity of Chiltern in Victoria, near the NSW border, the old Federal Standard Printing Works and Office there is well worth a visit. It's operated by the National Trust, and for a gold coin donation you get a very interesting talk and demonstration by enthusiastic retired printers of how the machine operates. It dates from 1859 when the Federal Standard was first published after gold was discovered in the area and continued until 1969.  Open on the second weekend of every month.

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