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The Copp Family Textiles
Grace Rogers Cooper
65 pages, 68 figures, 3 tables
1971 (Date of Issue: 27 July 1971)
Number 7, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.7.1
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At the time this exhibit was proposed, the Copp collection of textiles and other family memorabilia, although unique in its scope of everyday household textiles, had received little exposure since its receipt in the late nineteenth century. The nature of household linens, however, made it imperative to take a considerably more-than-superficial look in order to distinguish one white piece from the next. Consequently, studies were made on each textile item in the collection which are now being published for the first time in this catalog.

In preparing textile items for exhibition, the historical information as to how, why, and where each textile was made is not the only element involved in considering them for exhibition. The physical handling of textiles must also receive serious study. Although, unlike ceramics, textiles do not break, their preservation is a complex problem. Old textiles that are in seemingly good condition can deteriorate from strain in handling, or too much light, or dust. Acid transferred from the hands of people touching the fabrics (as in hanging or mounting them), improper finishing of exhibition cases, overexposure, and heat are additional hazards. Unfortunately, many rare and irreplaceable museum textiles have been “lost” in the museum due to any one of these factors. Therefore, the methods used to meet the problems of cleaning, mounting, and exhibiting the Copp Family Textiles have been described in an appendix.

Cutting a Fashionable Fit: Dressmakers' Drafting Systems in the United States
Claudia B. Kidwell
163 pages, 69 figures, 4 tables
1979 (Date of Issue: 24 January 1979)
Number 42, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.42.1
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The first dressmakers' drafting system was created in the United States before 1838. This innovation provided a tool to draft stylish, fitted garments and appealed to women who were forced to make their own clothes. The concept behind the first generation of drafting systems was used as the basis for the sizing systems in the paper pattern industry and the women's ready-made clothing industry. In the last quarter of the 19th century, hundreds of drafting systems were invented to help the professional dressmaker cut the complex patterns of the fashionable dress of the period. A wide variety of changing economic, social, and technological factors determined the methods that were created at specific times, how the systems were sold, and who used them. Dressmakers' drafting systems with specialized tools became obsolete in the 20th century after simpler, less fitted dress styles became popular. These less complicated fashions encouraged the widespread acceptance of ready-made clothes and the use of paper patterns by dressmakers and home sewers.

Early Auditory Studies: Activities in the Psychology Laboratories of American Universities
Audrey B. Davis and Uta C. Merzbach
39 pages, 36 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 10 November 1975)
Number 31, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.31.1
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The last quarter of the nineteenth century was a formative period for experimental psychology. American pioneers in the field joined their Continental colleagues in basing the “new” psychology on the methods, apparatus, and experiments of physics and physiology. Hermann von Helmholtz, claimed by both fields, was a pilot in their new endeavors.

Auditory studies reflect this general pattern. Specialized equipment used in the psychology acoustics laboratory ranged from models of the anatomy of the ear, mechanical models to explain the functions of the ear, sound producers, receivers and measurers, to analyzers and synthesizers. Discussion of the role of the instruments in posing and answering subject-related questions of the psychologist leads to further questions on the development of the intellectual and physical institutions of psychological research.

Eighteenth-Century Ceramics From Fort Michilimackinac: A Study in Historical Archeology
J. Jefferson Miller, II and Lyle M. Stone
130 pages, 56 figures, 9 tables
1970 (Date of Issue: 31 December 1970)
Number 4, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.4.1
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The primary objective of this publication is a detailed description of the Fort Michilimackinac ceramics collection (1959-1965), including comments on the manufacture, importation, use, and dating of each ceramic type described. The term “ceramics” as used in this report excludes aboriginal ceramics and kaolin pipes. It is hoped that the descriptions will contribute to the research of the following specialists: (a) the historical archeologist, by providing a documentation of datable ceramic types for comparative purposes; (b) the artifact historian, by providing data derived from a region and period relatively unknown from the standpoint of ceramic importation and use; and (c) the cultural historian, by providing evidence indicating the level of socioeconomic life maintained at Fort Michilimackinac and presumably at other comparable frontier military posts.

A second objective is to illustrate the interpretative value of historical sites ceramics. By presenting several interpretative problems to which ceramics data may be applied, we hope to faciliate the evaluation of historical sites upon which ceramics are found. The relationships between ceramic change and changing patterns of social life through time in view of different historical and geographical factors must also be studied. For example, ceramic data may reflect diverse functional activities on a site, the presence of various status or socioeconomic groups, and the locus and importance of different trade routes. Information from sites in addition to Fort Michilimackinac has been presented to support many of the interpretations posited.

In consideration of these objectives, this study has been organized as follows. Chapter I: outline of the history of Fort Michilimackinac and the program of archeological research. Chapter II: description of ceramic types from the site. Chapter III: interpretation of historical sites ceramic data.

