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Strike at the Bor Mine in the 1930s: Europe’s first environmental protest?

Thu, 05/12/2019 - 08:00

The Bor mine in Eastern Serbia developed and industrialised rapidly in the 20th century, bringing the development of this region in an unexpected direction. However, the hasty development of the Bor Mine did not result in the growth of working standards.

This blog looks at conditions and protests at the Bor Mine in Serbia, and uncovers what may be one of the first environmental protests in Europe.

Panoramic view of Bor. Smelter and mine facilities, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

In the 1900s, the early years of the mine, the working conditions were very harsh, wages were quite low and workers did not have the necessary machinery. Sulphuric fumes released in the ore-smelting process had a devastating effect on agriculture in the area surrounding Bor. 

RELATED: Read blog: The Bor Mine in Serbia: labour and landscape throughout the 20th century

In 1908, all this brought about the first strike, organised by the Social Democratic Party of the time. The strike was quickly quelled and the request to determine the scope of the damage caused by mining fumes to agriculture, directed at the Kingdom of Serbia Ministry of Economy was completely dismissed.

Following World War I, the spread of socialist ideas throughout the Bor Mine was met with harsh resistance from the authorities. The situation was further aggravated when the Yugoslav Communist Party was banned. The 1920 decree banning the Communist Party also banned general strike calls, which was detrimental to any form of trade unions in the mine. 

Group portraits of the Bor Mine executives, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

The period between 1929 and 1933 was particularly harsh as the global economic crisis further influenced labour cost decreases and high unemployment rates impacted the Bor mine. 

Union control of this mining basin was also minimised, resulting in widespread environmental pollution. At that time, the local population was faced with the harmful consequences of industrialisation. The smoke coming from mining chimneys brought about nothing but trouble. Acid rains destroyed the land and crops, while the air and water contained sulphur and other metals released in the production process. The mine owners refused to pay the damages caused by the pollution.

However, despite the bans and increased supervision, around 400 local inhabitants gathered outside the Bor police station on 7 May 1935. 

Bor at the time of the “Vlach rebellion” in 1935, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Having been ignored by the local authorities, they proceeded to demonstrate their discontent at the mine by interrupting the workflow. They demanded that the Bor Mines authorities make efforts to ensure purification of the smoke coming from the smelter – so as not to affect the land, air and water. 

Since their demands continued to be ignored, they gathered again five days later. This time, there were around 4,000 protesters. They also claimed damages for crop failure as well as employment benefits since they were no longer able to continue working in agriculture. 

This marked the first environmental protest in the former Yugoslavia and, perhaps, Europe as well.

It was organised by the miners and agriculturalists together, bearing in mind the implications of such an undertaking. Unfortunately, during the protest, around 500 shots were fired at the protesters, resulting in a miner’s death, while another one was seriously wounded and a dozen others were also injured. 

RELATED: Explore this gallery of industrial strikes and protests

Following these unfortunate events, the mine authorities made a commitment to install smoke-purification facilities and build a sulphuric acid factory. 

Not only did this turn of events in the Bor Mine result in the development of trade union activities, but it also set forth socialist propaganda striving to raise political and environmental protection awareness amongst the workers. 

In 1934 and 1935, Đorđe Andrejević Kun, a socially-committed artist, visited the Bor Mine illegally multiple times, portraying the daily lives of the miners. As fate would have it, some of his graphics captured the tragic events of the environmental protest of May 1935. 

from ‘Blood-stained Gold’ Krvavo zlato, 1936, Đorđe Andrejević Kun, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-SA from ‘Blood-stained Gold’ Krvavo zlato, 1936, Đorđe Andrejević Kun, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-SA

In 1936, he published his graphics, titled Krvavo zlato (Blood-stained Gold), illegally. Not only was this a revolutionary way of fighting for one’s causes, extending the scope of the influence of art, it also became a call for the future by marking a mine as a possible place of confrontation, both of the class and environmental nature. 

RELATED: Explore the full book Krvavo zlato on Europeana

Since its founding, the landscape of Bor and the surrounding area have changed completely. The actions of the local population in the 1930s mark a beginning of our awareness of the effects of industry on ecology and landscape, something which, today, is of even greater and more urgent importance.

By Ana Stevanović & Saša Ilić, National Library of Serbia
Translated by Tatjana Domazet, National Library of Serbia

Europe at Work: Share your story

Have you or your family taken part in industrial protests? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Surface mine workers’ assembly in Bor in 1969, Dragoljub Mitić, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

From coffee, tea and tobacco to UNESCO: Rotterdam’s Van Nelle Factory

Wed, 04/12/2019 - 08:00
Tea, coffee and tobacco

Similar to many large companies, the story of Van Nelle business started with a small shop. In 1782, Johannes van Nelle opened a coffee, tea and tobacco shop at the Leuvehaven in Rotterdam. After the death of the founders, their son continued to run the company, selling a stake to the Van der Leeuw family who took over the entire company in 1845.

Coffee, tea and tobacco became increasingly important around the turn of the century. This contributed to the success of the family Van Der Leeuw who established worldwide trade contracts and founded their own coffee and tea plantations in Dutch West India.

Square pink tea can with a Chinese dragon and a lotus flower, Rectangular blue coffee tin by Van Nelle with a Piggelmee dwarf offering a lady a cup of coffee, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA

The company distinguished itself by an original business approach, including appealing advertising characters Piggelmee and Tureluur, a couple of dwarfs experiencing various adventures related to coffee. They featured on both packaging and merchandise.

RELATED: Read our blog about connections between tea and literature

Price list of Van Nelle coffee and tea with Piggelmee and Tureluur, Historisch Museum Rotterdam, CC BY

In 1916, the company bought a site close to Schie, a waterway in Rotterdam. The construction of the famous factory took place between 1927 and 1929.

The first daylight factory in Europe

Van Nelle was designed as an ‘ideal factory’ with the modular design making it possible to adjust the space according to functions and needs.

Each of the processed gods – tobacco, coffee and tea used a separate section of the building and its form and size responded to the processing needs. The principal idea was to start by bringing the raw material to the top of the buildings to go down a floor after each stage of the treatment plant.

This explains the difference in heights – the tobacco section consisted of eight, coffee of five and tea of three levels. The characteristic overpasses between the buildings were an efficient way to transport materials between the buildings. 

RELATED: See the factory in these photographs of a group visiting in the late 1950s

Van Nelle Factory Rotterdam; Overview of the factory complex. Seen from the entrance of Nelleweg, Nanette de Jong, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Van Nelle Factory Rotterdam; View of the facade of the expedition building with transport bridges over the factory street. From the 2nd floor of the factory, Nanette de Jong, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA

Instead of bearing walls, concrete pillars were used to support the building. The steel and glass facade opened the factory to the outside world and enabled the workers to take advantage of the daylight.

Van Nelle Factory Rotterdam; ‘Mushroom’ columns on the office floor, Nanette de Jong, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Attention to workers’ well being

Allowing the daylight in the building was already an answer to workers’ discontent and an important component of Van Nelle’s attractiveness as a workplace.

The owners valued the well-being of the employee thinking that a happy and proud worker will be more productive. The factory was surrounded by green spaces and water. The facilities were similar to those offered by contemporary start-ups: sports fields for an after-work training, a garden, a dining room and even a library.

Van Nelle Factory Rotterdam; View from the tearoom on top of the factory, Nanette de Jong, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA

The sanitary facilities were excellent for the times. The only way to enter the factory was through gender-segregated staircases, leading to cloakrooms and bathrooms, to ensure the hygiene on the work floor. The availability of showers at the factory was, for the time, an unprecedented luxury.

Van Nelle Factory Rotterdam; Toilet room in factory with a view of the walkway to the expedition building, Nanette de Jong, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA UNESCO World Heritage

The factory ceased operations in 1996. A complete restoration began in 1998. Both the architecture of the factory and its structure have been preserved in their original state.

RELATED: Explore more modern photos of Rotterdam’s Van Nelle Factory

In June 2014, Van Nelle Factory was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the moment, the factory houses an office complex, various meeting spaces, a restaurant and a gym. It hosts various events – parties, concerts, vintage markets.

A lie down concert by Jeroen van Veen in Van Nelle Factory, Aleksandra Strzelichowska, CC BY-SA

RELATED: More photographs of factories in this ‘In the factory’ gallery

If reading about this amazing industrial heritage site got you excited, we have good news: you can visit the Van Nelle Factory through a guided tour organized by

Chabot Museum in Rotterdam. Put it on your to-do list when visiting this great city!

By Aleksandra Strzelichowska, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work: Share your Story

Did you or your family work in the Van Nelle Factory? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Van Nelle Fabriek Rotterdam, Nanette de Jong, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA

Europeana Advent Calendar

Sun, 01/12/2019 - 08:00

Who’s in for a December countdown? Here’s our Cultural Heritage Advent Calendar! Every day until the 24th of December, a great cultural heritage item will be waiting for you. So join us, we promise that you’ll love it, hopefully even more than a chocolate advent calendar!

How the Nordics connected the world: the story of telecommunication industries in Finland and Sweden

Thu, 28/11/2019 - 08:00

Do you remember your first mobile phone? There’s a good chance it came from a Nordic country, since Nokia from Finland or Ericsson from Sweden together dominated the global mobile phone market in 2000.

