The technology of urban verticality: Part 6, Wired communications

August 3, 2017 | cement, Cities, Elevators, Housing, Infrastructure, Innovation, plumbing, Rome, Speculation, Technology, Theory, Toilets, Verticality | 1 comment 75 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.]

 

As we saw in the preceding Part 5, with the introduction and acceptance of the elevator, for the first time people no longer thought of building verticality solely as a liability and began instead to realize that it might in face be an asset: not only better sky and better views, but also enabling a more tightly-knit organization of people.  Now people could live together in the sky, and they could work together in the sky … provided that the buildings in which they co-worked or co-lived were strung with wires.

 

Good morning, America – this is your permanent wakeup call

 

Sources used in this post series

 

Life before artificial light, Guardian (October 31, 2009; methane-blue font)

Sarah Woodbury, the invention of the chimney (December 15, 2011; creosote brown font)

Mike Rendell, Georgian Gentleman (February 13, 2012; coprophagic brown font)

The secrets of ancient Roman concrete (June 21, 2013; cement gray font)

The father of the fireplace insert – Benjamin Franklin (brick red font)

Sewer history, Toilets, earth closets, and house plumbing (undated)

Elevators, the vertical utility, 5 parts; mud brown font)

Arthur Pound, “Of Mills and Markets”, 1926, cited here; teal font)

 

 

8.         Telephone (1876, Alexander Graham Bell)

 

Invented in 1876, the telephone immediately revolutionized society, starting with business.  So far-reaching are its effects, so unimaginable would today’s world be without it, that it must rank as among the foremost inventions in human history – and it’s one of the few recognized as such almost immediately, as evidenced by this charming on-the-spot reminiscence by one Arthur Pound,  “Of Mills and Markets”, 1926, cited here (teal font):

 

Alexander Graham Bell demonstrating the telephone, calling ‘long distance’ (Salem to Boston), February, 1877

 

In the fifty years since Bell invented the telephone, we have witnessed this country of magnificent distances gradually binding itself together, dwelling with dwelling, town with country, village with city, across the whole area served by the exchanges and long lines of the connected companies.

 

Mr. Pound’s paean to the phone appreciates, as few did, how a device that by annihilating distance as a barrier to communication, which might have been expected to disperse people, accelerated urbanization and in particular vertical urbanization:

 

We who are still young have beheld millions of farm families emerge from isolation, the tucked away mountain hamlet and prairie village brought into touch with the busy currents of trade and social intercourse.

 

As we saw in my twelve-part post about the potential breakup of Chicago, A Tale of Two Cities, as a city’s infrastructure becomes more technological (in Chicago’s case, the water and sanitation system), it becomes more capital-intensive, and that requires complex finance.  Finance, in turn, is an urban profession, relying on the proximity of people networks, and these are place-based. 

 

The place stands for the practice

 

It’s no coincidence that the world’s two most common euphemisms for the capital markets – Wall Street and The City (of London) – both reflect the birthplace of their respective stock exchanges:

 

What makes these buildings go up?  Money and finance

 

The argument Mr. Pound presented 91 years ago is remarkable: compelling and brand-new.  Despite 42 years in this business, at least 15 of them obsessing over the nature of housing and cities, I’d never considered what I will call the communications-urbanization paradox:

 

The Communications-Urbanization Paradox

 

The better (faster, more reliable) that communications become, the greater the benefits of urbanization, and hence the greater the premium for urban property and developable urban land. 

 

Better communications facilitates larger, more complex business and governmental organisms.  These in turn permit both (a) the rise of information-based businesses (finance, IT, high-tech) and (b) dematerialized value chains (scattered in individual locations and connected by communications).  People do three things face-to-face:

 

1)   Form emotional connections.

2)   Brainstorm and create.

3)   Engage in thingy.

 

Instead of dispersing people, communications makes them live and work closer together.

 

Com-mun-­ications, eh?  Nudge nudge!

 

The countryside where I live, one of the first areas colonized, is dotted thickly with small villages and hamlets.

 

Statistical representations of the history of America claim the nation has been continuously urbanizing, but from my lordly perch of having a theory and not bothering to do the work of testing it with evidence I believe that’s a misperception caused by the way in which statistics were and are counted.  Remember, America kept expanding westward and westward, and for much of our history the frontier was either not part of the American domain or not part of the United States.  Further, our definition of ‘urban area’ is a moving target:

 

The United States Census Bureau changed its classification and definition of urban areas in 1950 and again in 1990, and caution is thus advised when comparing urban data from different time periods.

 

I think that if urban areas were defined as ‘cities’ according to the perception of people at the time, America was highly urbanized at its founding – the Pilgrims and others lived in fortified encampments and nowhere else – then slowly de-urbanized as the frontier expanded, the land was farmed, and people were able to move out of stockade-defended enclosures. 

 

Once they had no communications swifter than horse and foot; now, each is in continuous touch with the other and with the metropolis of the district.

 

Each used to be self-sufficient, a jack-of-all-trades village, where practically all the necessities of life were made in crude, laborious ways by men and women held there by the sheer difficulty of getting away.

 

Ever Colonial and Revolutionary America was more urban than we credit.  Consider, for instance, Boston in 1775:

 

A Plan of the Town of Boston, with the intrenchments of His Majesty’s Forces in 1775

 

The above map was prepared “from the Observations of Lieutenant Page of His Majesty’s Corps of Engineers and from those of other Gentlemen”, so we can be confident of its accuracy.  The whole of Boston s connected to the rest of America by a single causeway:

 

A causeway less than ten yards wide, and then a single road (South End of Orange Street) on a spit of land a hundred yards wide. 

 

I show this detail because (a) I love Boston’s history, especially as expressed in its maps, and what is a blog for if not to indulge one’s idiosyncrasies?, and (b) it shows just how compact Boston was. 

 

 

AHI’s housing technology series

 

March 14, 2006: The earliest apartments, Roman insulae

April 14, 2006: The evolving modern home

April 28, 2006: The cradle of apartment living: New York City

August 13, 2007: Cities and scale, 3 parts

June 19, 2008: Urbanizing requires formalization, 2 parts

March 20, 2009: When and where modern housing was born

April 5, 2010: Preaching the gospel of water infrastructure, 2 parts

April 20, 2011: The high-rise’s mahout

January 28, 2013: Grandma in a can?

