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Constructing the Built Environment: The Environmental Impact of Artificial Humidity and Temperature on Worker Bodies in Southern Textile Mill Design: 1880-1940

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Abstract:

Historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips opens his now rather infamous 1929 book, Life and Labor in the Old South: with this sentence: “Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South Distinctive.” The combination of high temperatures and even higher levels of humidity created the balmy summers that made labor, slave or free, difficult, dangerous, and often unhealthy in the American South. New South industrialization of textile production created a new public health problem with the design and construction of an advanced type of built environment in the region that amplified various natural aspects of the already problematic labor environment. Beginning in the late 19th century, the design and construction of a new generation of modern textile mills involved structural design changes, larger machinery, the use of modernized construction materials, and the installation of new environmental control systems -designed to regulate temperature and humidity- that were introduced as an integrated spacial system to facilitate the efficient processing of cotton. Designed in part to be both safer and more efficient than the previous generation of New England textile mills, the mills of the New South were ironically more dangerous. My research examines the physical and cultural responses of workers to this new industrial space, a world of light, sound, temperature, and humidity combined together at levels very different than those found on the farms and small towns they left behind outside the mill gates. Environmental analysis of design decisions made for cotton manufacture offers a useful historical window into how engineers and architects often ignored the natural world, especially from a worker public health standpoint, even as the control of certain environmental conditions were primary design considerations. This paper uses sensory history to probe the boundaries between the natural and built environments.
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Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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http://aseh.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170427_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Fitzgerald, Gerard. "Constructing the Built Environment: The Environmental Impact of Artificial Humidity and Temperature on Worker Bodies in Southern Textile Mill Design: 1880-1940" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170427_index.html>

APA Citation:

Fitzgerald, G. J. "Constructing the Built Environment: The Environmental Impact of Artificial Humidity and Temperature on Worker Bodies in Southern Textile Mill Design: 1880-1940" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170427_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips opens his now rather infamous 1929 book, Life and Labor in the Old South: with this sentence: “Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South Distinctive.” The combination of high temperatures and even higher levels of humidity created the balmy summers that made labor, slave or free, difficult, dangerous, and often unhealthy in the American South. New South industrialization of textile production created a new public health problem with the design and construction of an advanced type of built environment in the region that amplified various natural aspects of the already problematic labor environment. Beginning in the late 19th century, the design and construction of a new generation of modern textile mills involved structural design changes, larger machinery, the use of modernized construction materials, and the installation of new environmental control systems -designed to regulate temperature and humidity- that were introduced as an integrated spacial system to facilitate the efficient processing of cotton. Designed in part to be both safer and more efficient than the previous generation of New England textile mills, the mills of the New South were ironically more dangerous. My research examines the physical and cultural responses of workers to this new industrial space, a world of light, sound, temperature, and humidity combined together at levels very different than those found on the farms and small towns they left behind outside the mill gates. Environmental analysis of design decisions made for cotton manufacture offers a useful historical window into how engineers and architects often ignored the natural world, especially from a worker public health standpoint, even as the control of certain environmental conditions were primary design considerations. This paper uses sensory history to probe the boundaries between the natural and built environments.


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