Both firms show how telecommunications evolved in Europe and how Nordic countries belonged to the most innovative producers worldwide. To explore the history of these two major Nordic telecommunication companies, we have to go back to the 19th century.

Nokian koski ja tehtaat (The river Nokia and factories), 1893, Daniel Nyblin, National Board of Antiquities, CC BY

Outside Finland, most people think of Nokia as a mobile phone company. It actually started in the mid-19th century in a small Finnish town with the same name. Nokia’s river was the engine for several industries and businesses, for example paper mills and pulp factories – the first and most important of Finnish industries

Nokia paper and cellulose factory, Finland, 1902, Tekniska museet, Public Domain

At the turn of the 20th century, rubber and cable industries started to settle in Nokia. There were three major businesses: Suomen Gummitehdas Oy (Finnish Rubber Works Ltd), Nokia Ab (founded as a papermill) and Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy (Finnish Cable Works Ltd). 

Package of Nokia Silk toilet paper, 1920s, Nokia paper mill, Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum, CC BY-NC-ND

For around 100 years, the ‘Nokia’ brand was associated with goods from rubber products (Nokia is well-known for its rubber boots in Finland).

Nokia rubber boots, Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum, CC BY-NC-ND Nokia advert from Kaja, 21 December 1930, National Library of Estonia, Public Domain

In 1967,  the three companies merged, entering the radio and TV market.

At that time, as Finland were neutral in the Cold War and had a trade deal with Russia, Nokia profited heavily from this. In fact, Russia became one of Nokia’s most important markets, trading not only telephone switches, but also robotics and scientific technology.

The company today known as Ericsson had a quite different start. The young Swede Lars Magnus Ericsson started working as an instrument maker, but soon switched to telegraphs. His first business he founded was a 13 square metre repair shop for telegraphs in Stockholm in 1876. That was the same year when Abraham Graham Bell patented the telephone – but his patent was not valid in Scandinavia.

Telefonapparat, 1881, L.M. Ericsson, Tekniska museet, CC BY

Hence, Lars Magnus Ericsson started to build telephones himself, with the help of his wife, Hilda Ericsson. In 1878, their first telephone cost 55 Swedish Crowns (around €282 today) and was made from 22 pieces, with separate receivers and microphones. In 1892, Ericsson began selling a telephone which combined the receiver and microphone in one unit. It had originally invented by two other Swedes for telephonists who needed a free hand to write while speaking on the phone.

Art Déco Telefonaffisch, 1929, Nisse Cronestrand, Tekniska museet, CC BY

Apart from Lars Magnus, Hilda played an important, often neglected role in the company’s development.

She worked in the workshop, built technical pieces for the telephones, dealt with clients and deliveries and managed the company when her husband traveled. As she was more educated than her husband, she was responsible for accounting since the early beginnings of the company. She was also leading the female workers in the factories, a third of the workforce in 1881.

Still, as for many women during that time, her contribution to Ericsson’s success was not celebrated during her lifetime: At the production of the 20,000th telephone, all hundred employees were photographed – except for Hilda. 

Interior LM Ericsson factory, Arkitektur- och designcentrum, Public Domain

The early decades of the 1900s saw an increase in activity at Ericsson, merging with several other companies and expanded all over the world, from Sweden to the US, Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, and many more.

In the 1930s, Ericsson built a new factory environment in Stockholm’s Midsommerkransen district that shaped the city quarter heavily. Informally known as LM city (for Lars Magnus), it was not only a production site, but included leisure activities and associations like the Ericsson film and video club. Around 1000 apartments for workers were built in the area, by standardised means and influenced by functionalist design. 

Mobiltelefon (mobile phone), Mobira, Telemuseet, CC BY-SA Nokia Mobira Cityman 450, Telemuseet, CC BY-SA

From their early developments in telecommunications, Nordic and especially Scandinavian countries have been cooperating and negotiating both formal and informal agreements.

1981 saw a common break-through: The Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT), the first automatic, international, cellular network in the world allowing roaming in all Nordic countries. Hence, people could travel from country to country – and their phones were still connected. This technology existed nowhere else at that time, as national mobile phone systems were not internationally compatible.

NMT was the result of intensive cooperation in a working group, founded by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden in 1969. Although subscriber numbers increased quickly, it was a niche market as phones cost 30,000 SEK (approximately 8,300 Euros) and, at more than 700 grams, were quite heavy. But NMT spread widely, across Europe and Asia and is still in use in parts of Russia today.

Ericsson R310s, 2000, Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Malmö museer, CC BY-NC-ND

NMT belonged to the first generation of wireless cellular technology (1G), a system of mobile telecommunications based on analog standards. Since then, telecommunication standards have become digital, encrypted, allowing mobile Internet access – and are always developing further. 

Nordic countries, especially Finland and Sweden, continue to play an important role in these developments. Especially during the dot-com bubble in the 1990s, Nokia and Ericsson played a global role in the mobile phone market. 

Mobiltelefon, 2003, Nokia, Telemuseet, CC BY-SA

Nevertheless, their innovations were an important factor in the development of this industry, and can be remembered today by many people – whether through their first mobile phones or by hours enjoying mobile games.

RELATED: Explore more of Nokia and Ericsson's products over the years

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board

Share your story

Did you or your family work for Nokia or Ericsson or elswhere in the telecommunications industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: First fully automatic telephone station in Stockholm, installed by LM Ericsson in 1924, Tekniska museet, Public Domain

Vespa and Piaggio: icons of Italian industrial design

Tue, 26/11/2019 - 08:00

The Vespa scooter is an icon of Italian industry and design, a symbol of the 1950s. This blog looks at the industrial heritage behind the Vespa, which was produced by Piaggio company.

Teenage fashion show in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, Nordiska Kompaniet, guy and girl with vespa on stage, Erik Holmén, Nordiska museet, CC BY

Piaggio was founded in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio. Initially, the company focused on manufacturing railway locomotives and carriages, while during World War I, the company focused on producing aircraft.

Portrait of Rinaldo Piaggio, Digital Mechanism and Gear Library, CC BY-NC-ND Aircraft engine, Piaggio, 1942, Flygvapenmuseum

After World War II, with the Piaggio factory demolished from bombing and Italy’s aircraft industry restricted and sanctioned by post-war agreements, Piaggio – now run by Rinaldo’s son Enrico – were faced with a need to diversify.

Italy’s war-damaged road network meant that cars would not be a viable option for Piaggeo. Instead, they focused on producing a modern, comfortable and affordable mode of transport – La Vespa was born.

Moto Vespa 150 Súper, Juan Miguel Pando Barrero, Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, CC BY-NC-ND Detail of Moto Vespa, Modelo 150 Sprint, Juan Miguel Pando Barrero, Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, CC BY-NC-ND

Designed by Corradino D’Ascanio, the Vespa was first presented in 1946 in Rome, though known at that time as Paperino (the Italian for duckling).

To ensure their scooter would sell, Piaggio introduced a pioneering tool: the ability for the buyer to pay in installments.

RELATED: View this 1956 video about Italian industry featuring Vespa

Into the 1950s, Vespa sales boomed. The scooter became associated with the cool image of Italy in the 1950s, La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini. Perhaps its most enduring image is Audrey Hepburn zipping around Rome on the back of a Vespa in the 1952 film Roman Holiday.

Vacaciones en vespa, Centro de Documentación de las Artes Escénicas de Andalucía, In Copyright – Educational Use Permitted

RELATED: Read our exhibition: Blue Skies, Red Panic – Photographic perspectives on the 1950s in Europe

And yet, while most associated with Italy, there is a more European dimension to the Vespa. A large production facility for Vespa (and other scooter and motorcycle brands) was based in Madrid. This Spanish factory was established in 1952, employing more than 1000 people over its 51 years of production. It closed in 2003.

RELATED: Watch this 1953 video of Workers building a scooter in the Piaggio plants at Pontedera

Aerial photograph of factory, Juan Miguel Pando Barrero, Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, CC BY-NC-ND

Vespa sales, not just in Italy, but around Europe and the rest of the world soared through the 1950s and 1960s. In the two videos linked above, you can see the Vespa numebr 500,000th and 1,000,000 being rolled off the production line – just three years apart.

Vehicle photographed for Vespa, Jamtli, CC BY-NC-ND

Although not as popular today, the Vespa continues to produced by Piaggio from their factory in Pontedera, still evoking the cool image of 1950s Italy.

RELATED: More blogs on transport: Going underground: the rise of Europe’s metro railways

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation & Sofie Taes, KU Leuven

Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or someone in your family work for Vespa or Piaggio in Italy or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog is part of the 50s in Europe Kaleidoscope project, which joins heritage photography and new technologies, to discover the life in the 1950s as you’ve never seen it before.

Feature image: Scooter, SPA Piaggio & Co, Tekniska museet, CC BY

An international news medium – the European dissemination of 17th century Dutch Newspapers

Thu, 21/11/2019 - 08:30

The oldest Dutch newspaper that still exists dates from 14 June 1618. The title is Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c., which translates as ‘News from Italy, Germany, etc.’ Strangely enough this newspaper, together with several more of the oldest surviving Dutch newspapers, is kept in the national library of Sweden in Stockholm. And this is not unique. We can find other 17th century Dutch newspapers in archives and libraries in Britain, Germany, in the Baltic states, in Russia, France and Italy. Even in Turkey. Why is that?

