Chapter 1 1900 and Before - Education Programs that Support the Growth of Amateur Woodworking

Chapter 1:8:-- Part B Early Technical Training in Higher Institutions.

Organized shopwork Instruction in America

In America, on the one hand, industrial education was influenced to a large part by changes that occurred in Europe, a topic extensively covered in the sources cited below.

Beginning in 1820, the Mechanics Institute Movement, had done an important work in providing considerable instruction in secondary and technical education subjects.

Among the institutes established in America, the most famous are the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in New York City, and the Ohio Mechanics Institute in Cincinnati.

Beginning in 1827, the Gardiner Lyceum, Gardiner, Maine offered a three-year curriculum including surveying, navigation, mechanics, agricultural chemistry, and civil engineering, a move that helped usher in applied science as a component of curriculum. Founded in 1824, the Rensselaer School – later the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute became America's most famous school of civil engineering. In the tradition of Rensselaer, at Yale, the Sheffield Scientific School was established in 1847, at Harvard College in the same year, the Lawrence Scientific School, and at Dartmouth College in 1852, the Chandler Scientific School.

These three resolutions passed at the Franklin Institute's first public meeting, 1824, indicate the original intent of its founders:


"Resolved, That it is expedient to form a Society for the promotion of the useful arts in Philadelphia, by extending a knowledge of Mechanical Science to its members and others at a cheap rate.

"Resolved, That the best mode of attaining this object will be by the establishment of Popular Lectures, by the formation of a cabinet of Models and Minerals, and of a Library, and by offering premiums on all useful improvements in the Mechanic Arts.

"Resolved, That the Society shall consist of Mechanics, Manufacturers, and others friendly to the useful arts."

See Bennett in Sources.

Source: Charles A. Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education up to 1870, Peoria, IL: The Manual Arts Press, pages 317-325.

For more background, check out these two online books -- the third book is not online fulltext:

Maxine Berg, The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy, 1815-1848, 1982 page 146;

Wayne A. Wiegand and Donald G. Davis, Encyclopedia of Library History New York: Taylor & Francis, 1994, page 329

Bruce Sinclair Philadelphia's Philosopher Mechanics: A History of the Franklin Institute Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974

Impact of Morrill Act 1862

The famous Morrill Act, created in 1862, provided for the endowment of higher education in agriculture and the mechanic arts.

This development in applied science yielded results in America's industries. What remained? The increasingly important work of training more engineers, designers of machinery, factory managers, and other masters of both scientific principles and practical details. Such training involved instruction in the mechanic arts and the processes of manufacture as well as in mathematics and science.

Outside of Apprenticeships in the Guild, the "Manual Labor" Institutes -- about 1820 -- are the first evidence in America of shop instruction in an institution

Organized in 1865 at Worcester, MA, the Worcester County Free Insitute of Industrial Science was the first institution to attempt shop instruction.

Its charter states its

aim ... shall ever be instruction in those branches of education not usually taught in public schools, but which are essential and best adapted to train the youth for practical life.
(For more detail, see pages 360 and following, Charles A Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education, Up To 1870.)

Earlier, around 1820, the Industrial Revolution had begun to break up the home and village industry, building up a city population. (For more on this signficant social change, click here.)

Growing up on the farms -- at the time, the demography of America is predominantly rural and the era itself is often called "The Wooden Age" -- boys learned how to mend wagons, to repair harness, and to do other manual work. These Manual Institutes, the thinking went, would give boys training of this same nature. Not long afterward, around 1840, most of these institutions located in the East had closed.

"Their backers had been too enthusiastic in their pronouncements that this work would support the classical school upon which it had been grafted."
In the Midwest, however, some of these institutes continued. In Illinois particularly, one of these furnished the nucleus of what later became the Illinois Industrial University, which, in turn, ultimately becomes the University of Illinois. See the thesis by Fred Harold Turner, "The Illinois industrial university", Urbana, IL: 1931.

Source: Charles A. Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education 1870 to 1917, Peoria,IL: The Manual Arts Press, pages 310-311.

By 1850, the Frontier Was Almost Gone.

The impact of the Industrial Revolution included the opportunity for wealth and advancement through manufacturing or other forms of economic activity.

And in these pursuits skill and technical knowledge played a great part.

For the immeasurable impact of technology upon woodworking, click here


In 1870, following the theme noted above, the University of Illinois added woodworking to the architectural course. In the next two years, the Stevens Institute of Hoboken, NJ, and the Polytechnic School of Washington University in St. Louis followed this change ; See Russian system in ch_1_8_e.htm

The Morrill Act of 1862 -- the Land Grant University System -- i.e., legislation giving land grants for the establishment of mechanical and agricultural colleges throughout forty-eight states -- added impetus to this movement, and the Colorado Agricultural College, Illinois Industrial University, College of Mechanical Arts of Cornell University, Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, and Boston Institute of Technology were soon established.

We know little of the nature of the woodworking offered in these institutions, except it was technical, and perhaps very formal. [documentation needed]