Plzeňské sympozia

Jan Hozák

The Man and the Machine

pp. 9–20 (Czech), Summary p. 21 (English)

The aim of the introductory article of the homonymous conference is to show the basic ambivalence of the relation between the man and his product in the context of the Bohemian Lands in the 19th century. The theme is set in the framework of two volatile changes in the relation: the situation in 1844, when machines were being destroyed by the labourers from printworks in Prague, and the utopian vision of an ‘overtechnicised’ society from the beginning 20th century, inspired by the demonstration of technical conveniences at large exhibitions, mainly in Prague, in 1891, 1898, 1908). Sněžka (1602 m), the highest mountain of the Czech Republic, was – according to a period caricature – to be conveniently accessible in the future by all means of transport imaginable at the time (by car, train, airship and the underground) and entirely abusable for economic ‘exploitation’.

The article studies the initial influence of industrialisation from England: in 1828, there were 69 mechanised cotton mills in the Bohemian Lands with 700 spinning machines either imported from England or constructed in the Bohemian Lands following English designs. In the Bohemian Lands, the first machine-building plants were established in the 1820s and 1830s by the English designers Edward Thomas, Thomas Bracegirdle and David Evans. The first machine-tool and mechanised plants included the textile mills of Johann Josef Leitenberger and Anton and Franz Ludwig. The influence of the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889 on exhibition events in the Bohemian Lands had been motivated also politically, as a defensive counterbalance to Austrian Germans. The buildings and the exhibited objects had been however inspired rather by the general development of technology and mainly mechanical engineering, the latter of which was considered as the most distinctive symptom of the period and a measure of progress. Besides having their practical and aesthetic functions, the Pavilion of Machines, designed by Albert Velflík following the model of the pavilion in Paris (La Galerie des Machines), or the tourist lookout tower on the top of Petřín Hill in the form of a miniature Eiffel Tower, were to manifest the ‘global character’ of Czech culture and technology.

Key words: Bohemian Lands, 19th century, cultural history, railway, (mechanical) engineering

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