The oldest Dutch newspaper that still exists from June 14, 1618, kept in Stockholm. National Library of the Netherlands, public domain

The Dutch Republic was not the first country where newspapers were published. There are earlier examples from Germany. But in Amsterdam the conditions for the gathering and publishing of news appeared to be much better than in other places. There was a well-developed culture of printing and publishing in the city, and it had one of the most important international ports of its time; news could easily be gathered from all directions: from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, and via the river Rhine and land roads from Germany and central Europe. And the Dutch Republic enjoyed relative freedom of the press. As long as news were not critical of the government and not blasphemic, they could be published. There were hardly any obstructions for the dissemination of international news.

As the publication of newspapers proved a commercial success in early 17th century Amsterdam, competition quickly emerged. Within a few years, different titles appeared, first in Amsterdam and shortly after in other Dutch cities. They each tried to publish the latest and most reliable information, gathered by a network of informants both in the Republic and abroad at a time when in the surrounding countries publishers were hampered by strict political censorship.

The quality, reliability and information density of early 17th century Dutch newspapers made them not only attractive to Dutch people, but also to an international audience. For tradesmen, ship-owners, sovereigns, diplomats, intelligence services and curious civilians, Dutch newspapers contained a wealth of information on international affairs, especially concerning the devastating Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Reading Dutch newspapers could save a ship-owner from sending his valuable ships, with even more valuable cargo, into the hands of pirate-infested seas. It could prevent a tradesman from travelling into a war zone. And it helped governments get a comprehensive picture of events as they unfolded. That is why Dutch newspapers were sent all over Europe.

Reading a newspaper in a Dutch weavers cottage, Cornelis Ploos van Amstel, after Adriaen van Ostade, 1766. Rijksmuseum, public domain

But were these newspapers printed in Dutch? Yes they were! Dutch in the early modern period was not very different from the dialects spoken in Northern Germany. These dialects were a kind of lingua franca, especially for the Baltic Sea trade and the Hanseatic League. This meant that most people involved in international trade and diplomacy in Northern Europe could read and understand a Dutch newspaper reasonably well.

Newspapers are meant to be read and thrown away. Within a few weeks their content is outdated, and many newspapers were lost over the centuries. What remains of 17th century Dutch newspapers is fragmentary. And we don’t know when exactly the first Dutch newspaper was published. But it is not at all surprising that the oldest Dutch newspaper that still exists is not kept in the Netherlands. It could be in any European country. The course of history decided it is in Sweden.

By Huibert Crijns,
KB, National Library of the Netherlands

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Featured image: 
De krantlezer, Cornelis van Noorde, 1741 – 1795, Rijksmuseum, public domain

Un-hidden: child labour in early photography

Wed, 20/11/2019 - 08:00

Children have been a much-loved subject of pictures from the very early days of photography. We can find many adorable photos of kids posing in fancy dress or with their beaming parents in joyful family portraits in the early photographs.

Yet a substantial amount of 19th and early 20th century photography featuring children has a social documentary value rather than solely an aesthetic one.

Soon after the birth of photography (c. 1830), people realized that the power of the medium to inform and persuade could be turned to a good cause. Photographers consciously started to portray the harsh lives of children at work – a silent and often ignored group in the industrial age.

Putting their circumstances on display and raising awareness provided much-needed leverage for concrete actions toward change, especially in the hands of skilled and persistent photographers such as Lewis Hine.

Girl Carrying Homework thro Greenwich Village, Lewis Hine, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

RELATED: Read blog: Children in the machine: Lewis Hine’s photography and child labour reform

Child labour was not uncommon in pre-industrial times, mostly helping out at the family farm or participating in handicrafts.

By the late 18th century, however, the domestic setting was replaced by an external working environment. Factories and mines in particular set their sights on children: taking advantage of their youthful energy, gaffers installed long working hours and used children for the most dangerous jobs in return for the lowest pay.

Children working in mines, 1843, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

This etching of a mineshaft illustrates how their tiny postures made them more suitable for specific tasks and environments. Furthermore, they were more easy to manage and proved more difficult to organise for the emerging workers’ unions.

A boy trainee at a Swedish car factory, learning the trade on one of the easier-to-handle machines, 1900/01, Tekniska museet, Public Domain

Children were often sole breadwinners and had no option but to earn money in whatever way possible, leaving little chance for education or many opportunities to play. Working children of the industrial age enjoyed no special status, neither in private nor in public: just another set of hands or an extra mouth to feed, they belonged to the same world as their parents, grandparents and the rest of the household, sharing the same responsibilities.

These children mostly appear in portraits as adults, featuring no discerning clothes or attributes.

Working at a Danish tobacco factory, 1893, Thomas and Poul Pedersen, Arbejdermuseet & ABA, Public Domain Group picture, featuring many child workers, at a Swedish glass factory, 1910, Tekniska museet. Public Domain

In middle class families, children took up a central role as well, but in quite a different way. As the family was regarded the cornerstone of society, children gave purpose to all activities, household arrangements and social connections.

Photographs cultivating the image of the close-knit, happy family, or celebrating the romantic ideal of childhood as a time of innocence and purity, are common in this context. The obvious contrast between the middle-class notion of childhood and the living conditions of poor children, gave rise to the first campaigns for the legal protection of children from the late 18th century onwards. 

Children at the conveyer belt of a paper factory in The Netherlands, 1920, CODA Apeldoorn, CC BY-SA

Great Britain took the lead, passing a first law as early as 1802. About 30 years later, the Factory Act established a system for inspections. Throughout the 19th century, working hours were limited, while the minimum age for employment was raised. By 1901, the permissible child labour age in the UK was raised to 12 – a milestone.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of images and photographs of child labour

At about the same time, international efforts were made to regulate child labour. Compulsory schooling was installed and, across Europe, existing legislation was effectively enforced. 

Girls at a bobbin factory in Småland, Sweden, 1935, A. Steijertz, Tekniska museet, Public Domain Boys producing fuses in a barn in Nora, Sweden, 1948, M. Claréus, Tekniska museet, Public Domain

More than a century onwards, however, child labour is a phenomenon still very much alive.

As recent as in 1960, a report of the United Nations showed that, especially in non-industrial jobs, young workers are still not sufficiently protected. In developing countries, moreover, children make up to 10% of the workforce in mines, factories, agriculture and services. So campaigning continues, with 2021 set as an important target date by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour: the year in which the elimination of child labour should be a fact, and photographs such as these should relics of what we can finally call ‘history’.

By Sofie Taes, KU Leuven

Feature image: Children at work in a metalworking factory, 1910, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or members of your family work as children? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Jacob’s Biscuit Factory in Dublin: the historic home of the cream cracker

Tue, 19/11/2019 - 07:52

The Jacob’s factory in Dublin is an icon of Ireland’s industrial heritage. The blog, illustrated with newly digitised material from Dublin City Library and Archive, tells the history of the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, home of the cream cracker.

The Jacob family were Quakers from Waterford, who had been in the baking trade for some time before they started making ‘fancy’ biscuits. William and Robert Jacob obtained a new premises in 1850 and announced that they would thenceforth be adding fancy biscuits to their range of goods. Within a very short time, business was thriving.

A move to Dublin, the distribution centre of Ireland, became a necessity. By 1853, W & R Jacob’s were operating out of a premises on Peter’s Row in the Liberties area of Dublin.

New building on Bishop Street, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

In 1885, the famous Cream Cracker was invented, and quickly became the company’s best seller. In fact, in 1893, six tins of Cream Crackers were ordered by Prince Frederick Leopold of Germany.

Jacob’s nationwide delivery truck, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

Jacob’s continued to grow, and in 1912, having run out of expansion space in Dublin, a new factory was opened in Aintree, Liverpool.

Meanwhile, back in Dublin, Jacob’s was witnessing industrial unrest over wages, and by 1913, tensions were high between Jacob’s management and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Jacob’s took a hard line with workers during the lockout that followed, and the dispute caused much bitterness and bad publicity for the firm. Rosie Hackett (after whom one of Dublin’s River Liffey’s bridges is named) was a worker in Jacob’s at the time, and was involved in the lockout. 

Workers in the Jacob’s Factory, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

The following year, World War I broke out, and many men from Jacob’s enlisted. The firm regularly sent cakes and tins of biscuits to its employees serving overseas. 

The next challenge for Jacob’s arose in the form of the Easter 1916 Rising. The factory –  one of the positions seized by the rebels – was largely unscathed, and although some looting did take place in the aftermath of the rising, the government paid compensation for that.

Bakers rolling the dough at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, D’Arcy (photographer), Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND Baked biscuit emerging from travelling oven at the Jacob’s Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

Business continued to thrive, and when World War II broke out, Jacob’s showed great ingenuity faced with the shortage of supplies, using potatoes as a substitute for flour in some biscuits.

