M930.50.1.207 | Emerson circular saw blade

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Emerson circular saw blade
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
17.7 x 15.5 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

This promotional print of a circular saw blade dates back to the second half of the 19th century. This type of saw may have been used in sawmills and other industrial facilities of the day.

In the 19th century, new machines were introduced into factories, facilitating and separating the tasks performed by workers. Consequently, several companies needed fewer qualified workers and began to employ more women and children.

Mills and factories were dangerous places, crammed full of machine tools (presses, looms, cutters, all types of saws) that routinely operated without safeguards. Several accidents took place, often the result of a worker's inattention or inadequate safety measures.

Child factory workers, inexperienced and sometimes careless, were frequent victims of these accidents. On this subject, Louis Guyon, Quebec's Chief Inspector for factories, is quoted from 1890: "I believe [...] that, as it is done in other countries, classifications for dangerous or unhealthy work must be established by inspectors in order that we may prohibit children of less than 14 or 16 years from handling round saws or other dangerous machines, stamping presses, metals; or working in white paint factories, rolling mills or drug or acid factories."(De Bonville, 1975 : 58)

  • What

    This illustration is undoubtedly from a catalogue or advertisement.

  • Where

    In the 19th century, the majority of accidents occurring in factories involved machines or equipment with moving parts, such as saws, presses or rollers.

  • When

    Through the Manufacturers Act of 1885, Quebec brought health and safety measures into the workplace. Conditions slowly improved, especially after factory inspectors were appointed in 1888. Thanks to a 1909 law, workers no longer bore the burden of proof in legal proceedings brought on by an accident in the workplace.

  • Who

    John Henry Walker, a Montreal artist, illustrated numerous commercial catalogues, books, government reports, advertisements and weekly publications such as Canadian Illustrated News, L'Opinion Publique and Le Monde Illustré.