July 20, 2013: The new urbanism of Tiny Tower

April 1, 2014: Elevators, the vertical utility, 7 parts

August 4, 2014: Vertically obsolete?, 3 parts

February 17, 2015: Form forces function, 8 parts

June 20, 2016: Pre-municipal cities, four typologies, 10 parts

December 5, 2016: The first housing commissioner, 10 parts

 

Everything outside the wall was another town – Charlestown, Roxbury, and Dorchester would all be absorbed a hundred years later.  I’m confident the census would have treated Massachusetts was less than 0.1% urbanized, even though the colony and state capitol, the center of all business, a city of over 15,000 people (second largest in America), more than 6% of the commonwealth’s population, with power emanating from the Town House, strategically located at the intersection of King Street (the end of Long Wharf, where the entire world’s goods entered the Massachusetts Bay Colony) and Cornhill Street (leading down Common Street and out the Boston gate).

 

The oldest and most important public building in American history prior to the Revolution”: smack-dab in downtown Boston

 

Once they had no communications swifter than horse and foot; now, each is in continuous touch with the other and with the metropolis of the district.

 

Even Colonial and Revolutionary America was more urban than we credit.   The suburb, at least as we in America understand it, came into being a little over a century ago, and in my (imaginary?) formulation, America from 1620 through (say) 1875 was a combination of wilderness, agricultural homesteads, and urban outposts, many of them on bodies of water.  These gradually dispersed themselves as the population grew and the frontier was farmed, fenced, and domesticated, and about the time of Babbitt (1922) America had reached a comfortable early suburbanization that America loved and Sinclair Lewis despised.

 

 

His name was George F. Babbitt. He was forty-six years old now, in April, 1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay.

 

Though Sinclair Lewis wasn’t shy about showing his contempt for his protagonist, and by extension the entire newer-city phenomenon, the telephone brought prosperity and prosperity brought people wanting more and better housing.  George Babbitt – realtor and real estate broker – was, in fact, one of the ‘new men’ whose success the telephone had made possible:

 

Now, over this whole district, labor is fluid; village carpenters and mechanics follow their jobs over a wide range and motor home at night.

 

Communication fuels labor mobility, and that fuels economic expansion.

 

Men come from the cities to work in the villages, and from the villages to work in the city. The result, economically, is a more efficient distribution of labor power, less unemployment, greater wealth production. City delivery wagons frequent country roads; the merchandising of many essentials of village and rural life proceeds from a center, with many incidental economies and satisfactions.

 

Mr. Pound might have been describing the Amazon value proposition.

 

Impossible a decade ago, now a credit-card convenience

 

Rapid communications fostered larger and more complex businesses and governments.

 

Not the least of the telephone’s influence on our times has been to give managers wider scope for their undertakings.

 

Piping and wiring systems fostered hub-and-spoke networks with significant and expensive built infrastructure.  That combination created powerful network-gravitic-monopolistic effects: It was always cheaper to join an existing network than to start a new one, and the expansion of networks favored accretion/ annexation. 

 

If the villages tend to become satellites of the cities in the process, I can see no possible harm in that great enough to offset the compensating advantages.

 

What the railroads or the oil business called interlocking directorates, municipal government called the expansion of Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City.  As I argued in A Tale of Two Cities, in the late nineteenth century the network effects favored municipal expansion, annexation, and incorporation.  (In the twenty-first century, we have found some cities may be too large for their governance form – mayor, city council – but that will be a topic for a future post or series.)

 

The huge modern office building, with tens of thousands of occupants by day and only scores of occupants at night, or the equally imposing modern apartment house which gains population while the office building is losing it, would be impossible places for work or residence without telephone service.

 

Made possible by the elevator and telephone: 208 Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1915

 

The viability of high-rises depended not just going up in those elevators (Part 5), but being able to communicate when up there (this Part 6).  That changes the scale of enterprise and therefore its efficiency and reach.

 

All this was co-enabled by the next breakthrough, one that occurred so soon thereafter it might as well have been simultaneous.

 

 

[Continued in Part 7.]

 

The technology of urban verticality: Part 5, Elevators

July 31, 2017 | cement, Cities, Elevators, Housing, Infrastructure, Innovation, plumbing, Rome, Sanitation, Speculation, Technology, Toilets, Verticality | No comments 94 views

 

By: David A. Smith

  

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.]

 

As established in the earlier four parts of this post, modern cities depend on verticality – without it, the city’s horizontal expansion would overtax all natural resources, overload any infrastructure, and despoil the urban environment, leading to a Club-of-Rome environmental urban collapse.

 

[For more on this via a fascinating PNAS article, see my 2007 post, Cities and scale — Ed.]

 

World’s first architecture critic: Ten books on architecture, by grumpy Vitruvius

 

“The immense size of Rome,” wrote Vitruvius, about 1 AD, “makes it needful to have a vast number of habitations, and as the area is not sufficient to contain them all on the ground floor, the nature of the case compels us to raise them in the air.”

 

Only three miles across, but permanently congested

 

 

AHI’s housing technology series

 

March 14, 2006: The earliest apartments, Roman insulae

April 14, 2006: The evolving modern home

April 28, 2006: The cradle of apartment living: New York City

August 13, 2007: Cities and scale, 3 parts

June 19, 2008: Urbanizing requires formalization, 2 parts

March 20, 2009: When and where modern housing was born

April 5, 2010: Preaching the gospel of water infrastructure, 2 parts

April 20, 2011: The high-rise’s mahout

January 28, 2013: Grandma in a can?

July 20, 2013: The new urbanism of Tiny Tower

April 1, 2014: Elevators, the vertical utility, 7 parts

August 4, 2014: Vertically obsolete?, 3 parts

February 17, 2015: Form forces function, 8 parts

June 20, 2016: Pre-municipal cities, four typologies, 10 parts

December 5, 2016: The first housing commissioner, 10 parts

 

For modern cities, the crunch point arrived midway through the nineteenth century, when railroads and mills brought industry to the city center, and industry brought people by the thousands.  I think it no coincidence that Europe exploded in urban riots in 1848 – cities were drowning in people, and people were drowning in filth, pollution, and disease.