Feedback Mechanisms in the Historical Collections of the National Museum of History and Technology
Otto Mayr
133 pages, 145 figures
1971 (Date of Issue: 20 July 1971)
Number 12, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.12.1
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Among the seemingly endless variety of machinery that might be listed under the heading automatic control, feedback mechanisms stand out as a distinct group because, although differing widely in outward appearance, they all function according to a single principle. The significance of the principle of feedback is all the greater as it is not limited to technology. Since 1948, when Norbert Wiener adopted it as one of the unifying concepts of the new science of cybernetics, it has come to be regarded as an invaluable tool in such diverse disciplines as biology, economics, and sociology.

The interdisciplinary validity, for which the concept is admired, has been anticipated in technology at a much earlier period, when feedback was employed to solve problems of control, for example, in the mechanical, hydraulic, thermal, and electrical media. It might be of interest therefore to outline the history of feedback control by means of cataloging—systematically and in chronological order—the historical feedback devices contained in the collections of one of the world's great technological museums, the National Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution.

This catalog is limited to feedback mechanisms; other forms of automatic control, for example open-loop and programmed control, are disregarded without further explanation. The material to be described has definite boundaries also in space and time. In space, it is limited to the collections of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of History and Technology, collections which are partly exhibited and partly stored in various storage spaces; in time, it is limited to items that can be described, at least by lenient standards, as historical. How old must an item be to qualify? Objects that are being mass-produced and commercially marketed at the present are clearly inadmissible. On the other hand, certain developments—such as in the field of computers—may have to be considered historical even if they have occurred relatively recently. A cutoff date convenient for our purposes then seems to be the end of World War II, a date we will disregard, however, when appropriate.

In an effort to make visible the more important lines of development of historical feedback devices, the material is presented in the form of a continuous narrative. This has led to an arrangement which is pragmatic rather than strictly systematic. Sometimes feedback devices are classified according to the controlled variable (e.g., speed, pressure, temperature); sometimes it has been more expedient to list them under the branch of technology where they were employed (e.g., automotive or textile). The necessary cross-references will be provided by the index.

To describe individual objects, we have to consider two kinds of information: First, information concerning its external history has been presented, at least in concise form, as far as available, but the scope of this catalog did not permit the additional research required to close numerous gaps. Second, complicated technical objects such as we deal with here require technical description. Readers who may feel that too much space is devoted to purely technical matters should take into account that the historical significance of the objects cataloged here lies precisely in the technological ideas represented by them.

The sources used and references to additional material have been indicated as usual in footnotes. Further information may be found at two general sources. One is the archives of the individual divisions of the Museum. For access to these, researchers should consult the respective curators directly. The other concerns the patent models which form a considerable part of this material. The patented inventions are described in detail in the patent specifications, and further material may be found in the case files of the United States Patent Office and the National Archives.

The imaginative reader may miss in this catalog some items that he would have expected to find. This may be due to any one of three reasons: his definition of feedback may differ from the author's; the item may have been accidentally overlooked; or the item may actually not be represented in the collection. With regard to definition, the following practice has been followed. At the start, feedback was defined once and for all; thereafter only devices thus defined were accepted, others were disregarded without discussion. In a few cases, where whole groups of relevant objects were excluded for special reasons, as in the cases of safety valves, float-feed carburetors, or electronic devices, this was explained at the appropriate places. Second, feedback devices are rendered elusive by the interdisciplinary nature of the concept. Feedback is employed in many disguises, and it is represented in practically all divisions of the Museum. In spite of a serious effort to make this catalog exhaustive, it is only too possible that one or another item may have escaped the cataloging. Finally, the collection itself must not be expected to be complete. Feedback devices usually are inconspicuously attached to some larger machine or process which they have the function to regulate. Having rarely been collected for their own sake, they are represented unevenly. Our collection, for example, contains more than a hundred speed governors but only a few historical temperature controllers. All items listed have actually been identified in the collections.

Each individual object is identified by two numbers, the catalog number (NMHT) and the accession number. The catalog numbers are assigned individually to specimens by each particular Museum division according to systems which vary between different divisions. The accession numbers indicate the accession files in the Registrar's office and are uniform for all of the Museum. The accession files contain all correspondence and other documents relating to the transaction by which the specimen reached the Museum, often containing valuable detailed information. A single accession number may refer to more than one object. As a help in finding the objects cataloged herein, we have included a Location Guide at the back of the book.

Georg Scheutz and the First Printing Calculator
Uta C. Merzbach
74 pages, 35 figures
1977 (Date of Issue: 1 November 1977)
Number 36, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.36.1
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The Swedish publisher Georg Scheutz (1785-1873) was a man who combined literary, political, scientific, and technological interests. Inspired by the difference engine of Charles Babbage, he and his son, the engineer Edvard Scheutz (1821-1881), designed and constructed a machine to compute tabular differences and print the results. The machine, built with a grant from the Swedish government and underwritten by a group of Swedish supporters of Scheutz, was completed in 1853. It was patented in Great Britain in 1854, shown at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1855, and purchased for the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York, in 1856. A copy of the machine was constructed in 1857. For a short time, in 1858, work contracted by the United States Department of Navy for the Nautical Almanac Office was performed on the machine. Because of the departure (resulting from a major dispute) of the astronomer Benjamin A. Gould and his assistants from the Dudley Observatory, the machine was used rarely in later years and gradually fell into total disuse.

