The Skyscraper Museum is devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future. The Museum explores tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence. This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

FACTORY IN FILM

The Big Film from Eric Breitbart on Vimeo.

Moving images have been closely linked to the workplace dating back to the Lumière Brothers' 1895 film "Workers Leaving the Factory," shot in La Ciotat, France. While most movies of the time were travelogues or adaptations of stage plays, some explored the inner workings of factories. The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the Westinghouse Company featured an hour-long film of its Pittsburgh plant, giving visitors a glimpse into the modern factory, seen three different times during a day. In the 1910s, efficiency engineer Frank Bunker Gilbreth (Cheaper By the Dozen) recorded workers' movements with a motion picture camera, timing them with a stopwatch to find the "one best way" of doing a particular task. Influenced by these time-motion studies, Henry Ford not only implemented the ideas into his assembly line, but established the first corporate motion picture department, staffed by 50 employees who traveled the world documenting Ford's influence. This invaluable collection was donated to the National Archive in the 1950s, and remains one of the primary sources of workplace images from the early 20th century.

"Vertical Urban Factory" is an impressionistic video juxtaposing archival and contemporary motion picture footage to convey the scope and scale of various kinds of factory work. The film chronicles the past hundred years of industrial production as it evolved from interactions between workers and mechanical machines, to computer-controlled facilities where robots do most of the work. Film sources include the National Archives (Ford Collection), New Deal Films, Volkswagen Inc., Intel, Valdemingomez, Scalamandré Inc., Bohin France, and the L&H egg company.


--Eric Breitbart, Filmmaker

NEXT: THE MODERN FACTORY