The Garden in the Machine: Listening to Early American Industrialization

Mark M. Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195388947
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Garden in the Machine: Listening to Early American Industrialization


This article suggests that historians in the United States have ignored the aural history of early industrialization. It suggests that the transition to industrialism has been misleadingly slipped into a binary understanding, which makes artificial distinctions between a “quiet” countryside and a “loud” factory shop floor that would not always have been apparent to the people who, in fact, experienced the transition. It stresses the preeminent importance of context in that transition. Workers accepted Lowell's noise because they were the sounds of freedom and not those of slavery and because they were framed within a larger matrix of paternalism and Romanticism. Lowell workers mediated their transition from rural to factory life through the aural idioms of religion, nature, and the emerging capitalist mode of production suggest that they were active participants in the same processes, their voices contributing in important ways to those transitions.

Keywords: United States; industrialization; industrialism; transition; romanticism; paternalism

Article.  8794 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Sound Studies

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