THE FACTORIES by Leonard Everett Fisher


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The start of a new series (see also The Railroads, below) entitled Nineteenth Century America, this offers a combination of flimsy generalities and meaningless specifics with Fisher's familiar stylized, emblematic pictures. The result is weak as industrial history and no use whatever as the history of technology. To begin with, we get a silly analogy between the French Revolution and the British Industrial Revolution (as if the latter were designed to ""produce more goods more cheaply than ever before for more people everywhere"" and so substitute for the former); we are asked to believe that U.S. manufacturing would not have started up save for Samuel Slater's memorizing the details of Arkwright's water loom and other proscribed British equipment; and we are presented with a black-and-white (or white-and-black) contrast between earlier and later working conditions that, besides being overdrawn, ignores concrete factors for ""lost illusions""--and then jumps (""a new, a more distracting fever"") to the discovery of gold, only to backtrack in the second half of the book to a succession of manufactures. If anything, the book is at its weakest here, listing and describing business after business (from a bakery to makers of tacks, plumbing supplies, school furniture, pianos) without a single illustration that actually depicts the processes involved. In conclusion, Fisher takes up New York's garment-industry sweatshops and their reform--enabling him to sign off with a fanfare to a better future. What child of what age will learn anything of value from this is hard to imagine.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1979
Publisher: Holiday House