chapter  4
31 Pages

1870-1900: Record Keeping Paves the Way

After Lukens built the first steam-powered mill in 1870, the company moved from the prediscursive world of technical communication into a culture of record keeping that was made necessary by the complexity of the new machinery. First, they began to use car record books, puddle-mill books, bound inventories, and payroll sheets. After the l20-inch mill and the two open-hearth furnaces were added in 1890, they also began to keep records of open hearth and plate mill output, records of defective plates, and some testing and inspection documentation. Some of these record-keeping systems began with individual foremen who kept notes in pocket books or on single sheets of paper and then brought them to the office where their data was added to ledgers. This record keeping paved the way for further use of writing; it was a quantitative literacy and a use of paper on the factory floor that became more and more common as the technology became more and more complex. When the foremen and workers in various parts of the factories had to keep lists of the products they made and the defects they saw; when the men in charge of the railroad cars coming into and leaving the plant had to carry notebooks listing dates, incoming supplies, and outgoing product; when even the puddle-mill foremen kept personal notebooks of tonnage, writing began to be a tool that was integrated into the factory environment. It also became a dataset for further analysis as the data was handed up the managerial scale, compiled into bound books, and analyzed for patterns. Quantitative literacy was the first step toward more widespread literacy in reading, writing, and drawing.