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Industrial Beauty March 18, 2010

Posted by cbuchanan in Uncategorized.
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Still working on the WPA show, but here’s something to chew on until I resume regular blog programming. It’s an essay by city planner, architect, and Birmingham printmaker Frank Hartley Anderson that appeared in Warren Manning’s 1919 city plan of Birmingham (which you can read online via Google. It’s his vision of “industrial beauty,” and he indicates that it’s something to celebrate–something that makes B’ham unique. Of course, this is right up my alley. As I have worked on my prints over the years, I have come to love the industrial architecture and history and–yes, art–of this city. Read it and let me know what you think.

(begin essay by Frank Hartley Anderson)

Industrial Beauty.

Beauty is comparative. The beauty of women, or pictures, is one kind. There is a beauty in strength, and in usefulness.

To one unused to an iron and steel center there is a vast amount of beauty he has never seen. The vast galleries in the bowels of the earth where the coal is mined, have, under the miner’s lamps, with other lights flashing in the distance, a weird beauty of their own.

The opening of the tipple, with its accompanying pillar of gas and flame, when the red ore is put in the melt for pig, is, in the daytime, a fine sight. At night, when the clouds are hanging low, the lighting effects on these clouds is a sight at first terrifying as well as wonderful.

A run of pig, at night, is a strange sight to one unused to it. The east end of the First Avenue viaduct about nine-thirty should be much more popular than it is at present, as here, practically in the heart of the city, can be seen this sight which millions of people have never seen, a sight which, on a stage, people would pay millions of dollars to see.

The blue flame under the pot, the sparkling beauty as the slag is run out, and later the glowing hotness as the molten iron is run into pigs, lighting up the gigantic furnaces and the steel frame buildings, is a beauty such as no artist can put on canvas. Mere paint can not convey the brightness of the light, nor the fearful beauty of the scene. Every plant in the district, steel mills, by-product plans, structural iron works, coal, and ore mines, and the machine shops, all are well worth seeing, both from the viewpoint of picturesqueness, and because of knowledge to be gained regarding the activities of this, the coming industrial center of America.

(end essay)

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