The fear of men losing their jobs because of automation has continued since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Even in our lifetime, robotic counterparts are replacing human workers and jobs are being lost.
Can you imagine the fear this must have instilled in the man of 1860 who made his life hand-molding bricks? An inventor comes along and makes this huge monster machine that threatens his usefulness and income as a laborer in Victorian England. No wonder he hates it — no wonder he wants it destroyed.
Progress, however, continues whether humans like it or not, and such was the case during these turbulent years when the union fought against industrialization in brickmaking. Attacks were regularly made on master brickmakers who purchased these devices. Owning one meant it took jobs away from other able-bodied men who once worked in the clay fields and hand-molded bricks like craftsmen. There were various patented machines from different inventors introduced throughout the years as early as 1859 and many newer versions introduced in the subsequent decades.
Owning one of these contraptions is a point of contention in Toil Under the Sun. In 1865, the Manchester Bricklayer’s Union would not allow machine-made bricks to be used in the district. It wasn’t until many years later that they changed the ruling, but even afterward there were instances where union members would attack businesses and attempt to destroy the machines out of anger.
How many more jobs will be lost in the decades ahead from machines being invented to take our place? I dare say many more, which will have the same effect on the human counterpart–loss of income and a sense of uselessness. Like the brickmakers of the past, workers learn to adapt or starve. Sometimes it’s a hard lesson.
From: The Mechanics’ Magazine: Journal of Engineering, Agricultural Machinery, Manufactures, and Shipbuilding, Vol. 2, No. 50, Dec. 9, 1859. Source: Clayton’s Patent Brickmaking Machine (Thanks to the Brickfrog Blog for posting this article information. https://brickfrog.wordpress.com/) Excerpt below:
The Production of solid bricks has of late received much of the attention of engineers and architects, with a view of their being produced more economically, of a better quality, and with greater facility, than by the time-honored means known as “hand-moulding;” and although many mechanical contrivances for making bricks have been introduced, not one has realised the requirement practically, or been considered worthy of adoption, until Mr. Henry Clayton, of the Atlas Works, London, produced and patented his brickmaking machine. On an average 20,000 to 25,000 good bricks are made daily by each of Clayton’s large machines with the attention of two men and four boys.
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