Shelves packed with Jacob’s products, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

By the 1950s, Jacob’s was considered one of the best places to work in Dublin – the pay was good and staff were well-looked after. There was a swimming pool and recreation room for staff, a savings and pension schemes and both a doctor and dentist were hired by the company, offering free medical attention to staff. There was even an annual Christmas pensioners’ party.

Female factory workers holding up boxes of products, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

The restrictions on supplies following World War II, and the emergence of Bolands biscuits in Dublin pushed Jacob’s to improve their advertising and public relations. They had many ground-breaking ideas, including associating themselves with the glamorous aviation industry, by sponsoring Radio Eireann’s programme ‘Come Fly with Me’.

Assorted packing at the Jacob’s Factory, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

1966 saw the merger between Jacob’s and their chief competitor in Ireland, Bolands, and the resultant company was called Irish Biscuits. The new company continued to market biscuits under both brand names.

Two years later, the decision was made to purchase a site in Tallaght, a Dublin suburb, and to move production there. Informing this decision was the fact that many employees had been moved from tenements in the Liberties to Dublin Corporation housing schemes in areas such as Crumlin and Walkinstown. The Tallaght plant officially opened in 1975 and the inner-city Bishop Street closed its doors in 1977.

Tallaght factory, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

RELATED: Watch this video: In 1984, Jacobs factory workers gave their time for free to help famine victims in Ethiopia

In 1991, Jacob’s was bought by Danone, and in 2004 by Fruitfield Foods. In 2009, Jacob’s ended production in Ireland after 156 years. 

Collection of Jacob’s products, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

Jacob’s archives were acquired by Dublin City Library and Archive in 2012.  The 330 boxes contain a wide range of records representing a rich and significant contribution to the study of business and commercial life in Dublin.

RELATED: Explore the full Jacob’s archive from Dublin City Library and Archive on Europeana

By Stephanie Rousseau, Dublin City Library and Archive
With thanks to Dáire Rooney and Kathryn Cassidy, Digital Repository of Ireland

Feature image: Large orange Jacob’s truck with Cream Crackers advertised on its side, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

Archaeology behind the Iron Curtain – memories of excavations and digs in Lithuania from 1948 to 1968

Fri, 15/11/2019 - 13:09

The Iron Curtain was the non-physical boundary between Western and Eastern Europe after World War II. During these decades, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, affected by war and occupier repressions. All ways of life involved intricate situations – including archaeology.

This blog looks at the memories of those who worked on archaeological digs and projects in Lithuania during the Cold War, with a focus from 1948 to 1968.


Women and young boys were the main participants in archaeological excavations in this period. During World War II, more than a million people died, a third of the population of Lithuania. Thus, the workforce was dramatically reduced. As a result, students near the excavation sites were the main available labour force.

Young boys in the archaeological excavation of Galaliai settlement, Aldona Bernotaitė, 1958.
Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND Clothing

During archaeological excavations, participants wore traditional clothes. Men and boys usually dressed in trousers, shirts and jackets, while women wore dresses, shirts and skirts.

Attention should be paid to the women’s clothing because, from the 1960s, during archaeological excavations, women started to wear trousers and changed their style of dressing. Nevertheless, trousers were still the exception.

A number of factors underpinned this change in women’s clothing. The Soviet Union had began new reforms, with new industries created. Work in factories changed employees’ clothing. Women became part of the workforce. And a new wave of ‘modern and simple’ Soviet fashion began.

Working women in archaeological excavation of Pučkalaukis cemetery, Pranas Kulikauskas, 1953. Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND Collectivisation

At the end of World War II, collectivisation started in Lithuania. After five years, as much as 94% of the country’s land was collectivised. 

Remembering the first archaeological expeditions after the war, in 1949, archaeologist Adolfas Tautavičius wrote: An expedition took place under difficult conditions. The government started to found Kolkhoz collective farms and Sovkhoz state-owned farms, and began the deportation of farmers. Part of these farmsteads were empty – without windows, doors, overturned fences. Inhabitants were frightened.

Records of archaeological excavations mention digging activities in collective farms’ fields. Rimutė Rimantienė described: ‘We had to excavate a Stone Age settlement, but the leader of the Kolkhoz forgot and planted potatoes in this site. But everything was ok. The leader let us dig the potatoes. We dug it day after day and ate potatoes, kefir and salads, and later cucumbers and tomatoes.’

Participants of archaeological excavation rake hay in collective farm’s fields, Pranas Kulikauskas, 1955. Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND

RELATED: Explore the Cold War in photographs in Blue Skies, Red Panic, an exhibition of photographic perspectives of Europe in the 1950s

Tools and equipment

After the war, there was a lack of archaeological tools and equipment. Archaeologist Pranas Kulikauskas wrote about what happened between 1948 -1949: ‘We didn‘t have any tools or equipment. Trowel and brushes were borrowed from other museums. The Museum of Šiauliai gave us a camera. We drew the plans ourselves.’

Preparation of a grave of Linksmučiai cemetery, Mykolas Černiauskas, 1949. Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND

RELATED: Explore this gallery of archaeologists at work


Food was very important during the excavation. Normally, archaeologists cooked food for themselves. Sometimes there were exceptions, either hiring a cook or eating in canteens. In general, the particants sourced food in two ways. They bought milk products, bread and vegetables from local people. Other participants fended for themselves, by picking berries and mushrooms, and catching fish in rivers.

The ending feast of the archaeological expedition, Pranas Kulikauskas, 1954.
Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND

Archaeologist Rimutė Rimantienė remembered in a diary: ‘Here in Rudnia village, life is very good. The forest is full of berries. The girls picked a lot of berries, but we could not eat them all, so, from what was left, we cooked and made jam.

By Šarūnė Valotkienė, Vilnius University Faculty of Communications

Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or your family work in archaeology in Lithuania or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Archaeology project, which digitises Europe’s rich heritage of archaeological monuments, historic buildings, cultural landscapes and artefacts


  • Kulikauskas, Pranas, Kelias į archeologiją. Vilnius: Vaga, 2003.
  • Rimantienė, Rimutė, Aš iš dvidešimtojo amžiaus. Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010.
  • Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė, Regina, Dienoraščių pynės. Vilnius: Lietuvos nacionalinis muziejus, 2016.
  • Tautavičius, Adolfas, Iš archeologo užrašų. Vilnius: Nacionalinis muziejus LDK Valdovų rūmai, 2016.
  • Eidintas, Alfonsas; Bumblauskas, Alfredas; Kulakauskas, Antanas; Tamošaitis, Mindaugas, Lietuvos istorija. Vilnius: Eugrimas, 2012.

Paper processes: tips for achieving a paperless office

Thu, 14/11/2019 - 08:00

What do you say when you discover the work paper recycling box is absolutely empty? Well I would say, ‘Congratulations, everyone!’ with a big smile. Paperless office achieved.

The term ‘Paperless Office’ (according to Wikipedia) was introduced in 1978 by Micronet, Inc., an automated office equipment company, and over the following decades has evolved into a highly visible movement with plenty of good intentions.

Computer, Helmut Klapper, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek, CC BY

Just think, if each of us, in every office, in every city, took just small steps, this action could actually snowball into something greater than the sum of its parts. Imagine a workplace where none of us chooses processes that involve bleached-wood-pulp-brews; organic matter soaked in water, pressed into sheets, and cut to size. Paper comes from trees, and it is those trees that support the green lung of our blue planet.  

Ponderosa pine: two trees in open landscape, c.1857, Wellcome Collections, CC BY

Today, our offices probably can’t go completely paperless, but hopefully these suggestions will at least help us embrace workflows and processes that stop wasting paper while at the same go some way to improve productivity and, with that, our personal state of mind.

Tip 1 – Step away from the printer

Firstly, make it a little more difficult to print.

STL: Minicomputer and printer, Kulturarvsstyrelsen, CC BY

In time gone by, manuscripts were painstakingly copied out by hand – so only the very important documents got created. Now, we can, and often do, print everything out.

A simple change for the workplace would be to have fewer printers so that people will have to make more effort to retrieve their printouts. Human nature, being what is, won’t find this as convenient as having a printer at arm’s reach. Another simple solution is a double-monitor setup. By cross-referencing documents on two screens, we rely less on print-outs for comparison. A small step but one that is surprisingly effective!

RELATED: Read blog: From quills to typewriters: how the industrial revolution changed our writing culture

Tip 2 – Save and share via the cloud

Europeana Collections has centralised the holdings of thousands of libraries, archives and museums into a single, consolidated digital entity – it is, in fact, a paperless archive – pretty amazing if you ask me. 

Study of Clouds over the Sound, C. W. Eckersberg, Statens Museum for Kunst, CC0

When you find something specific – an artist, composer, or an object that you would like to present to your classroom or colleagues the next day – all you need to do is to save – ideally to a cloud that supports share-ability.  

A man growing as a tree with branches, fruit and roots, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

A paperless environment, however, is as much a state of mind as it is a practical roadmap – a catalyst for inspiring others to be as climate-neutral as possible. Do your bit and before long, we’ll all be taking paper out of the workflow, choosing email presentations instead of printable promotions, Tik Toks instead of birthday cards, barcodes instead of tickets, and podcasts instead of pamphlets.