 

Revolution breeds in overcrowded cities; terrorism festers in overcrowded slums

 

 

Sources used in this post series

 

Life before artificial light, Guardian (October 31, 2009; methane-blue font)

Sarah Woodbury, the invention of the chimney (December 15, 2011; creosote brown font)

Mike Rendell, Georgian Gentleman (February 13, 2012; coprophagic brown font)

The secrets of ancient Roman concrete (June 21, 2013; cement gray font)

The father of the fireplace insert – Benjamin Franklin (brick red font)

Sewer history, Toilets, earth closets, and house plumbing (undated; ceramic blue font)

Elevators, the vertical utility, 5 parts; mud brown font)

 

 

Humanity needed an uplift, and it arrived.

 

 

7.         Elevators (and brakes) (1852, Elisha Otis)

 

Three and a half years ago, I posted at length (seven parts!) on elevators, and as it followed similar reasoning, I’ll quote myself (mud brown font), and periodically comment on myself commenting on other sources). 

 

The elevator arrived by stages, first being demonstrated at the New York City exposition (the precursor to World’s Fairs):

 

Built in 1853

 

1854 — Elisha Graves Otis, who founded the E.G. Otis Elevator Company in Yonkers, demonstrated his invention at the Crystal Palace on 42nd Street. Otis didn’t really invent the elevator; he invented a safety mechanism that stopped it from crashing to the ground.

 

1857 — Eder V. Haughwout’s fashion emporium installs the first passenger elevator in the city.

 

Wouldn’t you like an elevator for this?

 

The building (which still stands today at 488-492 Broadway) was only five stories and didn’t need one, but Haughwout thought the novelty would attract more customers. 

 

Whether it’s Rogaine, Lasix, or Viagra, a new technology takes a while to believe in, and without that belief one doesn’t hazard.

 

He was wrong. Three years later, it was removed because the public refused to accept it.

 

Likewise, the precursor to the flush toilet (featured in Part 3) was invented in the late sixteenth century but didn’t catch on either until both cities and the urban infrastructure of water piping and drainage caught up with it.

 

According to Lee Gray, a columnist for Elevator World, associate professor of architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and author of a 2002 book on the early history of elevators, one big issue was whether a man in an elevator ought to remove his hat in the presence of a woman, as he would in someone’s home or a restaurant, or keep it on, as he would on a train or a streetcar.

 

A new technology disrupts all our paradigms, including our previous typological pigeonholes.  Elevators are vestibules, passenger cars, subway cars, and even highways – and yet they are none of these things, possessing neither windows nor drivers (though at one time they did).

 

Perhaps to bring in the skittish, the new invention was initially appointed as a luxury conveyance:

 

Beautify your vertical commute

 

Initially these steam-powered “moveable rooms” were extravagantly furnished with chandeliers, benches, and carpeting, says Lee Gray, a columnist for Elevator World and an associate professor of architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

 

Over time, as the innovation because more widely accepted, the luxury premium disappears, the item becomes more functional, and eventually it fades into the background. 

Because we take elevators for granted, we’ve forgotten how distinctive they are as an urban space:

 

A. We are in them frequently, but never for very long.

B. We have little choice over who shares the journey with us.

C. We cannot sit down.

D. We are usually closer to other people than is comfortable for westerners.

E. We have minimal control over the journey.

 

Elevators extended the concept of public transport into the vertical realm:

 

The elevator is as critical to public transport as the automobile was to private transport. 

 

Without elevators, we could not concentrate workers in high enough density to justify the massive cost of fixed-rail systems like subways.  It is unlikely to be coincidence that America’s first subways arrived at just the time (1897) that elevators were enabling skyscrapers to claim the skyline.

 

Just a horizontal elevator under the ground: Tremont Street subway line, 1897

 

New York’s first skyscraper: Masonic Temple, 1890 (since demolished)

 

They had done so for two millennia, going back to the Roman insulae.

 

Back then, cities were bounded by walls. Land inside them was valuable. But the workers – shopkeepers, laborers, maids, housekeepers, stevedores – had to live close to their jobs. Roman law – the first zoning of which I am aware – limited building height to the equivalent of fifty feet. So floor space was at a premium. Enter the insulae.

 

Cubicles with roofs: floor plan of an insula’s upper storey

 

Years ago I wrote about insulae, which I won’t repeat, but in the meantime new images have surfaced on the Web, and they’re worth viewing:

 

By the end of the 1st century BC, a growing pressure for land in many larger, overpopulated cities gave rise to the insula, or apartment. The term insula had originally been applied to rectangularly shaped town building plots. 6-8 apartment blocks could occupy one insula, and were usually designed around an open courtyard. However, with most apartment blocks being three stories high, at least, this simply became a light well. Shops usually fronted the streets at ground level.

 

Urban hive, Roman style

 

“Landlords often built several additional floors in wood, turning their buildings and the city into firetraps.”    Such additional incremental off-the-books construction is by no means limited to landlords, nor to Romans – exactly the same phenomena are present today in Istanbul or Bombay or Delhi.

 

This model of urban living endured because rich people wanted servants close at hand, and the servants couldn’t afford quality affordable housing.  So the employers provided a low-grade form of employer-assisted housing, in the small rooms atop their homes (and probably, rooftop shacks as well).

 

Urban dwellings went up, but only so far up as people would climb and carry provisions. 

 

If we define a city as a place where public transportation becomes more convenient and prevalent than private – and that’s one good definition among many – then it’s apparent we cannot have modern cities without elevators, because without them to act as the last-floor delivery system, public transportation will never have the economies of scale to compete.

 

This limit happens to be reached before the physical verticality limits of concrete and brick construction, and as we’ll see presently, the elevator’s acceptance created economic pressure to discover new construction techniques and materials that would let the floors go higher:

 

It wasn’t until the 1870s, when elevators showed up in office buildings, that the technology really started to leave a mark on urban culture. Business owners stymied by the lack of available space could look up and see room for growth where there was previously nothing but air.

 

Along with reinforced concrete, elevators create value out of thin air. 

 

But the square-cube law requires that for structures to go higher, they need more reinforcement – so if we are going to take down a five-story building to put up a twenty-story one (4x as tall), we need a parcel of land that is four times bigger.

 

Safe, simple, and practically noiseless

 

The elevator’s arrival upended urban land-use economics:

 

Even in 1884, when the Dakota opened on the Upper West Side (the first apartment building geared to the rich), it was assumed the wealthy would rather live closer to the ground.

 

In 1897, the rent for ground-floor space was $8 per square foot, and $3 for the top floor, Andreas Bernard says. Within a decade, those numbers were reversed.

