Industrialization is probably the most significant technological change since the development of the first stone tool. Industrialization has brought about social change on an unprecedented scale in an unbelievably short period of time. Industrialization has had such a profound effect on our lives that virtually everything we do has been influenced by it.

Industrial archaeology is the recording, study, interpretation and preservation of the physical remains of industrially related artifacts, sites and systems within their social and historical contexts. This research emphasis began after World War II as the retooling of industry began to destroy elements of an earlier industrial heritage. Industrial Archaeology has in recent years included "dirt" archaeology in addition to historical research and the above ground study of exposed structures and machinery. Its subject matter covers the industrial spectrum from bridges to factories to waterpower canals to railroads to flour mills to blast furnaces to mines to dams to workers' housing to name a few.

Over the last 13 years, the MHS Archaeology Department has conducted a number of seasons of research on industrial sites in Minneapolis, Minnesota as part of a project sponsored by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The department undertook historical research, test excavations, evaluation studies, and mitigation work at over twenty industrial sites associated with flour milling, brewing, electrical power production, lumber milling, water power control, and ancillary industries such as barrel factories and ironworks and transportation related facilities such as bridges, railroads, and streets.

The St. Anthony Falls industrial area comprises a roughly rectangular section of Mississippi River corridor at the Falls of St. Anthony near downtown Minneapolis. By virtue of its engineering and industrialization, this area became the epitome of nineteenth-century, American direct-drive waterpower development. The modest beginnings of waterpower use for a grist and saw mill by the military (Fort Snelling) in 1820 foreshadowed later development. In 1858, developers of the falls adapted an extensive waterpower distribution system developed at Lowell, Massachusetts. By the end of the century, founded on the country's leading flour milling center, they had created America's largest waterpower industrial district. The degree of hydraulic engineering necessary to generate a consistent source of power was staggering. Canals, tunnels, wasteways (tailraces), diversion dams, bridges, and for hundreds of miles up the Mississippi river a series of dammed lakes which were to hold water for release when flowage rates were reduced in dry years.

The study of Industrial Archaeology adds to our understanding of this significant change in the human condition by adding a tangible dimension to technical studies, by providing technical information on obsolete processes not obtainable from other sources, and by supplying useful reference points of economic growth and social change. A research focus on change reflected in production systems, transportation systems, and communities will enhance our knowledge of the complex relationships that link cultural elements and on an understanding of the mechanisms that produce change in those relationships.

© 1995 Robert A. Clouse
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