RELATED: Read blog: The human crisis and the three Es: Environment, Equality and Endangered

Tip 3 – Make friends with a pot plant

And one more thing… if you can, don’t forget to bring a desk plant to work to improve indoor air quality, to add some nature to the office environment and create a cleaner, happier space for you to work in.

Painting, pot plant with Azalea, Flipje en Streekmuseum Tiel, CC BY

By Susan Hazan, The Israel Museum

Europe at Work: Share your story

Share your story about working in offices across Europe, and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Biblioteca del Monestir, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

Progress in war making: the industrialisation of World War I

Wed, 13/11/2019 - 07:45

Industrialisation played a major role in World War One. New military machinery could be produced at a much larger scale and at a much faster rate than before. Along with innovative technology, this led to one of the most devastating wars in human history. 

This concerns the production of materials for military purposes – clothing, aircraft and chemicals – as well as infrastructures – construction, railway, ports – that were laid out during the war to facilitate the war effort and to ensure the housing and mobility of the people. 

RELATED: Read this blog: The Treaty of Versailles: the end of World War I?

Production and assembly processes became more and more automated, making mass production of ammunition and weaponry possible.

Cannoni da 381-40, Biblioteca Universitaria di Genova, Europeana 1914-1918. CC BY-SA

The new industrial effort also brought with it important societal changes, in particular the massive participation of women, who, as men headed abroad to fight, took their place in factories, shops and offices.

RELATED: Explore this gallery: Women in World War I

Photographie de femmes fabricant des obus dans une usine, Archives départementales de Seine-Maritime, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Armoured cars, motorcycles with sidecars, trucks, ambulances: motorized vehicles were commonly seen during World War One in greater numbers and growing variety.

Noël Eugène Baffert, conducteur d’auto-projecteur de signalisation, Nathalie Hubert via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA Triumph WW1 motorcycle, Παναγιώτης Μαράτος via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Other means of transportation that were new to the war were planes, used mostly to spy on the enemies and scout out battle territory from above, but they also carried guns.

Charles Dumas dans son avion 1915-1916, Archives Municipales de Sète, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The Zeppelin, a German creation from before the war, was lighter than air, filled with hydrogen, and held together by a steel framework. The German armed forces used several Zeppelins for observation as well as flying bombs, each capable of travelling at about 85mph and carrying up to two tonnes of bombs.

Beobachtung Zeppelin, Muzeul National Brukenthal Sibiu – Muzeul de Istorie “Casa Altemberg”, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The major vehicle that was to play a decisive role in the last years of the war was the tank, a British invention. At first it was mainly used to cross battle areas safely, but soon a more offensive version was developed which had a revolving turret. The French fielded their first tanks in April 1917 and ultimately produced far more tanks than all other countries combined. In 1918, the manufacturer Renault produced more than 3,600 tanks. 

Maquette du char d’assaut Renault 18 HP, Archives départementales de Saône-et-Loire, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Mustard gas, or Yperite, was first used by the Germans in 1915 in the battlefields around Ypres. The sulphur based gas caused burning in the throat and chest and eventually suffocated its victims. One problem that often arose with gas was that the wind would blow it back at the troops who used it, harming the own troops instead those of the enemy.

World War I: a poisonous gas attack on the Canadians in Flanders, 24 April 1915, Louis Raemaekers, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

RELATED: See how artists depicted war machinery in this chapter of our World War I exhibition ‘Visions of War’

Flamethrowers date back as far as the 5th century, but World War 1 brought about a portable and far more destructive version. The weapon brought extreme fear as it was something that had never been seen before. By the end of the war flamethrowers had even been added to tanks.

Flammenwerfer am Stützpunkt 17, K.u.k. Kriegspressequartier, Lichtbildstelle – Wien, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

International world trade became more and more difficult because of global warfare and trade embargos, making the import of necessary resource materials difficult if not impossible. A growing effort was made to become independent and replace resources for other materials. In this video is shown how the production of belt straps is made possible by the use of paper and iron instead of leather and rubber.

RELATED: For more examples of work and industrialisation during World War One, explore these galleries:
The industry of making war: machinery
Europe at work during World War One

By Ad Pollé, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Atelier de projectiles, Archives départementales de Saône-et-Loire, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Textile technology: Joseph-Marie Jacquard and the loom that changed the world

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 07:35

Between 1801 and 1806, French weaver Joseph-Marie Jacquard developed a machine that was then seen as one of the most important technological advancements in history: the Jacquard Loom.

Before the 1800s, weaving was a repetitive and mechanical process: lots of time and skill were required in order to produce the embellished textiles that were all the rage amongst the higher strata of society.

Woven image, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Luther & Fellenberg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC BY

Joseph-Marie Jacquard was born in Lyons in 1752, from a family of weavers. At the time, weaving not only required a skilled weaver to manage the loom, but also another professional, called a drawboy, who sat next to the weaver and moved the threads according to the design of the cloth.

Familiar with the process, Jacquared understood that, in order to make the most from the business, it was key to make these movements automatic.

Textiles: a mechanical Jacquard loom, three-quarter view with spectator, Engraving, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

On inheriting the family business, he devoted his time to studying and developing a new machine that could make the weaving process faster and more profitable. Jacquard worked on his invention at the end of the 1700s, but was interrupted by the French Revolution.

After the revolution, he went back to his project and developed a machine that he presented in Paris in 1804. There, his invention was patented and was given a medal. The French government claimed that the loom was to become a public property, leaving Jacquard with no more than a small royalty.

Jacquard loom in Biljard Company carpet factory, Gooi en Vecht Historisch, CC BY-SA

The Jacquard loom was based on a system of cards, needles and hooks. The cards were made of cardboard, where holes could be easily punched in order to create the design; the hooks and needles used followed the holes in the cardboard, passing through these holes and inserting the thread to create the pattern. The more intricate the design was, the more cards were arranged one after the other in the loom.

RELATED: Explore this gallery related to the textile industry

Thanks to the system on which it was based, the loom could create highly complex designs and patterns, in which new colours could be used and marvellous patterns developed.

Dress fabric of jacquard woven figured silk, made by Tholozan et Cie, Lyon, 1855, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY Cloth, Larvik Museum, CC BY-SA

Jacquard’s invention revolutionised the textile industry, and was also fundamental for a more general technological advancement. The Jacquard loom cut back on the amount of human labour, and also allowed for patterns to be stored on these cards and then repeated over and over again to achieve the same product. 

Scarf of Jacquard woven figured silk, England, ca. 1820, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY Dressing gown of jacquard woven silk, probably made in Great Britain, 1850-1870, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

Therefore, the jacquard loom allowed patterns and motifs to be saved, on cards that could be archived and re-used, reducing time, labour and costs. 

RELATED: Liberation skirts: how post-war upcycling became a symbol of female solidarity

Since the system followed a mathematical algorithm, some have argued that the jacquard loom holds many similarities with computers. In fact, both machines work by storing and organising information, creating a shared technological language that runs through the machine itself, allowing reproduction and, of course, widening the possibilities of communication.

By Marta Franceschini, European Fashion Heritage Association

Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or your family work in the weaving or textile industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Salle de tissage à la Jacquard, Société industrielle de Mulhouse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The Bor Mine in Serbia: labour and landscape throughout the 20th century

Wed, 06/11/2019 - 08:00

Mining has been taking place in Bor, eastern Serbia, for centuries – intensified and industrialised since the discovery of copper ore in the early 1900s. This blog explores the 20th century industrial heritage of mining in Bor.

In eastern Serbia, where the Bor Mine is located, archaeological excavation confirms that even the Romans were involved in mining in this area. At the time, only gold was sought for.

The rapid development of the area began in the 20th century, with the purely accidental discovery of copper ore in 1902, after official exploration had been terminated.

RELATED: Explore this gallery relating to the mining industry

Many local legends surround the discovery of copper-bearing ore in Bor. One of them is about Paun Meždinović, a young man from the locality, who found the first greenish copper ore lump. During his lifetime, Paun remained known as the boy who discovered copper-bearing ore.

The area underwent intense urbanisation, transforming its previously rural environment into a highly-industrialised mining region, changing not only the natural landscape of the area but also the occupational structure of its inhabitants.

Bor – a village at the beginning of exploitation, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

After the ore had been discovered, Đorđe Vajfert, an industrialist from Pančevo, who invested in the exploration of the area, sought the help of foreign capital in order to be able to initiate exploitation.

He managed to obtain support for this endeavour in France. After having signed a contract with the Mirabo Bank in Paris, the French Society of the Bor Mines, the Concession St. George (La Compagnie française des mines de Bor, Concession St. George) was formed on 30 September 1903.

Copper exploitation progressed rapidly. As early as 1904, the mine employed around 80 miners and, during that year, 5,500 tons of copper ore were excavated, resulting in 774 tons of pure copper. In the first five years, the French company capital was increased from the initial 5.5 to 7 million French franks in gold.

The smelter in the 1930s, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

For the most part, the work was manual. Copper was transferred to the nearest train station in Vražogrnci by ox-carts until 1911, when the Bor-Metovnica railway was built. The expansion of the mining-related facilities, particularly the smelter and the flotation system, brought about environmental pollution from the sulphuric fumes created in the ore-melting process. This had an indirect influence on the increase in the price of food products in the area, as well as protests from the local population involved in agriculture.

