The tools, rules, and relationships of the workplace illustrate some of the enduring collaborations and conflicts in the everyday life of the nation. The Museum has more than 5,000 traditional American tools, chests, and simple machines for working wood, stone, metal, and leather. Materials on welding, riveting, and iron and steel construction tell a more industrial version of the story. Computers, industrial robots, and other artifacts represent work in the Information Age.
But work is more than just tools. The collections include a factory gate, the motion-study photographs of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and more than 3,000 work incentive posters. The rise of the factory system is measured, in part, by time clocks in the collections. More than 9,000 items bring in the story of labor unions, strikes, and demonstrations over trade and economic issues.
"Work - Overview" showing 1 items.
- In the nineteenth century, volunteer fire companies often commissioned paintings to decorate their hand-pumped fire engines for parades, competitions, and community events. Sometimes framed with elaborate carvings, they adorned the tall air chamber located at the middle or rear of a pumper. The paintings would often feature patriotic, heroic, or allegorical images to associate the volunteer companies with these lofty ideals.
- This fire engine panel painting of Benjamin Franklin is attributed to the Franklin Engine Company from Philadelphia that was active from 1792 until 1871. The painting was completed around 1830 by an unknown artist. The painting depicts the popular story of Franklin’s kite experiment where he attempted to prove that lightning was an electrical force. Benjamin Franklin was well known for organizing the first volunteer fire company in Philadelphia, and his image and his name were popular among the city’s fire companies. By invoking Franklin, volunteer firemen linked themselves to the progenitor of their trade, as well as someone who played a key role in the American Revolution. This painting and its companion (2005.0233.0305) would have adorned either side of the company’s engine.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- ca 1835
- Franklin, Benjamin
- West, Benjamin
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center