 

A new claim on the sky view: Penthouse apartment, Champs Elysee, 1920s

 

Higher being more valuable (before considerations of increased structural cost per square foot) further revolutionized residential typologies.  Now one could make more money by dividing the cubic into smaller cubics, so what had been single-family dwellings became multifamily dwellings:

 

One of New York’s grandest neighborhood transformations hinged on this quest for privacy.

The Upper East Side was once dominated by individual mansions. But around 1920, developers coveted that land for apartments.

 

“The divorced wives of great industrialists like William K. Vanderbilt II or Edward Hutton agreed to the demolition of their mansions only on condition that it would not affect the exclusivity of access to their new upper-story apartments,” Bernard writes.

 

Divorced from a Vanderbilt, living in a penthouse: Alava E. Bennett, 1911

 

[Continued in Part 6.]

 

The technology of urban verticality: Part 4, Interior lighting

July 25, 2017 | cement, Cities, Elevators, Housing, Infrastructure, Innovation, plumbing, Rome, Sanitation, Speculation, Technology, Theory, Toilets, Verticality | No comments 69 views

By: David A. Smith

 

Church and state and a port city: London, 1616

 

As we’ve seen in Parts 1 and 2 of this post, the pre-Industrial Revolution innovations of urbanization related to physical structure: the ability to build strong durable edifices upward, and to make the resulting interior spaces habitable in cold climates (fireplaces and chimneys), and their development was slow – perhaps because the world economies were agricultural, and cities existed slowly as political and military seats of temporal or spiritual power. 

 

London, 1815: Blackfriars’ Bridge, note absence

 

The coming of scalable energy, starting with water power, kicked off what the history books call the Industrial Revolution – though it would be better to describe the period as the Urbanization Revolution.

A city of chimney: London 1875, with the two-hundred-year-old Oxford Arms coach house courtyard foreground

 

Each major technological advance of the Industrial Revolution accelerated urbanization, and while judging the pace of urbanization would be subjective at best, nothing in my experience suggests urbanization is slowing down.

 

 

AHI’s housing technology series

 

March 14, 2006: The earliest apartments, Roman insulae

April 14, 2006: The evolving modern home

April 28, 2006: The cradle of apartment living: New York City

June 19, 2008: Urbanizing requires formalization, 2 parts

March 20, 2009: When and where modern housing was born

April 5, 2010: Preaching the gospel of water infrastructure, 2 parts

January 28, 2013: Grandma in a can?

April 1, 2014: Elevators, the vertical utility, 5 parts

August 4, 2014: Vertically obsolete?, 3 parts

February 17, 2015: Form forces function, 8 parts

June 20, 2016: Pre-municipal cities, four typologies, 10 parts

December 5, 2016: The first housing commissioner, 10 parts

 

 

Each time we have urbanized, we have improved humanity’s overall economic prospects, because we have made work and the society of work cleaner, safer, more intellectual (less brawny), more inclusive, and more entrepreneurial, starting with the next technological leap upward:

 

Turn on your idea lights!

 

6.         Gas lighting (1789, William Murdoch)

 

By 1750, not only do inventors have names, they have portraits

 

The Industrial-Revolution/ Enlightenment era spawned scores if not hundreds of amateur inventors, people whose work spanned engineering, manufacture, and physics.  One such was William Murdoch, generally credited with being the principal inventor of gas lighting (Wikipedia):

 

In 1798 Murdoch returned to Birmingham to work in the Soho foundry and continued his experiments with gas, as part of which he lit the interior of the Soho main building. In 1802 as part of the public celebrations of the Peace of Amiens, he made a public exhibition of his lighting by illuminating the exterior of the Boulton and Watt Soho Foundry.

 

That’s Watt, James Watt.

 

Inventor of the steam engine

 

Though Watt is rightly more famous because the steam engine was a more potent discovery than gas lighting, in terms of urbanization the gas light had a greater impact, because it dramatically exapdned the productive day.

 

The first industrial factory to be illuminated by gas was the Philips and Lee cotton mill in Manchester which was fully lit by Murdoch in 1805, four years after the idea was first broached. Initially this mill contained 50 gas lights, although this soon grew to 904.

 

As it happened, never made any money from gas lighting because he thought the process not patentable (and in 1791 had been turned down on another patent application).

 

[Murdoch’s] failure to apply for a patent, despite the commercial participation of Boulton and Watt in this field, left the fledgling industry of gas production and lighting open for exploitation by other commercial interests, such as his former assistant Samuel Clegg and Friedrich Winzer.  Boulton and Watt never developed the gas market or technology, and in 1814 abandoned the gas business.

 

Probably making too much money in steam engines.

 

If you’re not going into the gas lighting business, boss, you won’t mind if I do, will you?  Samuel Clegg

 

 

Sources used in this post series

 

Life before artificial light, Guardian (October 31, 2009; methane-blue font)

Sarah Woodbury, the invention of the chimney (December 15, 2011; creosote brown font)

Mike Rendell, Georgian Gentleman (February 13, 2012; coprophagic brown font)

The secrets of ancient Roman concrete (June 21, 2013; cement gray font)

The father of the fireplace insert – Benjamin Franklin (brick red font)

Sewer history, Toilets, earth closets, and house plumbing (undated; ceramic blue font)

 

 

The value of gas lighting was immediately visible, because what had gone before – the best form of illumination available – was nevertheless a terrible solution:

 

One 60-watt electric bulb generates the light of approximately 100 candles. By the late 1700s, most of our aristocratic homes would have been lit by a selection of candles made of expensive beeswax, or perhaps from even more expensive spermaceti, the wax extracted from the head cavities of sperm whales.

 

The world’s best illumination, hunted to the far side of the world

 

The middle class used [beef] tallow candles, which stank to high heaven, smoked incessantly, dripped terribly, emitted a feeble light, but were a damn sight cheaper.

 

Candles of beeswax and tallow

 

Since parlor games such as card games and gambling were played at night, they needed candles, and if the game were uninteresting or unprofitable, the game wouldn’t be worth the candle.

 

The poor overwhelmingly made do with humble rush lights: reeds dipped in some form of animal fat. These burned even more unevenly than tallow candles and smelled worse, but did the job for an hour or so.

 

A rush light and a candle

 

Gas was not the first form of artificial lighting, but it was by far the most efficient: a single gas mantle emitted 12 times as much light as a candle or oil lamp, and was 75% cheaper.

 

The standard of candlepower

 

As soon as it became available, gas lighting spread like wildfire:

 

In 1817 the Glasgow’s Gas Light Company was formed, and on 15 September 1818 the first proper streetlight was switched on in Glasgow. 