The arguments surrounding the construction, purchase, and use of the machine portray two recurring themes in the history of technology. One is the conflict between defenders of established procedures and those of new innovations within a given field. The other is the influence of social, economic, or political currents on the activities in that field.

The Scheutz calculator is significant because it made feasible the concept of a machine that computes and then retains results in printed form.

Girard Estate Coal Lands in Pennsylvania, 1801-1884
John N. Hoffman
86 pages, 39 figures
1972 (Date of Issue: 29 December 1972)
Number 15, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.15.1
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This monograph traces the historical development and consolidation of tracts of land on the frontier of Pennsylvania in the late eighteenth century. The tracts under discussion were a part of a land grant given to William Penn by King Charles II in 1681, and the proprietorship remained in the Penn family until 1775.

Early land promoters such as Robert Morris and John Nicholson, plagued by financial problems, lack of inhabitants, and the reluctance of investors to participate in the development of their land schemes, eventually lost control and ownership of the large tracts which they had obtained.

The material presented in this study entails one such land venture which, in later years, became known as the Girard Estate, having been purchased by Stephen Girard in 1830. Literally a financial tycoon of the period, Girard is reputed to have been worth some seven-and-a-half million dollars at the time of his death.

To better understand the problems associated with the ownership of land in Pennsylvania during the colonial period, a short resumé of land rules and regulations during this time is presented as an introduction to this study.

The Hammered Dulcimer in America
Nancy Groce
93 pages, 40 figures
1983 (Date of Issue: 30 December 1983)
Number 44, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.44.1
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The hammered dulcimer played an important role in Anglo-American folk and popular music during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. This paper gives a brief history of its development in the Middle East and Europe, its musical use and social function in America, and how it was manufactured and marketed in 19th century America. In the appendices are given a list of United States patents granted for improvements in dulcimer design, a list of known makers, biographical information on the musicians interviewed in the course of this research, a checklist of dulcimers in the Smithsonian Institution, and a selected discography.

Handcraft to Industry: Philadelphia Ceramics in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century
Susan H. Myers
117 pages, 32 figures
1980 (Date of Issue: 11 July 1980)
Number 43, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.43.1
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Early in the nineteenth century, Philadelphia potters, like many American craftsmen, began to feel the effects of nascent industrial and economic change that would transform small traditional handcrafts into industries. Economic historians long have debated about the rate at which expansion took place during the first half of the century. In the Philadelphia potteries, the beginnings of industrialization were evident in developments before and during the War of 1812 when embargoes provided temporary relief from the competition of English factory-made tableware and permitted American craftsmen briefly to emulate this mass-produced molded pottery. The crisis of 1819, however, and the economic fluctuations of the 1830s kept progress at a slow pace, though the depressions of the 1830s actually made an important, if negative, contribution by forcing out several of the city's traditional potteries and a substantial part of its handcraft labor force. In the 1840s, the environment finally was conducive to the exploitation of the growing potential for expansion and thus the decade witnessed unprecedented economic and industrial growth. Capitalization and output more than doubled; molded tableware, patterned after English styles, finally was successfully manufactured and marketed; new and more industrial products and techniques were introduced; several small potteries developed into factories of moderate size; and a semiskilled labor force threatened its traditional highly skilled counterpart. By 1850 there were still some conservative shops in operation and the use of powered machinery remained in the future, but small potteries where family members and an apprentice or journeyman made simple products by age-old hand methods were dying phenomena, progressively outnumbered by their industrial counterparts.

The process of industrialization and economic expansion in the Philadelphia potteries is significant not only as part of the history of the trade in that city but also because comparison with available data suggests that the Philadelphia example reflects patterns of change over much of urban American pottery manufacture. In conservative rural areas change came more slowly but it appears that potters in other East Coast cities were affected by many of the same factors that influenced development in Philadelphia and that they responded in much the same way.

Harpsichords and Clavichords
Cynthia A. Hoover
43 pages, 36 figures
1969 (Date of Issue: 31 July 1969)
Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258..1
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The harpsichord and the clavichord represent the two most important types of stringed keyboard instruments used from the 15th through the 18th centuries. By the 19th century, the piano had become the most important domestic keyboard instrument.

In this booklet are described a few of the restored Smithsonian harpsichords and clavichords that are occasionally on exhibit in the Hall of Musical Instruments or in use in the series of concerts sponsored by the Division of Musical Instruments. Models showing how the sound is produced on these instruments are also on exhibit.

A complete list of the keyboard collection is found in A Checklist of Keyboard Instruments at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, 1967), which is available from the Division of Musical Instruments, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560.

Displaying 11 - 20 from the 59 total records