A collection of primary documents and essays, pretty good basic book upon which to build a course in American Technology. Something like Walter Light's Industrializing America would be a complementary but overlapping work.
The introduction has a few general thoughts, most, I suspect, to counter determinism and Whig history:
1) Technology is more than industrial production
2) There are no leading edge technologies that define a period; the interaction of at least several are important
3) technological change is rarely revolutionary and involves forgetting as well as learning
4) technologies are intertwined with cultures and have many possible arrays. There is no internal logic for their arrival
5) benefits are always unevenly distributed
6) an interactive model of history is presented, in which technology is one of many interacting forces
When I took the course, I chose a few articles to remember, and these are my notes on each:
Leo Marx, "The Machine" (120)
Jefferson separated the machine from the factory. He suggests that Tench Coxe argued presciently about the need for manufacture to offset high costs of production, and in his arguments, was sensitive to the agricultural and pastoral vision of US politicos he hoped to persuade (Jefferson, for one!) The Steam engine and the constitution are aspect of the powerful principles of nature. Hamilton's tone was less impressionistic and more ruthless.
John R. Nelson " 'Manufactures' Reconsidered"
The goals of American citizens were to oppose British hegemony, to support domestic manufacturing, and to engage in world trade. The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures was a group of relatively wealthy developers and the New Jersey legislators who eventually who rooked the government and local investors in a manufacturing development scheme that failed to come through. Two visions were at work: Hamilton, and masters and craftsmen who shared his viewpoint across America, recommended financing through foreign loans as a source of capital; Jefferson and Madison and the American government wanted to preserve an independent America.
Judith McGaw "Gender and Papermaking"
Papermakers saw themselves as being skilled in only part of the job, but were proud of their skills. Work was dangerous, dirty and health-injuring; however, injury is "just part of being a man," as follows: "business is business, but men are men." (163). Women worked in the rag room and in the finishing room but acquired no other particular skill and were paid about half as much as men were; however, work for them was slightly less dangerous. Women's work was unskilled, natural, God-given -- and flexible (170).
Charles Dew "Slave Ironworkers in Virginia"
Slaves who were skilled workers had to be motivated by incentives, and not force or fear. They example of Sam Williams, a 'workaholic,' and a very fine provider for his extended family, is noted. Dew describes the limited kind of freedom and material goods which could be won by a responsible and skilled worker like Sam and that which could not, because of drunkenness, as typified William Green.
And don't forget that great little story of Highpockets, which ends "sure, if you want to stick a broom someplace I think I could be sweeping the floor." (286)