Flotation tanks, Dragoljub Mitić, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Due to the economic crises in the early 1930s, the labour cost in the Bor Mine was drastically decreased. However, by 1933, there was a recovery, initiating the mine’s golden age, which lasted until 1940.

After the end of World War II, the period of socialism was marked with great working-class enthusiasm at the Bor Mine. As early as 1945, the Bor Mines and Smelters public company was founded by a Yugoslav Government decision.

Since the equipment was outdated and there were not enough funds for modernisation, digging was performed manually, using drills. Often, the workers used two drills, surpassing the pre-war performance first by 90%, and then by up to 160%. The number of voluntary extra hours was up to 96,000 during those years, which is unbelievable from the modern market economy perspective. 

French social-event building, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Nevertheless, this brought about the recovery of the mine and the foundation of the Bor Mining and Smelting Combine in 1961, which marked the beginning of an era in which the workers managed the mine. Innovations included technological modernisation, continuous employee training, the participation of everyone in decision-making processes and the presence of women in the work processes.

A woman using a drill, Dragoljub Mitić, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Bor continued growing along with its industry. In 1947, it was given the status of a city, with more than 12,000 inhabitants, many of whom worked at the mine. The population quickly increased, with new apartments built to house workers. By the mid-20th century, due to an intense influx of workers from all over Yugoslavia, Bor was home to people from nineteen different nations who spoke seven different languages. New schools were built and, in the spirit of self-management, courses for workers were held all the time, ensuring the continuous education of workers – exemplified by this photographs of miners in the library.

Miners in the library, Ljubomir Markov, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

By the end of the 20th century , after decades of exploitation, the share of copper in the copper ore decreased. 

Panoramic view of Bor, 1991, Ljubomir Markov, Bor Public Library, CC BY-NC RELATED: View more photographs of the mining industry in Bor

During those years, the landscape of Bor and the surrounding area has been completely changed. The urban core, formed around the mining colony, grew into a proper city, whose landmarks were chimneys and horizons of mined and burnt land. This landscape serves as a warning of the high price of copper exploitation, and has resulted in the permanent environmental pollution of the area.

By Saša Ilić, National Library of Serbia
Translated by: Tatjana Domazet, National Library of Serbia

Europe at Work – Share a story

Did you or your family work in mining in Bor or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Portrait of a miner with a pipe in Bor, 1947, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

The Chair Men: Gebrüder Thonet and the Number 14 Chair

Tue, 05/11/2019 - 08:00

Vienna’s cafe culture is legendary – coffee, kipferl, and kuchen are important ingredients. And another important part of the recipe are the cafes themselves and their furniture – in particular the Number 14 Thonet chair.

The firm of Thonet are synonymous with the furniture for Viennese cafes, as well as homes and establishments around the world. Their ‘Number 14’ chair was the world’s first mass-produced furniture.

Centenary Confectionery, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum – Budapest, CC BY-NC-ND

Born in Germany, Michael Thonet was a pioneer of furniture design, and the industrialisation of furniture manufacture.

Michael Thonet, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

Through the 1830s and 1840s, he developed new techniques which allowed wood to be bent into curves and organic shapes. This process, known as bentwood, involves wetting wood (either by soaking or by steaming) so it can be bent into shape, hardening into curved shapes and patterns.

Rocking chair made according to Thonet’s technology, Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum, CC BY Thonet mirror (part of hotel room), former MKVM Catering Exhibition Budapest 1981, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum – Budapest, CC BY-NC-ND

The techniques pioneered by Thonet enabled him to design elegant and lightweight furniture. Crucially, his innovative bending of wood in this way allowed for chairs to be produced industrially for the first time.

Chair, Skåne Region medical history collections, CC BY-NC-ND

In 1849, together with his sons, he founded a company. Gebrüder Thonet, over the years, established factories across Germany and central Europe – at their peak, the firm had upto seven factories.

Their big breakthrough came in 1859 with chair number 14 – the chair that is today an icon of design history associated with Vienna coffee houses. More than 50 million have been produced.

RELATED: Read migration story 'Bringing the Austrian Kaffee und Kuchen tradition to London' Chair, Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND Thonet Chair Model Nr.14, Gebrüder Thonet, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA Thonet Chair Model Nr.14, Gebrüder Thonet, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA Thonet Chair, Musea Maaseik, CC BY-NC-SA Chair, Murberget Länsmuseet Västernorrland, CC BY-NC

The chair was an international success. Its industrial production meant that it could be exported: its modular design allowed for it to be assembled and disassembled in different factories and locations.

Sales offices were established in foreign countries, with a worldwide distribution system for the marketing of Thonet furniture, as evidenced by the advertisements below. Their furniture, mass-produced at affordable prices, became a global success.

Gebroeders Thonet poster, Mathé van der Weiden, Drents Museum, CC BY-NC Gebrüder Thonet advert in Altonaer Nachrichten (Hamburger neueste Zeitung), 30 April 1905, Hamburg State Library, Public Domain Gebrüder Thonet advert in Berliner Tageblatt, 16 December 1907, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Public Domain RELATED: Read more reports about Thonet from historical newspapers

Today, Thonet develop both wooden and steel furniture – and are still producing the number 14 chair which brought the firm’s early fame and fortune.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in for Gebrüder Thonet or other furniture manufacturers? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Wien Kaffeehaus, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

Neon nights: how advertising signs lit up the city

Thu, 31/10/2019 - 07:00

Neon lighting’s distinctive glow has been brightening cities across Europe and the world all through the 20th century. Neon signs and lighting animate city centres, evoking both a modern, urban world, both futuristic and nostalgic.

Piccadilly Circus, London, England, Ivar Spak, Malmö Museums, CC BY

Neon signs first lit up the skies in Paris in the 1910s, less than two decades on from neon’s discovery. British chemists Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers had first identified the gas neon in 1898, naming it for the Greek word neos, meaning new.

Neon tubes, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA

Neon – dubbed ‘liquid fire’ – gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in tubes and lamps, which was soon put to use in industrial settings, particularly in advertising signage and lighting.

Telegrafens å Posten’s new neon sign, Arne Andersson, Bohusläns museum, Public Domain

Neon is a rare gas, but French engineer and inventor Georges Claude’s company L’Air Liquide produced a lot of neon as a by-product of their activities. In the 1910s, Claude demonstrated the use of neon in tubes to create eye-catching advertising signs.

The neon sign as we know it was born, and was instantly successful.

Le savant Georges Claude, Agence Meurisse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Through the roaring twenties and 1930s, the intense vibrancy of neon suggested progress and modernity, giving cities colourful urban landmarks.

Rain, dusk, traffic and neon signs on Södergatan, Malmö, Erik Liljeroth, The Nordic Museum, CC BY-NC-ND Neon advertising signs on house facade, Karl Heinz Hernried, The Nordic Museum, CC BY-NC-ND Neon advertising, Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Hospitality – Budapest, CC BY-NC-ND

Skilled workers known as glass benders, neon benders or tube benders can shape neon tubes into curving artistic form, such as letters or pictures.

As the signage and advertising developed, although tube lights with other colours are often called “neon”, different gases were used to create fluorescent lighting.

Neon lighting and advertising made our cities brighter, more commercial. Symbols and signs adorn buildings and walls, inspiring artists to capture their distinctive character.

Neon lights, Henrik Ørsted, Oslo Museum, CC BY-SA Pastel of the ‘White House’ at night with illuminated advertising from “Van Nelle”, Herman Heijenbrock, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY RELATED: Check out this neon-inspired entry for GIF IT UP 2019 - the annual cultural heritage GIF-making competition Untitled drawing from Southern Europe, Asger Muchitsch, The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, CC BY-NC-ND

Neon particularly seems to evoke the night-time and leisure economy – their use as signage or advertising for hotels, bars, nightclubs, beauty salons and more became commonplace.

Facade of nightclub Pigalle in Paris, Jan Basshuus-Jessen, DEXTRA Photo, CC BY Neon sign from Roos Neon, Knut Borg, Örebro County Museum, Public Domain Maxim Variety nightclub, Sándor Bauer, Fortepan, CC BY-SA Rich House with neon advertising, Sven Türck, The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, CC BY-NC-ND

Through the 1960s and 1990s, neon signs became associated with run down areas of inner cities. Their popularity waned somewhat, with today’s LED signage adopted more.

Winter picture, February, Stockholm, KW Guller, The Nordic Museum, CC BY-NC-ND

Neon signs today can be considered landmarks in our urban landscapes, cherished and preserved as part of the industrial and social heritage of cities across Europe.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in the neon or advertising industries? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Lilletorget 1, Atelier Rude, Oslo Museum, CC BY-SA

‘Self-pride and knowing yourself’: marking Black History Month in Britain

Wed, 30/10/2019 - 08:00

Throughout the history of Britain, renowned people of the African Diaspora have left their mark, shaping the country by making it face up to its role in slavery, colonial impact, perpetual discrimination and the white washing of its history.

As October in the United Kingdom marks Black History Month, this blog looks at moments in the history of Britain’s Black communities with a focus on the development of Black History Month. 

Of the many who left their mark in Britain, Ignatius Shancho (1729- 1780) was the first person of African descent to vote in Parliament elections. He was a British writer, composer and actor who helped stir the discussion on the immorality of the slave trade. 

