Sunday, February 22, 2015


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Where do the grease monkeys, and cam shafts, the gear heads, and crankpins go, when their world dissolves in a cloud of data packets, and page servers, fibre optics, and free cache?

In 2007, when Raber Associates completed their report on the tube mill, the three electrical motors were no longer working, and the hydraulic pumps they drove were gone. Two new electrical pumps kept the old benches running. Wally says that the missing pumps looked very much like the one that remained, and the photo shows mounting bolts where a machine of similar size has been removed.

The surviving hydraulic pump has a brass plate giving its date: 1917. The Raber report describes it as, “an obsolete pumping unit.” However, Wally ran it for me several times, and I passed while work was going on and saw it cranking. My understanding is that it was still driving one of the benches. The wooden structure rising over it is what remains of an improvised awning to keep off the rain where the roof leaked. For most of the time I shot in the mill, the awning blocked successful photos of the motors and the pump.

It’s hard to look at this today and think, “cutting edge.” However,  Holmes, Booth & Haydens were known for riding and driving the edge of the technology curve. They were manufacturers of cameras and lenses and had patents for a new process for making metal photographic plates. With an extensive catalogue of oil lamps, by 1881 they were manufacturing lamps for use with electricity. In 1890 they were making electrical wire. The Raber report suggest they may, in fact, by 1905 have been too far ahead of the curve, and, the Raber report suggests, their collaboration with Benedict & Burnham on the tube mill may have been a financial necessity.