(Click any image for a
|If you were touring the ruins of Pompeii in Italy or at the bottom
of the ocean filming the Titanic
or in the workshop of Nicholas
Louis Robert in France in 1799 when he sketched the first continuous
paper former you would quickly realize that history
isn't just a classroom credit! History is drama, mystery, intrigue,
nostalgia and romance. It's yesterday and today and it's all around
us. It's the stuff that great stories are written about and films are made.
time of the American Revolution, in the last years of the 18th
century, the process of making paper in the
American Colonies was still, in many respects, similar to the way it was
made since 105 AD when paper was invented in
China. Stock was made in a vat, couched (pronounced cooched) and drained in hand held molds,
a sheet at a time, pressed in a wooden screw press and draped over posts
or hemp rope to dry. To read about paper manufacturing during the
American Revolution click here.
Louis Robert launched the mechanization of
the paper industry barely 200 years ago when he conceived the idea of a
machine to produce a continuous roll of paper to fill urgent needs for
banknotes after the French Revolution. He was awarded a patent in France
great romance, looking back
in history and to machinery designs of the
past or to gaze into the faces of people long gone that helped shape our world
and wonder what they were thinking as their picture may have been taken or
sketched and wonder what their contribution was to their future generations. Progress of course is necessary but it always seems history and past generations had more
class, grace and style. With paper machinery, castings had graceful
curves, painted in shiny enamel with pin striping. Dryer
frames etc. appeared to be designed as much for their esthetic
appearance, in a geometric patterns, than the service they were to perform.
is simple to question the technology
of times past. The fact is, even though paper was made sheet by sheet,
up to the 18th century, " vatman" and "couchers"
were referred to as artisans. There were complaints of the lack of
to fabricate good molds to make paper of the quality required in those
times. When paper
was being hand made, two precision moulds and one deckle were required at each
vat. It was essential that the deckle fit the mould perfectly. It was
painstaking work and a great accomplishment to make these moulds
considering the materials and tools available at the time.
the paper industry mechanized, looking back, the equipment and processes
may appear, simple and crude when compared to
today's automated operations. In it's proper context however, wood mortise dryer gears,
weight and lever loading, plain friction bearings, chain and sprocket control systems
and cone pulley
belt drives were high technology in their day. The technology of the
past presented it's own unique challenges to
the machinery builders and paper makers and required great skills and expertise in all the engineering
and process specialties to make quality products for their marketplaces.
Pretty much the same challenges we face today. For an example of
early 1900s technology, visit The St
Lawrence Paper Company Story
|Working and living in our current mill environments
we become aware of
the evolution of machinery and processes. As older designs are replaced by
new, the uniqueness of both the equipment and the operation disappear
forever but linger in history for all of us to wonder about and
In our normal work experience we also become aware of the rise and fall of companies within our industry.
giants in industry rise to great prominence and decline to obscurity while
smaller and newer companies rise to fill the void. Again, the old culture
is replaced by the new, sometimes with sadness and trepidation.
|How do the fortunes of once great companies like
Pusey & Jones, Bagley & Sewall and Beloit Corporation, get in a
situation that they find their only option is to cut back or cease
operation entirely? What
tips the balance? Certainly it is more than the normal business cycle. Generally, after such companies cease operation,
looking at them in retrospect we realize they built good machines that embodied advanced technology for
their times. In most cases the ex-employees professed great respect for
the companies they worked for and were proud of their accomplishments. Of
course some of this is nostalgia but the historical record, in many
cases, supports this view. To read an overview of the Pusey & Jones
here . Or click here for a more
timely story, in our day and time, "The Rise and Fall of Beloit Corporation".
Many considered Beloit the greatest and best, a company destined
to survive just about any calamity but now, a footnote in history.
There are times when the
historical facts lead to a conclusion that may or may not be valid. Many
historians support the conclusion that TS'ai LUN invented paper in China
in the year 105 AD. Still, there are other historians that differ from
this conclusion. So there we have it! The very first conclusion
of the history of paper may be somewhat clouded even as we make
paper of the highest quality today in widths 30 feet wide, at 55 MPH. Perhaps
new revelations some day will confirm or invalidate that paper was
invented in China in the year 105 AD by TS'ai LUN. All the historical
facts aren't in yet - and they may never be!
|Curiosity drives the
search for history! As new information is uncovered and more is
learned, we may modify our earlier opinions. The more we
find out about history, the more interesting it becomes. The search continues for
paper history. Old
and obsolete designs are recorded in etchings, engineering drawings and photos.
It is up to us to find where the skeletons of times past are buried.
It could be out there in someone's vault or little black books,
waiting to be revealed to the world.
no region has a lock on history. The Paper History Channel
web site is heavy on USA
paper history. Our associate editor from
Norway, Oyvind Haugen, has submitted many articles for the Paper
History Channel including the story of the Union Geithus
Mill where he is employed. The Union Geithus Mill is located in the village of Geithus, Norway, some 90 kilometers
west of Oslo, founded on March 19, 1873. His article chronicles the
100 year history of the
Pusey & Jones # 3 paper machine that has been making paper
since 1897. Recently the mill shut down. Click this link Nordic
Paper's Shutdown of PM3 to review Oyvind's story of the mill
shutdown after 104 years of operation..
This article authored by Luigi Bagnato
The Paper History Channel
October 1, 1999
Update: March 2002
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