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Mormon History Coloring Book, 1923: September, “Industrial Growth”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 31, 2009

Perhaps no chapter in the Children’s Friend‘s coloring book of 1923 is more dated than the drawings for September. It isn’t just that the theme for lessons that month — “Industrial Growth” — would today be an unlikely subject for children’s lessons, despite the more spiritually minded motto of “Great Works Are Accomplished Not by Strength But by Perseverance” which accompanied the lessons.

It is, rather, that every single drawing shows smoke rising into the air. Smoke was a good thing, a thing to be celebrated, a mark of civilization when it represented the domestic cooking fire of a log cabin, or the industrial power of a blacksmith’s forge, or the coal furnaces heating thousands of Salt Lake homes, or what today would be seen as the polluting, choking poisons rising from industrial smokestacks in the last three drawings. In 1923, however, those smoke stacks were proud evidence of a people’s progress: “Latter-day Saints, a Progressive People,” was the overall message of the lessons during the last four months of that year.

The mud was tramped by Brother Jones,
While father working by
Prepared the large adobe bricks
And set them out to dry.

Most men gave freely of their time
To build the Public Works.
You’ll see within the picture here,
There is no man who shirks.

It took long years of earnest toil,
And faith and vision, too,
To show such progress as you see
Between the old and new.

The sugar industry you’ll find
Established in the West,
By men who persevered because
They knew just what was best.

Great smelters are erected
Like the one in picture here,
By men who, wishing to succeed,
Knew how to persevere.

Large quantities of fresh, ripe fruit
Are canned here night and day
By helpers not afraid to work.
“We’re serving, too,” they say.



4 Comments »

  1. Obviously pollution was bad, but our current attitude that anything industrial is bad is equally one-sided. The industrial revolution was a great thing overall. It brought us cheap books, so that literacy, which was once only possible for the very wealthy, is today nearly universal in industrialized countries. It brought us affordable dishes and silverware, so we proles can eat cleaner better food. It brought us clothing so that we common folk can have cleaner newer things to wear, instead of wearing the same homespun outfit for weeks at a time, as was formerly typical.

    All the other gifts of the modern industrial age like elevators, antibiotics, medical research, affordable versions of things like scissors, tweezers, watches, cameras, dvds, indoor lighting, comfortable furniture, beds, a table to eat upon, refrigeration of food, we tend to forget lately, when trying to be green and vilifying industry. The truth is that without industry, we’d all be living in log cabins and sleeping on straw. We’d all be subsistence farmers. And many of us would have to die because industry supports far more people than would be possible without it.

    Okay, big soap box here, but I think these people in 1923 were a lot more realistic about how humans make a living in the world than we sometimes are now. We think of things like electricity and central heat as though they’re a natural right, as though they’re like gravity, something that just happens. We forget that it takes a lot of effort, capital, and fuel to make these things possible.

    50% of our electricity now comes from coal, yet people seem to think they should just outlaw it, because of global warming. They think we can get by without it. It’s so unrealistic. Can everyone afford to pay 3 to 5 times their current utility bills in order to eliminate it? I know I can’t.

    Okay, end rant! I just think lately people are very unrealistic about industry. I feel better now that I’ve said my piece. =)

    Comment by Tatiana — May 31, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  2. Tatiana, you sound exactly like my husband.

    Comment by Maurine — May 31, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  3. Tatiana, you’re very welcome to have said your piece! :) I acknowledge being one of those most greatly blessed by abundant and cheap energy, because I would probably have access to few of the goods and benefits I enjoy without its cheapness (some people have access to any luxury regardless of its price; I’m not one of those).

    I don’t disagree with you at all. My noting that these drawings are dated was not smug superiority that we, with our buried power lines and automobile emissions tests are morally better than our grandparents with their smokestacks — I meant only to note a very visible difference between the worlds of 1923 and 2009. Where 1923 was realistic and proud of the fact that they could generate such technology, someone illustrating the same general idea today would go to any length not to show the grit and grime that goes along with energy production. Ads for new cars show them skimming effortlessly along pristine mountain or desert highways, not stalled in traffic on smog-laden city streets. Ads for the company that is doing its best to make Utah the world’s nuclear garbage dump show smiling men in pristine white hard hats walking by unspoiled deserts under clear blue skies — not men in hazard suits, not earth movers tearing into the virgin ground, and most certainly not their grimy old sludge truck recently discovered to have been spilling radioactive waste on the public highways because a hole had been “repaired” with duct tape. No, today we go to any length to pretend that industry has no side-effects; these drawings from 1923 freely acknowledged — even celebrated — the grime as well as the glamour. That dates the drawings. It’s not a condemnation.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2009 @ 5:18 am

  4. The comments about smokestacks in the original post made me smile. I notice the same thing every time I pick up an old (pre-1960) scout book (That and the fact that every male over the age of 15 ALWAYS is wearig a hat) With a few exceptions, all those smokestacks are now gone. Geneva Steel, the Murray Smelter, the old Kennecott stack…I wonder what it were like when everyone burned coal and the factories were going full tilt. President Hinckley spoke of–as a boy–having to clean soot from the INSIDE of his home every year. And does anyone remember how grimy black the Salt Lake temple used to be in the 1980s?

    At least Utah was never like 1920’s Pittsburgh, when office men would bring an extra white shirt to work because te soot falling from the sky would hopelessly dirty the first by lunchtime. Ugh! And we think winter inversions are bad now.

    Comment by Clark — June 2, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

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