Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Army in Overalls: Appreciation for the Blue Collar Worker

This illustration always blows me away... and not just because I marvel at the effort the artist put into it.

But also because it so effectively represents the zeitgeist of industrial America during those times. I live an hour from Buffalo, have visited it often, and have a wistful appreciation for what that place must have been like when this ad appeared in 1951. All of that is gone now. It ain't much better here in Hamilton, where our once mighty steel mills and manufacturing sector are a shrivelled, hollow shell of their former selves.

Say what you want about the titans of industry who built industrial empires from the comfort of the boardroom. They could never have accomplished a thing without the back breaking efforts of 'the army in overalls'.

Its kind of bizarre to think of it like this but consider: these guys toiled like slaves to give their children a better life... a higher education... and those children grew up to be the corporate financiers, mergers and acquisitions brokers and lawyers that dismantled and off-shored this entire sector of the North American economy.

How ironic is that?

What's left behind is a fascinating historical record in the form of these beautiful illustrations from America's industrial heyday. This piece, incidentally, looking like it might have been done by Robert Fawcett.

Finally, just to lighten the mood a little (and to show that even the titans of industry had a playful side ) three delightful little cartoon ads featuring great little scenes of factory floors buzzing with activity.

* My Industry Flickr set.

*AND* Charlie Allen's latest CAWS, featuring artwork that spans four decades of Charlie's illustrious career (including high school yearbook illustrations by a talented 16 year old!) Go right now to Charlie Allen's blog to check it out.


  1. I love this kind of stuff. These are great but for me nobody painted industrial scenes better than Peter Helck and Thornton Oakley

  2. Harley9:45 PM

    That picture of the men on the march is incredible. However, I am also quite excited by the cartoons. Not only because the cartoons have a zestful peppy nature, but because they are deceptively complex.

  3. great post - I think this might be my favorite yet. really dig those industrial themes. and yeah, I couldn't even read the article right away because I was stuck, staring at that first ad - incredible amount of labor.

    kind of depressing to think that many of those factories that were referenced are now empty shells.