The factory is the icon of the industrial age. For decades, our culture was proud of the dark, loud caverns that helped to shift millions of workers out of poverty and into the middle class. It was factories that helped America become a determining factor in World War I, and it was even more factories that enabled the US to dominate in two wartime theaters during World War II. Both wars were won in the factory.
During the first half of the 20th Century, the factory was viewed as a positive force. You can see this in the Detroit murals by Diego Rivera where he romanticizes the worker and shows the factory as noble and powerful.
In the post-war era, bilging pollution and mindless soul-killing work produced a negative view of the factory. As we entered the 21st Century and production shifted to Asia, the American factory slipped into decline, morphing into an image of decay and dystopian horror.
The artwork in this slideshow reveals our cultural take on the factory.
I predict a new image of factories will emerge in the coming decades with a positive image of antiseptic precision and magnificent robotics that again elevates our standard of living.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow.
In the 1950s, cutaways became a popular way to depict buildings with complex interiors. This drawing shows the progressive stages of ice cream production, from tanks of liquid ingredients to packaging and shipping.