 

For a while, insurance companies threatened to increase rates if gas lighting was installed in private houses, fearing Glasgow properties might be prone to explosion.

 

[Some things, like the caution of insurers, never change. – Ed.]

 

Gas lights in Pall Mall, cartoon by Rowlandson, 1809

 

Gas lighting was no mere convenience, it offered a dramatic increase in productivity (Wikipedia again):

 

Among the economic impacts of gas lighting was much longer work hours in factories. This was particularly important in Great Britain during the winter months when nights are significantly longer. Factories could even work continuously over 24 hours, resulting in increased production. Following successful commercialization, gas lighting spread to other countries.

 

In England, the first place outside London to have gas lighting, was Preston, Lancashire, in 1816; this was due to the Preston Gaslight Company run by revolutionary Joseph Dunn, who found the most improved way of brighter gas lighting.

 

Within a handful of years, gas lighting had gone global:

 

American, inventor, museum keeper, painter: Rembrandt Peale

(His younger brothers were named Raphaelle, Rubens, and Titan)

 

In Baltimore, Rembrandt Peale‘s Gas Light Company debuted gas lighting in his Museum in 1816 was a great success, and on February 7, 1817 [Even before Glagow – Ed.], Baltimore lit its first street lamp at Market and Lemon Streets (currently Baltimore and Holliday Streets).

 

The early adopters gained tremendous first-mover advantages, growing within a handful of years to become major municipal industries:

 

In 1817, at the three stations of the Chartered Gas Company, 25 chaldrons (24 m³) of coal were carbonized daily, producing 300,000 cubic feet (8,500 m³) of gas. This supplied gas lamps equal to 75,000 Argand lamps each yielding the light of six candles.  At the City Gas Works in Dorset Street, Blackfriars, three chaldrons of coal were carbonized each day, providing the gas equivalent of 9,000 Argand lamps. 

 

The lamp you can dial up and down: Argand lamp on a bracket

 

By 1823, numerous towns and cities throughout Britain were lit by gas.  By 1859, gas lighting was to be found all over Britain and about a thousand gas works had sprung up to meet the demand for the new fuel. 

 

Gas lighting helped equalize opportunity:

 

The brighter lighting which gas provided allowed people to read more easily and for longer. This helped to stimulate literacy and learning, speeding up the second Industrial Revolution.

 

Gas lighting also spread urbanization throughout Europe and America:

 

Germany’s inaugural gasworks opened in Hannover in 1825.  

 

Gas lighting also gave rise to the greatest single increase in human safety since the invention of the city, from multiple causes, starting with a dramatic reduction in fires:

 

[Before gas lighting], in the age of open fires, timber buildings and no running water, fire was an even greater danger, capable of destroying whole neighborhoods in hours.

 

Property is not safe if dwellings are not safe, and fire risk can be both natural and man-made:

 

Arsonists prospered, despite the threat of execution by burning or beheading.

 

But even arson, whether for extortion or for fun, was a great threat to property, and hence a powerful incentive to avoid urbanization, there was the even greater threat: to limb and life.

 

[Before gas lighting], the night was also the realm of the criminal: the vandal, the thief, the murderer. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s greatest fear was “being knockt on the head for five or ten pounds”.

 

Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, and power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil

Being represented by the law firm of Solitary, Poore, Nastie, Brutish, and Short

 

Nor was Hobbes’ fear irrational; he was merely the most observant member of the urban dweller herd:

 

Gangs of men with names such as the Mohocks, the Scowrers and the Hectors roamed the streets of England wreaking unimaginable havoc, slashing the faces of pedestrians and ‘misusing women in a barbarous manner’.

 

In Munich, the nightly purpose of one such gang was to murder the first man they met. The murder rate per head of the population was, historians estimate, five to ten times as high as today. 

 

As I’ve written elsewhere, street lighting is a sine qua non of urban living. 

 

[Before gas lighting], the only protection against all these ne’er-do-wells was the night watch, often a motley collection of easily corrupted incompetents, universally mocked.

 

William Anthony, one of the last London night watchmen

 

A question as old as Rome: Quis custodiest ipsos custodes?

 

Its creation therefore enabled the creation of a new element of civic infrastructure, the modern police force, where the law could see and be seen, as established in 1822 by Sir Robert Peel when he was Home Secretary under Prime Minister Wellington.

 

In the urban riots that swept much of Europe in the 1830s and 40s, gas lamps were invariably one of the first targets.

 

The rise in the visibility of law and order also, I think, stimulated the creation of the detective novel.  Detective stories were being published and widely read for half a century before Conan Doyle laid down the canonical sleuth (and part-time affordable housing monographist).  For a rationalist to be a hero signals a change in humanity’s aspiration: now logic and science brought order and justice. 

 

By 1825, more than 40,000 gas lights were burning bright along more than 215 miles of the capital’s streets

 

Just as the toilet spread the sewer network, gas lighting spread the gas network, and as I showed in Part 3, network effects and scale accelerated the pace of urban expansion, especially via annexation. 

 

Now the city, which until roughly this time was mainly a place of government and manufacturing, could become a hive of entrepreneurial innovation – provided people could communicate rapidly with one another, and for that the next two technological advances happened in close sequence.

 

 

[Continued tomorrow in Part 5.]

The technology of urban verticality: Part 3, Waste

July 24, 2017 | cement, Cities, Elevators, Housing, Infrastructure, Innovation, plumbing, Rome, Sanitation, Speculation, Technology, Theory, Toilets, Verticality | No comments 72 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from yesterday’s Part 2 and the preceding Part 1.]

 

By the beginning of the Renaissance, as we’ve seen in the two previous posts, dwellings were able to go vertical even in cold climates because they could be built of stone and concrete, braced with flying buttresses, and heated with fireplaces that vented through engineered chimneys.  As far as I can tell [On the basis of your entirely superficial investigation? – Ed.], for half a millennium thereafter (1250 AD to 1750 AD), the urban environment experienced no radical change: buttresses got better and cathedrals became more ornate (but not larger), while fireplaces and chimneys became smaller and less sooty, but a lord from Henry III could have been hosted by George I and not been overawed by the inventions: the cathedral, the palace, the town home, were all much of a muchness.

