Every Thursday, the Archives will feature artists, musicians, and makers of all variety, entered for your approval here in the Archives. With so many talented individuals to choose from, we know it is a challenge to feature every clever creative worthy of note, but perhaps we might endeavour to introduce to you a new name in our community of steam and cog, or perhaps remind you of one artisan’s successful efforts to bring the past that never was to the here and now.
This week’s Æther Feature for September 20, 2012, submitted for your pleasure:
Days of Steam
An Online Resource in the Making
Introduction by Chip Deyerle, Founder and Blog Manager
It was very late in life that I learned what I had forgotten about the days of steam. There in my past, in my fathers, past, and his father’s past, lies a story that is only now coming forth in literature. But it is ironic is that it has been there all along, just hidden under what we call modern technology and its constantly changing face. Oh, days of steam, we never knew you, really. We took advantage of you and the tools you provided, but we moved on to diesel and nuclear power during the same century and watched as steam began to fall away from society.
The start of the days of steam in the US was prior to the 1800s, but grew famously during the 18th and 19th century. Mills of all sorts were once powered by steam, and some still are. The railroads were likewise the product of the days of steam, continuing to operate on steam until the late 1950s, when steam engines were sent to the scrap yards across the country.
So what does a large company do with all that energy generated by a steam plant? Sure, it turns the wheels of industry, processing a significant part of US production even today and around the world.
It also sparked ingenuity of the engineers and the technocrats, who produced advancements for industry, including air brakes for moving vehicles safely along our nation’s highways. But that would only be part of the story. In medicine, steam protects patients from infection by sterilizing surgical and medical items every day of the year, cheaply and reliably.
While yet to be proven as an automobile, engineers did design and manufacture small steam engines for automobiles, but the auto industry relied heavily on gasoline engines instead of seam.
On the rivers and oceans of the world, commerce moved by sail and then gravitated to steam for shipping until the 1950s. Recall Mark Twain’s riverboat stories to get an idea of how steam affected shipping commerce and life on the rivers of this country.
Early in the last century, electric power was produced by numerous steam plants located near major US cities or as part of a major manufacturing center, giving way in some location to turbines turned by moving water.
While the world deals with nuclear power, the dangers of steam becoming a monster in no way compares to fission-generated energy. I believe that steam will never be our master in this modern world and will endure through the ages to come.
The objective of Days of Steam is to focus attention on the path that steam has taken in our society and why it is so vital to our country. Steam is the one historical factor that has made our country great and it is our story of the contributions steam has made to our history. It is how we will want to be known across the ages.
Do you have a steampunk musician, artist, short film, designer, or maker that you wish to see in our Ministry Æther Feature? Contact our journalists at tee (at) teemorris (dot) com and pip (at) pjballantine (dot) com, and they will labour to feature you here. If selected, the artist-in-question will be notified. Thank you for your continuing interest in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.