The development of modernity- The Typewriter and The Sewing Machine
Pic 1: Blue Bird Typewriter. Picture taken from personal collection of objects
The typewriter was one of the most important inventions of its time which not only modernized the way in which people communicated but also modernized the work place. It made writing letters and texts easier and led to the rapid expansion of businesses due to the amount of work that could be done each day in comparison to pen writing. However, not only did the typewriter improve everyday life and increase workflow, they also created many new opportunities for women. Because of the typewriter’s growing popularity in the 19th century, women were given a new opportunity to enter the work place, it gave them new opportunities for clerical work, which provided them with a weekly wage and gave the women an independence that they didn’t have before. It revolutionized how women were accepted into other areas of employment and played an important role in changing the future for women and employment in the city (Cortada, 1993).
Pic 2: Singer Sewing machine. Picture taken from personal collection of objects
The sewing machine had huge impacts on life in the city, both socially and economically. It impacted from a small scale in homes to large scale in businesses. In the household the sewing machine meant that women could now sew and make clothes for their families. It allowed them to make items of clothing that was unique and more personal and was far more cost efficient than having to get clothes tailor made, which in turn led to families having more money and time to spend on other things.
The sewing machine led to clothing being mass produced as it was faster than sewing by hand. This meant that factories were established which catered for the growing size of the fashion industry and like the typewriter, led to employment opportunities for women. It allowed clothes to be more available to people and so had an affect on the social aspect of life in the 20th century as people now had access to clothes of various kinds (Cooper, 1976).
Both inventions laid down the foundations of objects that we still use today and has continued to modernize our cities, the most obvious being the personal computer, in which the keyboard layout is still the same as it was over 100 years ago.
- Cooper, G. R (1976). The Sewing Machine: Its Invention and Development.Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Press.
- Cortada, J. W (1993). Before the Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry they created, 1865-1956. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Picture 1: Picture of 3 small children at Faithful place, off Lower Tyrone Street showing the poor street conditions in Dublin in the 19th century.
Source: Census national archive (RSAI, DDC, no. 44)
Dublin in the 19th Century was largely over populated which meant poor living conditions and poverty was a part of everyday life. Dirt, disease and death were prevalent and the spread of diseases such as Cholera and Tuberculosis, from filthy, inadequate hygiene and close living proximity was becoming a serious problem for the people of Dublin.
A Public Health committee was set up in Dublin in 1866. Sanitary Sub officers were given the job to inspect the people of Dublin’s personal hygiene and living conditions in their homes as it was becoming more and more important in combating and preventing the spread of disease
Picture 2. Sanitary sub officers of the corporation of Dublin 1909
Source: Dublin City Council (DD002)
In May 1885, William Meagher, Lord Mayor of Dublin, opened the city’s first municipal baths on Tara Street. Hot and cold baths were offered to men and women so that they could keep themselves clean and disease free.
Picture 3. Men in the Dublin Corporation Baths and Wash Houses, Tara Street, 1912
Source: Dublin City Council (DD032 )
Public toilets were also introduced around this time. In 19th century Ireland not all homes had toilets and so the streets were a dumping ground for chamber pots. People had to walk or cycle around the city and therefore took longer to travel from one place to another. Many businesses such as Cafes and Shops did not offer their facilities to the public and so toilets were constructed to help maintain the streets sanitary conditions.
Picture 4. a urinal on the Ormond Quay, Dublin in 1969
Source: National library of Ireland
The advent of both the bath house and the public toilet played significant roles in improving the quality of the streets and the experience of those who lived in Dublin during this time. Personal hygiene meant that people were now much healthier and more aware of how to behave in a clean and controlled city and modernity is an inevitable process which follows.
In the early 18th century, Edinburgh had a population of over 50,000 people and was one of the most over populated towns in Europe at this time, leading to Daniel Defoe making the comment “though many cities have more people in them, yet, I believe, this may be said with truth, that in no city in the world do so many people live in so little room as at Edinburgh” (Defoe 1978). The city was essentially made up of one street known as “The Royal Mile” leading from the Castle down south to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and leading from east and west off this street are tiny streets called closes. The conditions of Edinburgh at this time were cramped and filthy as chamber pots were emptied on to the streets from the tall buildings above. These unfavorable conditions led to the construction of New Town in the late 1760s .
Map 1: Edinburgh in 1765
Map of Edinburgh 1765. Source: http://maps.nls.uk/view/102190561 [accessed 5/10/15]
The construction of New Town brought wealth and capital to Edinburgh. The upper and middle class moved into the new area of Edinburgh and with this came the emergence of modernity in the city. Demands for leisure and entertainment brought new public spaces such as Public Parks, Theaters and Department Stores. Jenner’s on Princes Street played a huge part in how women in Edinburgh would experience public space just as men had the privilege of doing all along . Women were the driving force behind the success of department stores as Charles Jenner once stated that “It is women who decide how most of the family income is to be spent,” (McClean 2013). This acknowledgment meant that women would eventually be fully accepted in the public sphere where they could go out alone or with a female friend “without compromising their respectability”(Wolff, 2006).
Map 2: Edinburgh showing New Town and Old Town after Edinburghs expansion in the late 1760s
Map of New Town (red) and Old Town (blue) showing the expansion of Edinburgh. The Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are circled in green.
- Daniel Defoe, 1978. A Tour Through The Whole Island Of Britain. Penguin 1978, p.577
- David McClean, 2013. accessed at: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/lost-edinburgh-charles-jenner-co-1-3095700#ixzz3njASDiED on 05/10/2015.
- Wolff, Janet. “Gender and the Haunting of Cities (or, the Retirement of the flâneur)”. The invisible flâneuse? : gender, public space, and visual culture in nineteenth century Paris. Eds. Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. Print.