 

 

AHI’s housing technology series

 

March 14, 2006: The earliest apartments, Roman insulae

April 14, 2006: The evolving modern home

April 28, 2006: The cradle of apartment living: New York City

June 19, 2008: Urbanizing requires formalization, 2 parts

March 20, 2009: When and where modern housing was born

April 5, 2010: Preaching the gospel of water infrastructure, 2 parts

January 28, 2013: Grandma in a can?

April 1, 2014: Elevators, the vertical utility, 5 parts

August 4, 2014: Vertically obsolete?, 3 parts

February 17, 2015: Form forces function, 8 parts

June 20, 2016: Pre-municipal cities, four typologies, 10 parts

December 5, 2016: The first housing commissioner, 10 parts

 

 

As was the privy.

 

Fundamentally unchanged for the two millennia prior: medieval privy

 

 

5.         Flush toilet (1778, Joseph Bramah)

 

A good place for exchanging confidences: a privy council?

 

So ingrained is our instinct for privacy about evacuation that it is virtually never mentioned in fiction, and if interstellar aliens ever scan our beamed and broadcast literature, they may be well conclude we eat and drink endlessly, incessantly even, and that we somehow vaporize the products of our eating – the ultimate in clean energy sources.

 

 

Sources used in this post series

 

The secrets of ancient Roman concrete (June 21, 2013; cement gray font)

The father of the fireplace insert – Benjamin Franklin (brick red font)

Sarah Woodbury, the invention of the chimney (December 15, 2011; creosote brown font)

Mike Rendell, Georgian Gentleman (February 13, 2012; coprophagic brown font)

Sewer history, Toilets, earth closets, and house plumbing (undated; ceramic blue font)

 

The only household goods that might to a clever alien anthropologist constitute a clue would be the chamber pot, a device whose etymology would itself be a euphemistic puzzle. 

 

The Greeks at least had a pot to piss in

 

Chamber pots, as it did not surprise me to discover when researching this, have a long and colorful history.

 

Next time, close your eye

 

They were kept under beds, or in salon cabinets, where a gentleman could access one, turning him back to the table while continuing his witty conversation.

 

Potentially missing the mark, according to the French

 

Some were mounted with brackets underneath a seat of ease, and kept in a little room (a ‘water closet,’ another revealing euphemism)

 

Open.  Deposit.  Close.  Forget it (leave for the chamber maid)

 

And yet, when the gentleman or lady had done his or her private business, with such decorum as could be managed, the effluent was not gone.  Some human being had to pick up the chamber pot to which another human being had contributed, hand-carry it somewhere, and empty it … by depositing the effluent somewhere else.  This was just the pit latrine supply chain of sanitation that dates back to time immemorial – just intermediated and carried in ceramic.

 

That is, until the late Enlightenment, and a neglected inventor named Joseph Bramah, considered by Wikipedia “one of the two fathers of hydraulic engineering,” but for our story, the inventor of the principal innovation that enabled us to live in the sky:

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From hydraulics to flushing, it’s all the movement of fluids

 

When it came to making the toilet into a vertical utility, the hydraulics were key, as gleefully reported by Mike Rendell in a lengthy post that he had so much fun writing I have to give him the screen time by quoting from liberally:

 

The flush toilet’s origins lay back in Elizabethan times when in 1596 Sir John Harington came up with his mighty Ajax (his name for a flushing privy), which he described in his book The Anatomy of the metamorphosed Ajax.  Its frontispiece reads ‘How unsavoury places may be made sweet, noysome places may be made wholesome, filthy places made cleanly.’

 

 

The wonderful Elizabethan prose in the above diagram explains:

 

Always remember that at noone and at night, emptie it, and it leave a half a foote deep in fayre water.  And this being well done, and orderly kept, your worst privie may be as sweet as your best chamber.  But to conclude all this in a few wordes, it is but a standing close stoole easily emptyed.  And by the like reason (other forms and proportions obscrued) all other places of your house may be kept sweet.

 

The Elizabethans, like all those before, treated the problem as one of capture, there being servants for removal and disposal:

 

Once a week it was necessary to empty the contents of the closet into a cesspool. Harington made two – one for himself and one for his godmother, who happened to be Queen Elizabeth. 

 

Alas, he was ahead of his time:

 

Harington [By the way, an ancestor of Jon Snow – Ed.] never got over the ridicule and scorn heaped upon him for his invention, and in particular for having written a book about it, and it never caught on.

 

There the innovation languished until the latter Enlightenment, when the Industrial Revolution and the increase interest in water power (I speculate) led to renewed interest in using fluids to remove fluids. 

 

Ah ha!  The ring will fall into my Cumming trap

 

A form of water closet had been patented by Alexander Cumming in 1775, his innovation being the trap to enable you to retrieve what you might have inadvertently dropped into your own mire.

 

People continued to use the ‘close stool’ and it appears in all its glory in a number of Gillray’s cartoons including this one  showing His Majesty George III and his wife Queen Charlotte enthroned on their respective latrines, when in rushes William Pitt with news that the King Gustavus III of Sweden has been assassinated. The year was 1792.

 

“What! What! What!  Shot, shot shot!”

 

Working on these toilets, Bramah “found that the current model being installed in London houses had a tendency to freeze in cold weather. Although it was Allen who improved the design by replacing the usual slide valve with a hinged flap that sealed the bottom of the bowl, Bramah obtained the patent for it in 1778.”

 

New and improved: Bramah’s water closet

 

Bramah opened a factory in Denmark Street St Giles and throughout the next century the Bramah factory poured out the new-fangled sanitary ware. They were generally housed in fine mahogany furniture, and there is a particularly fine example to be seen in Kew Palace, and another at the residence of Queen Victoria at Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight.

 

When only the finest receptacle will do: Wedgwood

 

It wasn’t long before potters like Josiah Wedgwood got in on the act, designing his first decorated closet pan in around 1777. Small wonder they became status symbols with their beautiful designs. Mind you, there was no sewerage system to go with them, so ‘the problem’ of the effluent was merely moved further downstream, so to speak.

 

And what of Thomas Crapper, widely believed to have invented the flush toilet? Well, he wasn’t even born until 1836 and in fact what he invented was the ballcock.

 

When you make a better ballcock, the world will beat a path to your throne

 

One final Gillray to end with: a delightfully revolting engraving showing the different national characteristics of conveniences: the English use a water closet, the Scots use a bucket, the French les Commodites, and the Dutch…the lake.

 

No stereotyping here!

