MILL by David Macaulay
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Macaulay's latest construct hasn't the universal, all-ages allure of Cathedral or Pyramid, nor the satirical reach of Unbuilding--but his Rhode Island mill town, "Wick-bridge," is an industrial historian's Middle-Earth: from the gear alignment of the water wheels to the diary-entries of mill-owner "Zachariah Plimpton"; from the 1810 formation of a partnership "for the purpose of building and operating a cotton mill" to a real-estate developer's plan, in 1974, to "convert the building into apartments and condominiums." The successive construction of three mills on the "Swift River" entails extensive and detailed calculations and the use of much specialized terminology: though as abundantly and ingeniously illustrated as ever, the book does demand continuous application from the reader--for, as Plimpton goes on building, the expertise grows and so does the complexity of the mechanisms. The rewards are manifold: to stand with Plimpton as he raises the gates and the first, Yellow Mill is filled with a "grinding rumble"; to learn, from his diary, that he and his father-in-law have become the sole partners in the mill; to see them start on a new, much larger mill "that would weave as well as spin"--picking up, from the diary, on the booming demand (1820-30) for "Negro cloth." And so on, through Plimpton's abandonment of the production of "Negro cloth" ("having come to share his wife's abolitionist views"), to wordless ranks of spinning and weaving machines and the latest-come, French-Canadian workers answering the sound of factory and church bells. Evocative, instructive, and beckoning: you will want to have a close look at one of those mills.
Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1983
ISBN: 0395348307
Page count: 132pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1983


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