THE 2013 ROBERT M. VOGEL PRIZE
Paul J. White --- 2013 Vogel Prize Recipient
This year the Vogel Prize is awarded to Paul J. White for his paper “The Rise and Fall of the California Stamp: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on the Aging of a Technology” published in IA volume 36 number 1, pp. 65 83. Here Paul addresses an area in the history of technology where skillfully-collected material evidence fills a gap left when the documentary record fails us. Writers in engineering journals typically focus on new technique; older methods that might be considered obsolete by the engineering profession but which can fill a useful economic niche are rarely accorded attention in the publications intended for practicing engineers and managers that are often the primary resource used by historians. Nor are accounts of the adaptive re-use of past techniques likely to be mentioned in company reports. Paul shows us how a detailed examination of an abandoned mill can reveal the ingenuity with which artisans made obsolete equipment economically viable. The Skidoo mill in California processed hard-rock gold ore from 1908 through 1915 with methods that had been use in the western gold fields for half a century. Despite its obsolescence when it was closed, several entrepreneurs found the remaining Skidoo mill machinery useful in intermittent operation for another twenty years. We are fortunate that the location of the mill on an arid hillside adjacent to Death Valley allowed for the preservation of the milling equipment that was not removed for use elsewhere. Paul’s detailed documentation of the stamps that processed the gold ore reveal how these machines were repaired and modified so as to keep them economically viable long after they would otherwise have been scrapped. He carefully constructed his paper with an introduction to hard-rock milling technique that allows the reader not expert in extractive metallurgy to understand the detail of the stamp machinery that he then presents. Paul’s paper shows his careful scholarship and his skillful exposition through effective use of photographs and an extensive set of notes. It is also gratifying to see a HAER recording project serve as the basis of an interpretive paper that addresses a significant problem in the history of technology.
Each year the Society for Industrial Archeology recognizes outstanding scholarship in the field of industrial archaeology with the Robert M. Vogel Prize. Named for the founding and distinguished member Robert Vogel, the award honors the author of the best article to appear in the society’s journal IA within the past three years. The prize consist of a cash reward and a wooden foundry pattern with a plaque engraved with the recipient’s name. Articles selected must have a clearly stated thesis and a well constructed narrative. Analysis of material culture and high quality illustrations that support the thesis and conclusion are also important measures of scholarship worthy of the prize. Selection is made by the Vogel Prize Committee consisting of five members, appointed by the president of the SIA, who serve five year terms.
About Robert M. Vogel
Robert M. Vogel laid the foundations for the Society for Industrial Archeology. He was among the original founders of the SIA and sustained the organization in its earliest years. As the first editor of the Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter, from 1971 to 1979, Robert stamped the SIA with his distinctive good humor and unbridled enthusiasm for industrial heritage preservation. In the 1960s, his seminal work on the New England textile mill and Hudson-Mohawk Valley surveys established important benchmarks for field recording and documentation, and led to the establishment of the Historic American Engineering Record. As an authority in the field and longtime curator of civil and mechanical engineering at the Smithsonian Institution, Robert generously shared his knowledge, inspiring countless others to champion, as he did so vigorously, the cause of "IA." For these reasons and others, the SIA was pleased to name its annual prize for outstanding scholarship in industrial archeology in his honor.
History of the Award (extracted in part from SIAN Vol. 31/3-4 written by David Simmons)
Since its earliest days, the SIA has striven to promote high scholarship. When the idea for a prize emerged in the early 1980s, then SIA President Ted Penn set about beating the bushes to find a sponsor. Eventually, the Norton Co., the abrasives manufacturer based in Worcester, MA, agreed to fund the Norton Prize for the best article published in IA over the previous three years. First awarded in 1982, the prize included a check for $100. Later the prize winners and the titles of their essays were listed on the back cover of IA.
In 2001, the Norton Co. discontinued its support of the prize and the SIA Board of Directors decided that rather than seeking a new corporate sponsor, it would be most fitting to rename the award in honor of Robert M. Vogel in recognition of his role as one of the original founders of the SIA and of his many contributions to the society. The renaming has also prompted several members to make unsolicited contributions in support of the monetary prize, which has been raised to $250.