 

Though the flush toilet itself would undergo a great deal more development in the hundred years after Bramah, his was the lever that opened up the sluices of innovation – because once it was possible to move effluent from the toilet into a piping system, no longer would people empty their chamber pots out the window. 

 

Instead, it naturally became ever easier to extend the pipes, to build networks of pipes.  Two networks thus sprang up – a vertical one of pipes running up the outsides (first) or insides (later) of the walls, and a horizontal one of pipes that ran underground.  

 

The house I grew up in had a septic tank, and in the manner of a kid I never thought much about it.  I knew that my manure ran down and out the toilet through the pipes and past the traps, down into the tank, and I knew that from time to time it had to be pumped out, but beyond that I gave it no thought.

 

Sludge … effluent … scum … it’s all mine!

 

More recently, I’ve previously mentioned that the Cambridge house the Boss and I owned for twenty years came with a Clivus Multrum, which like the septic tank is impractical in the urban context.  In the context of urban density, water had run in networks for two millennia.  Now sewage would as well – through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea. 

 

Connect them underground and hope they never break

 

Merging the flows

 

Naturally, the aggregation of outflow meant that eventually it all had to be pumped into either a nearby river (such as old father Thames) without worrying if that would overload the ecosystem, or if that did not serve, into a handy large body of water (say, Lake Michigan).  The end result, as I showed in an earlier twelve-part post, was expansion of major cities via annexation of unincorporated areas or the absorption of existing smaller towns. 

 

The late 1800s was the heydey of toilet design, with models following the earth closet, pan closet, and water closet designs.

 

That era was also the heyday of modern industrialization, and the development of the proto-skyscraper, and all these things would have been unthinkable without reliable flush toilets that could be conveniently located on every floor.  Indeed, so critical is the sanitation plumbing to high-rise living that its location in the building core is a central and indisputable component of modern tower design.  One starts with the core and then builds outward, an approach that also depends on a later innovation to come in this series.

 

You’ll have no difficulty locating the toilets, which are so commonplace they are not even demarcated

(And the men’s and women’s are likewise distinguishable, again without annotation or explanation)

 

Finally, to wipe up this post and leave it tidy, I’ll add this tidbit:

 

Modern design was complemented by the invention of toilet paper by American Joseph Gayetty in 1857.

 

The President and Cabinet use GAYETTY’S MEDICATED PAPER for the Water Closet.  It is acknowledged to be the greatest discovery of modern times, so far as alleviating and preventing human suffering is concerned.  February 3, 1859

 

[Continued tomorrow in Part 4]

The technology of urban verticality: Part 2, Interiors

July 19, 2017 | cement, Cities, Elevators, Housing, Infrastructure, Innovation, Rome, Sanitation, Speculation, Technology, Theory, Verticality | No comments 122 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from yesterday’s Part 1.]

 

As we saw in the previous Part 1, the march of human urbanization is a march into the sky: the creation of a vertical built environment that doesn’t exist in biological nature. 

 

 

Because no one can fool gravity – nor energy consumption, nor water/ sanitation, nor disease and plague – to create a viable city required solving problems of engineering and technology.

 

[Hang around architects and urban planners enough and you’ll realize they don’t speak of cities, instead they reference the ‘built environment’.  Despite its apparent artifice, built environment actually proves a useful umbrella term because it encompasses both private property and public space, commercial and residential use, infrastructure and leisure uses, even landscaping – and it serves to remind me that cities are a construction.  – Ed.]

 

The inventions of the arch and of concrete enabled the erection of huge structures that today we’d find recognizable and serviceable, except for one missing part – there’s no roofs.  For that, humanity needed the next technological invention.

 

Technology at work

 

 

3.         Flying buttress (~400 AD, Romans)

 

Cities need roofs for the most basic reason: people need roofs.

 

Though I’ve never before stopped to reflect on it, a roof is essential to defining spaces and our sense of safety.  We need roofs for privacy, for warmth, for protection from the elements, and for protection from each other.  Indeed, ‘a roof over one’s head’ is a synonym for a home.

 

And someone’s money has to keep it there

 

The roof is the toughest part of a house to construct properly (for two bucks you can download a cute app, Simple Physics, and try building your own), because all its weight has to be translated into horizontal force that creates stresses at the joints and along the walls, and to prevent it from wedging the walls apart and collapsing the whole structure, the building needs to be braced both horizontally and vertically..

 

To make the tower rise, it must be externally braced

 

As shown in the schematic diagram above, our desired goal is a high-roofed interior space, and to do that we have to brace the walls, otherwise the roof weight will bulge them outward and they’ll bow, crack, and eventually collapse.  The best way to do that – the lightest way, which gives the maximum strength per pound and hence the largest possible buildings – is with a flying buttress:

 

Catch the weight, deflect its force laterally, and stabilize the deflection

 

The earliest flying buttress Wikipedia reports comes from the eastern Roman Empire (later to be called Byzantine) and is in Thessaloniki, the Rotunda Galerius from roughly 400 AD. 

 

From this modest beginning sprang …

 

Flying buttresses, in turn, became more complicated as the buttress itself had to be thickened and then stack-weighted with pinnacles, nor for ornamentation but for compression stability.

 

Stack the buttresses, then buttress the stacks

 

As with the two previous inventions, the dates of origin and inventor are unknown, and for flying buttresses it seems clear that they were developed through continuous trial and error (and probably quite a few basilicas and churches that stood for a while before toppling). 

 

 

AHI’s housing technology series

 

March 14, 2006: The earliest apartments, Roman insulae

April 14, 2006: The evolving modern home

April 28, 2006: The cradle of apartment living: New York City

June 19, 2008: Urbanizing requires formalization, 2 parts

March 20, 2009: When and where modern housing was born

April 5, 2010: Preaching the gospel of water infrastructure, 2 parts

January 28, 2013: Grandma in a can?

April 1, 2014: Elevators, the vertical utility, 5 parts

August 4, 2014: Vertically obsolete?, 3 parts

February 17, 2015: Form forces function, 8 parts

June 20, 2016: Pre-municipal cities, four typologies, 10 parts

December 5, 2016: The first housing commissioner, 10 parts

 

 

This design required architects and engineers (called master masons back then), and between Rome and Christendom, those architects and engineers were in service either to emperors or cardinals.  This meant formal authority, whether secular or spiritual, and is the first appearance of an AHI principle: that urbanization requires formality.

