Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences


Steven A. Walton


Wood Type Archaeology uses the concept of industrial skill to frame an inquiry into the nature of workers’ agency within the processes of wood printing type manufacture. The concept of industrial skill posits that industrialized manufacture gave rise to new kinds of knowledge of practice and manual engagement intrinsically linked to the technological and social environment of the factory. The thesis defines worker skill in relation to technological and social dimensions of the industrial workplace, argues for industrial skill’s recognition as an intangible form of industrial heritage, and describes industrial skill in the context of wood printing type manufacture at the Hamilton Manufacturing Company in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Hamilton was the nation’s leading producer of wood printing type, which printers for making posters, newspaper headlines, and other materials requiring large-scale letterforms. Wood type manufacture at Hamilton involved multiple processes and technologies requiring different kinds of manual engagement from the type shop’s workers. Type cutters made wood type letters using a pneumatic router mounted to a pantograph mechanism; other workers produced decorative wood type borders using a belt-driven die-stamping machine. In both cases, machinery structured workers’ activities strictly, but dexterity and tacit knowledge remained essential parts of the work. In this thesis, these processes provide case studies illustrating how industrial skill emerged as a particular type of manual engagement within wood printing type manufacture.