What had seemed noteworthy as a monetary prize in 1982, seemed paltry by 1997. At the annual conference in Houghton that year, outgoing Norton Prize chairman, Carter Litchfield, approached next year's chairman, David Simmons, to discuss the possibility of augmenting the check with a physical award. As it happened later that same fall, the Montgomery County Historical Society of Dayton, OH, announced the sale of a large number of wooden foundry patterns donated to them by a local company, the Platt Foundry. The first of the new physical awards using these foundry patterns were given in 1998.
In 2013 the SIA ran out of the wooden foundry patterns from the Platt Foundry and obtained new foundry patterns for the award from the Cambria Steel Co. in Johnstown, PA. These patterns were made and used in the Cambria pattern shops until the works closed in 1992 and then became part of the collections preserved by the Johnstown Area Historical Association (JAHA). Originally founded as the Cambria Iron Company in 1852, the firm became the Cambria Steel Co. in 1898 and eventually part of Midvale Steel in 1916 and then Bethlehem Steel in 1923. The iron and steel works was one of the first in the nation to use the Bessemer process and was at one point the nation's largest producer of iron rails. JAHA rescued hundreds of these patterns when he pattern shop was threatened with demolition and uses their sale to help fund ongoing heritage work at the Frank & Sylvia Pasquerilla Heritage Discovery Center, part of the Johnstown Discovery Network. SIA would like to thank JAHA for partnering with us to provide original historic foundry patterns to continue the tradition of award plaques for the Robert M. Vogel Prize, which honors the author of the best article to appear in the Society's journal, lA, within the past three years.
1982 - Laurence F. Gross, "The Importance of Research Outside the Library: Watkins Mill, a Case Study."
1983 - C. C. Cooper, R. B. Gordon and H. V. Merrick, "Archeological Evidence of Metallurgical Innovation at the Eli Whitney Armory."
1984 - Bruce Seely, "Blast Furnace Technology in the Mid 19th-Century: A Case Study of the Adirondack Iron & Steel Company."
1985 - Terry S. Reynolds, "The Soo Hydro: A Case Study of the Influence of Managerial and Topographical Constraints on Engineering Design."
1986 - R. B. Gordon and M. S. Raber, "An Early American Integrated Steelworks."
1987 - Robert W. Passfield, "The Role of the Historian in Reconstructing Historic Engineering Structures: Parks Canada's Experience on the Rideau Canal, 1976-1983."
1988 - David R. Starbuck, "The Shaker Mills in Canterbury, New Hampshire."
1989 - Patrick M. Malone, "Little Kinks and Devices at Springfield Armory, 1892-1918."
1990 - Laurence F. Gross, "Building on Success: Lowell Mill Construction and Its Results."
1991 - Richard M. Candee "The 1822 Allendale Mill and Slow-Burning Construction: A Case Study in the Transmission of an Architectural Technology"
1992 - Thomas E. Leary "The Work of Rolling Rails in the 32" Mill at Bethlehem Steel's Lackawanna Plant: Industrial Archeology and Labor History"
1994 - Thomas E. Leary "Men and Tongs: The Belgian Rod Mill at the Washburn Wire Company, East Providence, Rhode Island"
1995 - David A. Simmons "Bridges and Boilers: Americans Discover the Wrought-Iron Tubular Bowstring Bridge"
1996 - Mary Rose Boswell "Documenting Laconia's Knitting Mills: A Comparison of Belknap Mills Corporation and Two Present-Day Knitting Mills"
1997 - Robert B. Gordon "Material Evidence of Ironmaking Techniques"
1998 - Terry S. Reynolds "Good Engineering, Poor Management: The Battle Creek Hydroelectric System and the Demise of the Northern California Power Company"
1999 - David B. Landon, Timothy A. Tumburg "Archeological Perspectives on the Diffusion of Technology: An Example from the Ohio Trap Rock Mine Site"
2000 - David A. Simmons "The Continuous Clatter': Practical Field Riveting"
2001 - John K. Brown "When Machines Become Gray and Drawings Black and White: William Sellars and the Rationalization of Mechanic Engineering (Vol. 25, No. 2)
2002 - David Salay "... as important and vital to successful mining, as the sap is to the tree: The Dorrance Colliery Fan Complex, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
2011 - No award given in 2011
2012 - Robert W. Passfield for his article St. Andrew’s Caméré Curtain Bridge Dam, Lockport, Manitoba,” which appeared in IA, The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2007. This paper combines engineering analysis, landscape archeology, and social history.
2013 - Paul J. White for his paper “The Rise and Fall of the California Stamp: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on the Aging of a Technology” published in IA volume 36 number 1, pp. 65 83.