Statue of Mary Seacole, acediscovery via Europeana Migration, CC BY-SA

Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881), a British-Jamaican nurse famous for her work during the Crimean war, opened up an establishment called British Hotel behind the lines to nurse the wounded back to health.

Throughout World War I and World War II, many men were recruited from the Caribbean and West Africa to help fight the wars, as well as African-American GIs during World War II.

Of those who survived, some stayed and settled, while the rest went back to their home countries.

After the war, due to workforce shortages, a large immigration campaign was set to attract people from Jamaica and Barbados to work in Britain. The Empire Windrush ship brought one of the first large groups of these post-war immigrants to the United Kingdom. British Caribbean people who came to the United Kingdom in the period after World War II are now remembered and referred to as the Windrush generation. 

RELATED: Listen to oral history interviews with some members of the Windrush generation

The amount of Caribbean and African born people living in Britain by 1951 reached roughly 20,900. 

Dignity in Poverty, Hackney; Growing Up Black, Dennis Morris, Victoria and Albert Museum CC BY

Non-whites living in Britain faced racism, housing discrimination, race perpetuated riots, and, to this day, have a higher chance of being unemployed.

Those born in Britain faced an identity crisis trying to reconcile Britain’s past with its present, all the while still facing similar treatment as the generation before them. 

RELATED: Explore these photography collections of Black life in London from the 1960 and 1970s, by photographers Armit Francis, Dennis Morris, Al Vandenberg, James Barnor and Normski.

In the 1980s, Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer of the Ethnic Minorities Unit at the Greater London Council, and chairman of the African Refugees Housing Action Group, was stirred by the identity crisis that Black children faced.

He decided to start the UK version of Black History Month in 1987 upon hearing a colleague open up about her child who had asked why he couldn’t be white, and after observing and talking to children who didn’t identify with Africa.

Untitled [three boys in descending height order, centre one with cloth cap] from the series On a Good Day, Al Vandenberg, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

In a 2017 interview, he mentions that he was ‘awakened to the fact that even some Ghanaians tried to mimic being Afro-Caribbeans and some Afro-Caribbeans would take offense being referred to as “African”’.

His team became fixed on challenging the Eurocentric version of history that was being taught in the school system by conceiving an annual celebration of the contributions of Africa and people of the African Diaspora to world civilization throughout history.

The Brothers, Black House; Growing Up Black, Dennis Morris, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

The month of October was chosen because it was the start of a new academic year, and they believed that children were more likely to ‘absorb more if their living environment buzzed with positive vibes, instructions and images about themselves and their origins, thus celebrating who they are as “Africans”‘.

Untitled [school girls in a line] from the series On a Good Day, Al Vandenberg, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

Some criticise Black History Month as only teaching Black history in the space of one month, and allowing it to be ignored for the rest of the year.

However the importance of Black History Month paves the way for recognition that Black history is European history, American history and African history.

‘[Black History Month] is to inculcate self-pride and especially in children. Self-pride is the catalyst for achievement and there is no greater “truth” than knowing yourself’

– Akyaaba Addai Sebo, 2017

By Marijke Everts, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Self-portrait in Mirror, Armet Francis, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

The fragrance factory: Roure-Bertrand Fils and the perfume industry in Grasse

Tue, 29/10/2019 - 08:00

When we spray on perfume, how often do we think about how the fragrance was made?

The process to extract fragrances and oils from flowers is a perfect blend of nature, science and industry, as illustrated beautifully by this short book about Roure-Bertrand Fils factory in Grasse, France.

Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Perfume and scents have been worn by people for centuries, becoming an industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Grasse – a world capital of perfume – was home to the perfumerie of Roure-Bertrand Fils whose origins date back to 1820.

‘Usine Roure Bertrand Fils’ Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Roure-Bertrand provided aromatic plants and essential oils to create fragrances for other brands, who mix, blend, bottle and sell the perfume.

The firm’s technical and scientific innovation in extracting oils and essences helped establish them as a leader in modern perfumery. In 1900, Roure Bertrand Fils was presented with a grand prize at the Universal Exposition in Paris.

This book – part of the digitised collections of the the Bibliotheque national de France – dates from then, and contains 30 photographs illustrating the process from flower field to bottled perfume.

This selection shows highlights of the process – you can also browse the full book here.

Picking roses, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Violets arriving, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Separating roses, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Distillation of geraniums, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Jasmine cold ointment, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Chemical laboratory, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Flower essences, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions RELATED: See photographs of how the factory looks today

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in the perfume industry in Grasse or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Miloš Crnjanski: a literary life of migration and exile

Fri, 25/10/2019 - 08:00

Author Miloš Crnjanski’s works form an invaluable part of Serbian 20th-century literature. His creative writing – poetry and prose – as well as his life in general, were marked by key elements: migration, exile and existential drama.

Crnjanski was born in Csongrád (a town in Hungary he referred to as ‘Siberia for clerks’), where his family lived quite humbly. Later, he moved to Timisoara where he graduated from primary and secondary school, played football and wrote his first verses.

In 1912, he relocated to Belgrade and then to Rijeka and Vienna, where he began his philosophy studies (1913-1914).

He was in Vienna at the onset of World War I, so he was forced to be a soldier for the Austro-Hungarian army. He had to participate in battles taking place in Galicia and Italy, constantly facing the atrocities of war.

Miloš Crnjanski in uniform, National Library of Serbia, Public Domain

At the end of the war, Crnjanski returned to Belgrade where he enrolled in literary studies and began editing the Dan periodical.

His first books portrayed the futility of war suffering and the tragic division of the young generation. A warrior’s return to his homeland is the central motif of his poetry collection Lirika Itake (The Lyricism of Ithaca), published in 1919.

Crnjanski laid the foundations of the early avant-garde movement in Serbian literature. That can be illustrated with a sentence in his Objašnjenje Sumatre (The Explanation of Sumatra) from 1920: ‘The world still hasn’t heard the terrible storm above our heads, while shakings come from beneath, not from political relations, not from literary dogmas, but from life. Those are the dead reaching out! They should be avenged.’ 

War motifs and indignation due to war carnage also shaped the tone of his poetic novel Дневник о Чарнојевићу (A Diary of Čarnojević) from 1921, which re-shaped the traditions and fixed patterns that dominated Serbian novels of the time.

RELATED: The Trailblazer: Jelena Dimitrijević, Serbia’s first feminist author

After briefly travelling around Europe, he returned to Belgrade, where he married Vida Ružić, his life-long companion. 

After graduating from the Faculty of Philosophy in 1922, he started teaching at the Fourth Belgrade Grammar School. Simultaneously, he published opinionated articles in distinguished periodicals, such as Politika, Vreme, etc. Representing radical Modernism, his articles published in the weekly periodical Ideje caused fierce literary and political debates at the time.

Miloš Crnjanski in Berlin, National Library of Serbia, Public Domain

Crnjanski’s professional journey further led him into the diplomatic service for the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He worked in Germany (1935-1938) and Italy (1939-1941). When Yugoslavia took part in World War II, he was evacuated from Rome to Lisbon, across Madrid, and later he got to London.

Crnjanski had a harsh life in London, as he had lost all his sources of income. 

Even though he had a university degree and spoke five languages (Hungarian, German, French, Italian and English), he spent some time working in a bookstore, delivering Christmas cards and as a bookkeeper in a shoe store.

Queens Court Building 31-155 in London, where Miloš Crnjanski lived from 1953-1965, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-ND

By the 1950s, he became a London-based correspondent of El economist, an Argentinian periodical published in Buenos Aires. He wrote prolifically. At the time, he wrote Roman o Londonu (A Novel on London), a powerful cosmopolitan work on exile taking place in London, with a Russian protagonist.

RELATED: Read and browse a version of Crnjanski's Roman o Londonu manuscript

He also wrote a masterpiece Druga knjiga Seoba (The Second Book on Migration) and a poetic Odyssey Lament nad Beogradom (Lament over Belgrade).

RELATED: Read Lament over Belgrade

As a political emigrant, Crnjanski spent time completely away from the Serbian literary scene. In the 1950s, he published some of his writing in periodicals of emigrants in America, Canada and Germany. 

However, when he returned to Serbia in 1965, some of his books had already been published there, including Seobe (Migration), Dnevnik o Čarnojeviću (A Diary of Čarnojević), Konak (Lodging), Itaka i komentari (Ithaca and Comments), Druga knjiga seoba (The Second Book on Migration).

Miloš Crnjanski on his return, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-ND

Therefore, to Crnjanski, life in emigration represented a drama on cultural marginalisation, which had a powerful impact on his creative work.

The feeling of being a foreigner affected his inner self, with the central figure in his works being a man in a foreign place. He portrayed emigrants, outsiders, people living on the margins and borders of society. With the power of extraordinary literary language, Crnjanski managed to show that a man at the edge of existence could still possess a shine of true greatness. 

At the same time, Crnjanski’s genius is reflected in the fact that his works enable us to truly feel the spirit of the epoch we still live in (for instance, neoliberalism in Roman o Londonu).

RELATED: Read more blogs on authors and writers

Crnjanski was able to live his elderly days peacefully in his homeland.

