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The Changing Workplace

Questions to Consider

How did the nature of work change in the early 20th century?

How did the places people worked change?

What effect did factory work have on the daily lives of workers?

About the Images

The early 20th century was a time of rapid industrialization and the widespread adoption of mass production. These images show the importance of machinery in the workplace, and how people worked in assembly lines.

Overview

The 20th century ushered in a change from handcrafting to machine tooling. Henry Ford introduced one of the first moving assembly lines as a way to turn out more cars more quickly, and the emerging auto industry popularized this mode. A photo of the Doble Steam Motors Corporation factory shows a line of workers and car chassis in production. This new technology, and the spread of industrialization, changed forever the way that work was completed.

A wide variety of industries all across the country converted to mechanization, and California was no exception. One 1929 image shows young women working in a towel factory in Orange. Photographs taken in San Francisco illustrate that workers used machines to make products as different as Ghirardelli Chocolate and music rolls for automated player pianos. Images also show women working on an assembly line in a soap factory, and men sewing clothes in a shop (at a time when a good suit, cut on machines instead of by hand, retailed for $40 to $50).

Automation and mechanization also changed agricultural practices. The combined traction steam harvester built by Stockton J. Barry on his California ranch was one of the machines that changed the way produce was harvested. Mechanized canning changed the way fruit and vegetables were processed and preserved, and made out-of-season produce available year round. Photographs in this group show cannery workers at tables, and cans going through a labeling machine. The introduction of mechanized food processing eventually brought a new awareness of the importance of standards for foods production. The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were both passed in 1906

As workers nationwide adjusted to an increasingly mechanized workplace, good working conditions took on new importance. Workers in several industries formed unions (such as the Berryessa Fruit Growers formed in 1920, shown here) to promote safer working conditions and limit maximum working hours.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 8:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write research reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.3 Deliver research presentations.

Grade 10:

2.0 Reading Comprehension
2.5 Extend ideas presented in primary or secondary sources through original analysis, evaluation, and elaboration.

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis: Literary Criticism
3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period. (Historical approach).

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology
1.3 Use clear research questions and suitable research methods (e.g., library, electronic media, personal interview) to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources.

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver expository presentations.

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s. (4.4.6)

Grade 8:

8.12 Students analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution.

Grade 10:

10.3 Students analyze the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Grade 11:

11.2 Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large-scale rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. (11.2.1)

11.5 Students analyze the major political, social, economic, technological, and cultural developments of the 1920s. (11.5.7)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)