VIEW-8778 | Polishing machine, Smith Granite Company, Montreal, QC, 1908

Polishing machine, Smith Granite Company, Montreal, QC, 1908
Wm. Notman & Son
1908, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  figure (1849) , group (644) , male (1608) , Montreal (409) , Occupation (1110) , Photograph (77678) , polishing machine (1) , work (389) , work (126)
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Keys to History

In San Francisco in 1874, Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss start making blue overalls for miners and cowboys. Blue jeans are born! Made from a cotton fabric imported from Genoa, Italy - the source of their name - or a stronger serge imported from Nimes, France, the Americans call the fabric denim. When blue jeans first appear in Canada during the 1880s, workers here immediately adopt them.

On another front, in 1862, Alexander Parkes unveils at the International Exhibition in London a mould made of cellulose nitrate. In 1869, in Albany, New York, the printer John Hyatt, while searching for a replacement for the ivory in billiard balls, rediscovers cellulose nitrate and calls it celluloid. He has developed the first plastic substance.

Like synthetic fibres, plastic invades daily life. In 1883, Joseph Swan produces artificial silk made from celluloid in Newcastel, England. That same year the Frenchman Hilaire de Chardonnet develops the first synthetic fabric made of cellulose. However, these fabrics are not widely produced - do not become fashionable - until the 1930s. Plastic objects, on the other hand, start appearing in Canadian homes early in the 20th century.

Source : Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology [Web tour], by Jacques G. Ruelland, Université de Montréal (see Links)

  • What

    In the 19th century, denim pants are appreciated not for their sophistication but for their durability. Miners, cowboys, railway construction crews: all wear and appreciate their blue jeans.

  • Where

    At the Smith Granite Co. in Montreal, marble and granite stone is polished using a new device, a stone polisher. The work is particularly dirty, and the employees must dress appropriately.

  • When

    Blue jeans don't take off as a fashion until the end of the 1960s. Before that, they were primarily worn as working clothes.

  • Who

    The new clothes [jeans] express profoundly democratic values. There are no distinctions of wealth or status, no elitism; people confront one another shorn of these distinctions." (Charles A. Reich, The Greening of America)