Miloš and Vida Crnjanski in an apartment in Belgrade, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-SA

Soon after he returned from his 20-year-long exile, his Sabrana dela u 10 tomova (“Collected works in 10 volumes”) were published in 1966. In 1971, he received the respected NIN award for Best Novel of the Year and the Most Read Book of the Year award for Roman o Londonu. 

In 1977, he died at the age of 84, with his widow gifting his complete legacy to the National Library of Serbia. In 1993, the Miloš Crnjanski Foundation published a critical edition of his works.

By Milena Đorđijević, National Library of Serbia
Translated by Tatjana Domazet, National Library of Serbia

This blog post is a part of the Migration in the Arts and Sciences project, which explores how migration has shaped the arts, science and history of Europe.

Feature image: Miloš Crnjanski in Cooden Beach, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-SA

Fàbrica Gròber: the rise and fall of an industrial landmark in Girona

Thu, 24/10/2019 - 08:00

Fàbrica Gròber, a textile factory specialised in trimmings, buttons and haberdashery, is a landmark of Girona history, even today 40 years after it closed.

This blog looks at the rich history of the factory which offered jobs and economic prosperity and modernised culture and society in its region.

End of the working day at Fàbrica Gròber, 1911 Fototípia Thomas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain Origins of Fàbrica Gròber

The Franciscan friars of Girona were forced to leave their monastery in 1835. They could never have imagined that its grounds would become an industrial site.

Façade of the Fàbrica Gròber at the crossing of Carrer Cristòfol Gròber and Carrer Nou, 1910 Fototípia Thomas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

After the demolition of the monastery and the redevelopment of the site by a group of entrepreneurs, Cristòfol Gròber – a businessman with Italian roots – laid the factory’s foundations.

Map of the province of Girona, with the city on the lower right, 1902 Benito Chías y Carbó, Joaquín Ribera, J. Soler Biblioteca Virtual del Ministerio de Defensa, CC0

Gròber’s choice of Girona was well-considered. The nearby Monar reservoir guaranteed a steady water supply, Girona offered a large potential workforce and several other Italian families ran successful businesses in the city. After buying buildings in Girona to house his factory, Gròber also purchased land in the neighboring town Bescanó for a new hall and hydroelectric plant.

The rise of Fàbrica Gròber

After the turn of the 20th century, Gròber acquired more property in Girona, and established an extensive industrial site in the city centre.

Rear aspect of the factory halls, 1910, Fototípia Thomas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

World War I did not stop the rise of the Fàbrica Gròber. International demand for its products was high and competition was low, resulting in growth and prosperity.

By that stage, unions had been founded to improve working conditions. The Gròber workforce was required to work ten-hour days with no social support. However, medical care was made accessible through the ‘Germandat de Socors Mutus, Sant Cristòfol’ scheme created by the company, and a dedicated cooperative made affordable consumer products available.

Remarkably, in the early 1900s and throughout its 90 years, Fàbrica Gròber predominantly employed women, who comprised up to 93% of its workforce.

RELATED: ‘A woman’s work is never done’: women’s working history in Europe Women and children at work at Fàbrica Gròber, 1910/20, Josep Thomas Bigas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain.

Cristòfol Gròber retired in 1919 and the factory became a company, with the Portabella brothers as main shareholders. They led the business into the 1920s, a prosperous period for Fàbrica Gròber.

King Alfonso XIII visits the factory, 1930, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain War, destruction, and redevelopment

The 1930s was a time of crisis which intensified during the Spanish Civil War, and ended with a devastating fire that destroyed much of the factory’s produce, warehouses and machines.

This disaster threatened job losses for over 1,000 workers at Fàbrica Gròber, and for many more people employed by companies depending upon the factory’s orders. A quick recovery was vital.

New infrastructure, inaugurated in 1940, modernised the factory’s workflow and improved its integration in the city. Part of the factory leading onto the central city streets was dedicated to administration and personnel services.

In 1944, the factory’s infrastructure expanded to include a daycare centre for the children of its 1,700 workers.

The daycare centre at the factory, 1967, Martí Massafont Costals, Ajuntament de Girona, CC BY-NC-ND Photographing the factory

Many of the photographs of the factory in this blog – now part of the collections of Ajuntament de Girona / Centre de Recerca i Difusió de la Imatge (CRDI) – are by Josep Thomas Bigas, an architectural photographer from Barcelona.

RELATED: Explore more photography by Josep Thomas Bigas The interior of a factory hall seen through the lens of a master-photographer, 1918, Josep Thomas Bigas, Ajuntament de Girona. Public Domain

The images are also aesthetically striking, reflecting vital aspects of Girona’s social and industrial history. Their architectural compositions, ingenious camera positions, well-balanced scenes, geometric qualities and intriguing patterns appeal to the eye and provide a fitting visual counterpart to the company’s history.

RELATED: Explore more photographs of Fàbrica Gròber Closure and legacy

In the following decades, Fàbrica Gròber kept up with industry advancements in machinery, workflow, infrastructure and technology. In 1970, a massive boiler explosion killed four people, and marked the beginning of the end for the factory.

The devastation left by the boiler explosion at Fàbrica Gròber, 1970, Ramon Martí Capel, Ajuntament de Girona, CC BY-NC-ND

A few years later, its operations moved to Bescanó. Subsequently Fàbrica Gròber’s buildings were demolished and the Mercadal-district was redeveloped.

Today, the factory’s legacy lives on in the “Carrer” named after its founder, with many people in Girona holding vivid memories of the factory’s era, its mighty halls and role in Girona’s industrial heritage.

By Sofie Taes, KU Leuven

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in Fàbrica Gròber in Girona or Bescanó? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Fàbrica Gròber, Josep Thomas Bigas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

Catchpenny prints in The Netherlands

Tue, 22/10/2019 - 08:20

What did the people in the lower orders of society and children read in the 18th and 19th centuries? In the Netherlands, their main reading material was catchpenny prints.

They were cheap, mass-produced sheets printed on one side on unfolded sheets of paper. Because they were sold for one or more cents, they were known as catchpenny prints or ‘centsprenten’ in Dutch. The prints of about 30 x 40 cm size contained one or more images and a short accompanying text, often written in rhyme and secondary to the images. Retailers or merchants sold the prints per piece and teachers sometimes gave a print as a reward to students.

Subjects and themes

Catchpenny prints cover all kinds of subjects. There are prints with images of ships, soldiers, animals, tools, people in other countries, but also board games and narrative prints with fairy tales, murder stories, farces, stories from Dutch history, Bible stories and more. A popular theme on catchpenny prints are children’s games: next to marbles and riding in a goat cart, also less charming games such as knocking off a goose’s head and shooting birds are depicted.

Ziet mijn bokje eens moedig stappen [Take a look at my goat], J. de Lange, between 1822-1849,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0

Another popular subject was the history of Jan de Wasser. Jan and his wife Griet ‘swapped pants for apron cloth’, after which Jan did women’s work such as cooking and cleaning. Together they sailed to an island with a baby tree to ‘have’ a baby and after this ‘childbirth’ Jan had to stay in bed instead of his wife. Jan de Wasser was the typical example of a henpecked husband.

Detail from: De vernieuwde Jan de Wasscher, 19th century
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0

At the end of the eighteenth century, the ‘Maatschappij tot Nut van ‘t Algemeen’ (Society for Public Welfare) began to encourage publishers to produce prints with more educational value. The images became neater and the language of the prints was cleaned. It was the intention or the hope that both children and parents would become more aware of important civil norms and values.

Belooning en vermaning, I. de Haan, between 1875 en 1902,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0 Price

The quality of the paper was poor and so was the quality of the images, but that kept the price low. In order to save costs, prints were often sold uncolored or with a coarse stain. More expensive prints in colour were produced using templates. Low prices made catchpenny prints very popular and they were spread widely.

Geschiedenis van Rood-Kapje [Story of Little Red Riding Hood], Charles Perrault, published by Établissements Brepols S.A., between 1911-1935,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0 Research

Catchpenny prints provide an excellent insight into the subjects that the Dutch population was interested in, which makes them a veritable treasure trove for everyone who is interested in the history of the Netherlands. The prints can serve as a source for a wide range of research on text and language, on the daily life of our ancestors, on disappeared crafts and professions, on pedagogical views and role patterns. Illustration techniques and dissemination can also be studied using the prints.

De Kat [The Cat], with caption: a poem by Hieronymus van Alphen ‘The patience’, published by Glenisson & Van Genechten(?) between 1833-1900,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0 Collecting prints

Millions of catchpenny prints have been printed and distributed in the Netherlands and Flanders by dozens of printers, publishers and resellers. More than 100.000 prints came off the press every year and most of them have been passed on to others, got lost, left in the pub or ended up as packaging material. Fortunately, the National Library of the Netherlands holds a large collection of four thousand catchpenny prints from 1730-1935; it is largely built up by donations. The largest part of the collection was donated by private collectors Aernout and Leny Borms-Koop. 1,255 of their prints are now available online at Europeana for everybody to research and enjoy.

By Karin Vingerhoets,
KB | National Library of the Netherlands

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Featured image: 
Detail from: De vernieuwde Jan de Wasscher, 19th century
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0