 

 

With flying buttresses also came significant improvement in the architectural structure of wooden roofs:

 

Tithe barn in Bradford, England, from the fourteenth century

 

Arches, concrete, and flying buttresses had enabled the creation of durable large urban interior spaces; the next set of innovations were all about making those interiors more livable – starting with heat.

 

 

Sources used in this post

 

The secrets of ancient Roman concrete (June 21, 2013; cement gray font)

The father of the fireplace insert – Benjamin Franklin (brick red font)

Sarah Woodbury, the invention of the chimney (December 15, 2011) (creosote brown)

           

 

4.         Chimneys (~1150, Western Europe)

                                             

He was a dark and stormy author

 

It was Ellsworth Huntington [NB A weird well-educated dude who’d need a complete political correctness overhaul today – Ed.] who wrote, in Chapter 21 of Mainsprings of Civilization (1945), that the march of civilization is always ‘coldward and stormward’, and in that memorable phrase lies another truth about the urban environment – it must function in all weathers, so it is in practical terms weatherproofed.  (It’s not for nothing that ‘weatherproofing’ has become a standard term in home improvement.)

 

BY the end of the Roman Empire, humanity could build large, strong, enduring structures, which in Roman times meant basilicas but with Rome’s collapse increasingly meant fortified castles, which with their keep, grounds, and palisades served as the pre-urbanized world’s city-surrogates: fixed installations for trade, exchange of ideas, local government and an outpost node for higher levels of government.  All these functions required a castle that was also a house, and as these places arose in northern Europe, where it gets nastily cold, they needed to be kept warm.

 

That required a fire, and the fire needed to be both inside the building and far from any wood or tapestry (used for insulation), hence the evolution of the Great Hall:

 

Penshurst Great Hall, photograph from the 1930’s; note symbolic (unlit) fire in the middle

 

Christmas festivities, artist’s impression

 

As a means of interior heating, the great hall and open fire combination was pretty dreadful.  To clear the smoke, the ceiling had to be open, and that meant the best (warmest) air would be sucked out along with the smoke and soot it was essential to ventilate. 

 

The ancestor of the fireplace was the central open hearth, used in ground-level halls in Saxon times and often into later centuries. Such a hearth may have heated one of the two halls of Chepstow’s 13th-century domestic range, where there are no traces of a fireplace. Square, circular, or octagonal, the central hearth was bordered by stone or tile and sometimes had a backing of tile, brick or stone. Smoke rose through a louver, a lantern-like structure in the roof with side openings that were covered with sloping boards to exclude rain and snow, and that could be closed by pulling strings, like venetian blinds. There were also roof ventilators. A couvre-feu (fire cover) made of tile or china was placed over the hearth at night to reduce the fire hazard.

The hall would be ‘warm’ only when the fire was burning; to generate any meaningful heat one had to burn a great deal of wood; even with a ceiling vent, that much fire meant smoke and soot; and heat circulation would have been miserable, with those close to the fire practically scorched while those in the corners shivered.

 

On the other hand, a conga line in full armor will summon up the blood

 

If people were to live in castles, they had to deliver localized heat without incinerating the furniture, the finishings, or themselves. 

 

When the hall was raised to the second story, a fireplace in one wall took the place of the central hearth, dangerous on an upper level, especially with a timber floor.

 

Enter the fireplace, with flue, chimney, and damper:

 

A lot of ventilation and heat conduction technology behind the wall

 

If the later Middle Ages had made only slight improvements in lighting over earlier centuries, a major technical advance had come in heating: the fireplace, an invention of deceptive simplicity.

 

The fireplace provided heat both directly and by radiation from the stones at the back, from the hearth, and finally, from the opposite wall, which was given extra thickness to absorb the heat and warm the room after the fire had burned low. The hearth was moved to a location against a wall with a funnel or hood to collect and control the smoke.

 

A breakthrough by increments: spit-roasting with a medieval smoke canopy

 

Finally [the hearth], funnel and all, was incorporated into the wall. This early type of fireplace was arched, and set into the wall at a point where it was thickened by an external buttress, with the smoke venting through the buttress.

 

Toward the end of the 12th century, the fireplace began to be protected by a projecting hood of stone or plaster which controlled the smoke more effectively and allowed for a shallower recess. Flues ascended vertically through the walls to a chimney, cylindrical with an open top, or with side vents and a conical cap.

 

A lot of technology behind the wall

 

The mastery of interior heat fundamentally and permanently changed the nature of urban accommodations.  Now people could build and live in multi-storey stone/ brick dwellings with customizable warmth.  In addition to improving the lord’s comfort, the weatherproofing of durable interior spaces would make possible the librarians, the copyists, the clerks, the administrators, the lawgivers, and all the mechanisms of urban government and commerce – like the coffeehouse, where the stock market was born.

 

Seventeenth-century coffeehouse – hot fire, hot coffee, hot deals!

 

Remarkably, wood-fired and coal-fired heat continued to improve for the next seven hundred years, and that evolution was dominant in accelerating the evolution of urban dwellings:

 

Seven flues in one chimney stack

 

So omnipresent they became objects of design

 

In 1742, Benjamin Franklin invented an improved version, which became known as the Franklin stove:

 

In 1742, Benjamin designed a freestanding cast-iron fireplace that was inserted into an existing fireplace.  As designed, smoke came out from the bottom, [so Franklin] included a U-shaped duct between the fireplace and the chimney.  Originally invented by Franz Kessler in 1618, the ‘aerial syphon’ extracted as much heat as possible from the combustion gases, and included a baffle, which forced the fumes to descend behind it prior to exiting through the chimney. 

 

A highway only a few trod: London rooftop with chimney line

 

Not only did the chimney remake dwellings and the urban skyline, it created a whole new industry: the chimney sweep, which became both a family business and an avenue for urban child labor:

 

A profession where small size is an asset

 

One of the ‘better’ forms of child labor in Victorian London: a chimney sweep

 

The profession moved William Blake, the poet of the early industrial revolution, whose The Chimney Sweeper (1789) captured the changes wrought by urbanization:

 

 

When my mother died I was very young,

And my father sold me while yet my tongue

Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”

So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

 

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head

That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,

“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,

You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”

 

And so he was quiet, & that very night,

As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!

That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,

Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;

 

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,

And he opened the coffins & set them all free;

Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,

And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

 

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,

They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.

And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,

He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

 

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark

And got with our bags & our brushes to work.

Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;

So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

 

[Continued Friday in Part 3.]