THE EARLY INDUSTRIALIZATION OF THE PHILADELPHIA FURNITURE TRADE, 1800-1840 (CABINET MAKING, CRAFTS, CHAIR MAKING, PENNSYLVANIA)
During the first four decades of the nineteenth century the City and County of Philadelphia transformed from a commercially oriented entrepot into a manufacturing oriented urban center. Commerce did not completely decline, but the precipitous growth of industrial activity dominated Philadelphia's landscape. This study examines the early industrialization of one particular craft or industry, cabinet and chairmaking in Philadelphia from 1800-1840. In its early stages industrialization involved a reorganization of production through a division of labor instituted to increase output. This was achieved by breaking down tasks and by adding to the work force. During the 1830's the steam powered circular saw and lathe made a valuable contribution to the efficient operation of the hand processes of production by reducing the cost and increasing the availability of preprocessed raw materials to the trade. The motivation behind reorganization of production and reduction in manufacturing costs was the exploitation of growing local, coastal, and foreign markets. An increased supply of furniture, made possible by the reorganization of production and aided by the new technology, necessitated significant alterations in marketing. By the 1830's, a carefully planned system of retail and wholesale outlets was developed to dispense of furniture stocks to local and distant markets. Certain features of both the manufacturing and marketing components of the industry as they evolved over the forty year period were not, however, favored by journeymen since they diluted skill and threatened to lower wages. From the start of the nineteenth century, but especially from 1825 on, an organized group of journeymen effectively responded to changes in the trade resulting from early industrialization. The five chapters in this study examine early industrialization in the following areas: the actual methods of production, the architecture of the workshop and the wareroom, the tactics employed to market furniture to local, coastal, and foreign markets, and the organized activities of journeymen working in the furniture industry.
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